Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised for the botched recruitment of entrepreneur Derek Handley as the Government's chief technology officer, saying it could have been "tidier".

Handley has been paid out $107,000 after being offered the role a month ago then had his contract terminated when the Government put a halt to the process.

Handley, who said he moved his family back to New Zealand after 10 years in New York for the role, is donating the money to the tech sector.

New Government Digital Services Minister Megan Woods said on Friday last week that the process was stopped while her officials reviewed the role.


Speaking to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning, Ardern admitted that the process could have been tidier.

"I know that any personal impact it's had on Mr Handley who's been caught in this, of course we would want to send our apologies for the fact this happened. It hasn't been tidy and I'm not going to defend it."

Ardern said she knew Handley but wouldn't characterise him as a personal friend and she had no part in his recruitment.

"As with significant appointments ... I'm kept abreast of the process but not directly involved in it."

Former minister Clare Curran was removed from Cabinet by Ardern over her failure to record and disclose a meeting she held with Handley about the role in February.

The meeting was arranged via her private Gmail account.

Curran lost her open government and digital services responsibilities but then decided to resign completely as a minister, citing "intolerable pressure" and the close scrutiny of her actions for her resignation.

Handley has said he moved his family from New York to take up the role. In a media interview in March he revealed he was about to move back to New Zealand.


"I land at Auckland Airport and cry – with happiness. Increasingly, we have all felt like that and so we are coming home," Handley told the Listener.

Advice provided by the State Services Commission to Minister Chris Hipkins on the appointment process said it was unlikely any legal challenge on the recruitment on the grounds of process would be successful.

"At our request, Crown Law have undertaken a review of the process and based their view on a number of interviews and a review of relevant documents," an aide-memoire to the Minister said.

Evidence suggested that the recruitment process was suitably robust and that the meeting between Curran and Handley did not prejudice the process.

A full review by Internal Affairs on a potential conflict of interest is yet to be provided to Hipkins.