Health Minister David Clark has tried to gag public servants, appearing to offer them jobs in return for their silence, National's MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross said.
Jami-Lee Ross has provided the Herald with a voicemail of Clark that appears to show the Health Minister offered to consider former Counties Manukau District Health Board chairman Rabin Rabindran for further appointments if he stopped commenting on issues at Middlemore Hospital.
In the voicemail, which appeared to have been sent on April 18, Clark said he would like to "signal" that Rabindran would be considered for "further appointments" and wanted to know if he would be comfortable with that.
LISTEN TO DAVID CLARK'S VOICEMAIL MESSAGE:
Clark said he wanted to "test" Rabindran to see if it sat well with him.
"The challenge with the media speculation and I noticed more and more getting reported, is really not helping at all.
"I am hopeful that there won't be much more commentary, my fear is if you and I keep commenting the story keeps ticking along and it became about personality rather than the history.
"I'd rather not have the distraction about who said what when the bigger issue is the historic underfunding of the health sector and the consequences of that."
He said he would like to "signal" that Rabindran would be considered for "further appointments" and wanted to know if he would be comfortable with that.
Ross said the voicemail was "appalling" and said Clark was dangling "jobs in front of Rabindran to silence him to avoid embarrassment and his own untruths being exposed".
"This is not good enough. Public servants, including DHB leaders, should have the right to contradict ministers if those ministers are not telling the truth.
"It's a shambles and it's not good enough. It's a clear breach of the Cabinet Manual. Dr Clark has not lived up to the standards required of a Minister and the Prime Minister needs to explain what she's going to do about it."
Clark has denied accusations that he was trying to gag the former board chairman.
"No, I abosultely reject that," Clark told Newshub last night.
The Minister told the Herald he didn't think the public would be interested in tit for tat squabbles.
"That's why I'm focused on working with the new leadership at the DHB to ensure patients get the high quality care they deserve."
"What the public care about is fixing the problems at the DHB such as mouldy buildings and sewage leaks at Middlemore Hospital," Clark said.
But Rabindran wasn't the only one he tried to keep quite.
The Herald also received emails from a concerned Middlemore board member to acting CEO Gloria Johnson on March 23 saying: "If the minister is accusing us of covering something up, we need to address it quickly and directly."
Johnson replied saying: "Unfortunately we are under some pressure from the Minister's office about what we can and can't say." She said that they were waiting for approval from the Ministry before doing an interview.
"We have told them we believe we need to do that today but they are saying they need more time to consider at present and want us esp me to "suck it up".
The Herald has approached Counties Manukau for a response but are yet to hear back.