The Serious Fraud Office won't pursue criminal charges against former Waikato District Health Board chief Dr Nigel Murray over his alleged misuse of public money.

SFO director Julie Read said committing additional "very high level of resources required to prove criminal charges beyond reasonable doubt was not in the public interest".

Read said it would have required extensive investigation in Canada and the public interest did not warrant that cost given the amounts allegedly obtained.

A former DHB member has criticised the decision, saying the expenditure involved public money and warranted further investigation.


Murray resigned in October 2017. A State Services Commission inquiry released in March 2018 showed he spent $218,000 on travel and accommodation in the three years he held the $560,000 job, half of which was either unauthorised or unjustified.

The case was referred to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The SFO took the unusual step of releasing a statement today announcing it would not investigate further.

However Read said the SFO concurred with the conclusions reached by the SSC about Murray's conduct.

"The SSC investigation found that Dr Murray's conduct did not meet the minimum standards expected of him as a CEO in the State sector, and that more than half of his travel and accommodation expenses were unauthorised or unjustified."

The SSC report found Murray's actions were "serious and sustained breaches of the State Sector Code of Conduct".

The four-month inquiry, ordered by Minister of Health David Clark after Murray's expense receipts became public following repeated media requests, found Murray's conduct fell short of what is required of a state-sector leader and that oversight of his expenses by the former board chairman Bob Simcock lacked rigour.

The investigation found Murray had unjustifiably spent $120,608.


At the time, Commissioner Peter Hughes was highly critical of Murray.

"This is hard-earned taxpayer money, and I think Dr Murray's behaviour is an affront to the taxpayers of New Zealand.

"They have every right to feel aggrieved.

"They should expect the highest standards from the state servants that they entrust with the stewardship of our state services."

The commission's investigation, led by John Ombler QSO, found:

• Murray spent $218,209 of Waikato DHB money on travel, accommodation and related expenses between July 2014 and October 2017;


• There were 129 items of expenditure on travel and accommodation during the former chief executive's tenure;

• 59 of the items, valued at $101,161, did not meet Waikato DHB's policies for appropriate authorisation;

• 45 of the items, valued at $120,608, were unjustified when measured against the Auditor-General's guidelines;

• Murray spent $74,265 on personal costs and had to reimburse the money;

• Murray has repaid $54,831 and $19,434 remains in dispute;

• More than half of Murray's travel and accommodation (by cost) was unjustified, and about half was unauthorised or had authorisation deficiencies;


• Murray's relocation expenses contravened the agreement made in his letter of offer and the Waikato DHB policy on staff travel and accommodation.

At the time, Murray's lawyers said they had made a complaint to the Privacy Commission about the lack of documents provided to them about the investigation.

"It is our advice to Dr Murray that the processes of the SCC investigation are not fair and are, in our view, not lawful.

"Dr Murray has accepted that advice, and for that reason believes that participating in this investigation at this stage will place him in unknown jeopardy."

The investigation documents included a reply to Murray's lawyers, saying he had been given "extensive" information.

Former Waikato DHB board member Dave Macpherson today criticised the SFO's decision, saying spending of any amount of public money warranted further investigation.


Former Labour MP Sue Moroney, who lodged a complaint with the SFO over Murray's spending, called the outcome disappointing.

"My understanding of the Serious Fraud Office obligations is that irrespective of the amount of money, if it's taxpayer money that is in question, that it is their role to investigate.

"They are supposed to investigate issues in the public interest and it was public money that Nigel Murray used that he was not authorised to.

"So the question is, if the SFO has decided its beyond its own resources to investigate, then who do taxpayers turn to next to get accountability for the unauthorised use of our money?

"It sends the wrong message about the unauthorised use of public money."

The DHB, now headed up by Commissioners after the board was sacked in May, would not comment.


The Herald has requested comment from Murray's lawyer.

Meanwhile the Office of the Auditor General continues to investigate the failed $25 million app SmartHealth that Murray spearheaded.

In February this year the Herald revealed extra details of Murray's spending when the DHB's initial investigation report was released to the newspaper under the Official Information Act, 16 months after the request.

The document by an independent barrister showed:

• Murray already had his relocation costs from Canada extended from $15,000 to $25,000 when he spent more than double the agreed amount;

• He personally booked a $1617 international flight for a woman from San Francisco to Auckland using taxpayer money;


• He spent two nights in Las Vegas during a trip to the United States on virtual health business. On the same trip, which he later largely refunded, Murray went to Canada for seven nights;

• He booked a rental car in Moncton, Canada for two months despite only being in the city for six days.

According to the draft report, Murray booked the flight from San Francisco to Auckland for the woman, whose name was redacted, by telephone to the DHB's agent Tandem Travel on May 15, 2017.

This circumvented the usual process which was for the chief executive's assistant to book travel.

It also breached his employment contract because all travel was supposed to be agreed and authorised by Simcock, and no personal travel for himself or family and friends was allowed.