National deputy leader Paula Bennett says it was "extraordinary" for the State Services Commission boss to heap such praise on outgoing Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf while he is being investigated by the commission.
Last night, Makhlouf was farewelled at a function in the Beehive where Finance Minister Grant Robertson and State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes both paid tribute to Makhlouf's eight years of service.
Later this month, Makhlouf leaves the job to take over as the Governor of the Irish Central Bank.
The function comes as the State Services Commission (SSC) investigates the Budget leak and whether Makhlouf misled the Government.
What was originally described by Makhlouf as a systematic hack on the Treasury website turned out to be the National Party using the search bar to get early access to Budget information.
Despite the investigation being ongoing, Hughes said Makhlouf had brought "strong leadership and a great deal of personal integrity" to Treasury.
He had been "authentic and straight up" and had been calm and unflappable.
"I will certainly miss your calm authority," Hughes said.
He did say the current situation had been hard for Makhlouf personally and professionally and that he had been dealing with it with professionalism.
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But Bennett – who was not at the event – said it was "extraordinary" for Hughes to make the comments.
"Gabriel Makhlouf is being investigated by the State Services Commission for his leadership, integrity and honesty, so it was surprising to hear the head of the State Services Commission praise him for these qualities.
"I would have expected more caution and respect for the inquiry that's ongoing."
Bennett was a former State Services Minister and, as such, Hughes answered to her.
National have called on Makhlouf to be sacked and, earlier this week, party leader Simon Bridges confirmed that neither he, nor any other National MP would attend the function as it would be inappropriate to be "eating the canapes" after calling for Makhlouf's resignation.
Robertson also gave a speech at the function.
He said that "notwithstanding the current situation", it was a chance to acknowledge Makhlouf for everything he had done including his role in the Wellbeing Budget.
In his speech, Makhlouf made no reference to the scandal that has enveloped the Government since the non-hack.
He said he was proud to leave the books in good order, proud of the international recognition New Zealand got and most proud of Treasury people.
One of his proudest moments, he said, was listening to Robertson deliver the Wellbeing Budget.
"My greatest success is that when I arrived at the Treasury I was a Brit and when I leave, I will be a New Zealander. Kia kaha."