New Labour leader Andrew Little says departing Cera boss Roger Sutton should not be given a golden handshake.

Mr Little told reporters this afternoon that the State Services Commission had failed to hold Mr Sutton to account in relation to allegations of serious harassment.

The commission had also handled the aftermath of its inquiry into the allegations poorly, Mr Little said.

"What I'm concerned about ... is that the SSC conducts an investigation, requires ... victims to maintain confidentiality, and allows a chief executive to walk away from their job.


"It doesn't look like holding him to account in a way that I would expect the public service to do."

It was "totally inappropriate" and "even more disappointing" that Mr Sutton had not only escaped accountability but was in line to receive a settlement.

The Labour leader said a press conference should not have been held for Mr Sutton when the victims were required to stay silent. Mr Sutton should have been "out of the limelight" and apologising to the victims, not the public.

Mr Little said there were "big questions" about whether the commission was applying different standards to its senior staff compared to others.

He said officials had failed to separate Mr Sutton's strong performance on the Christchurch rebuild from his inappropriate behaviour towards staff.

"Good management knows how to separate those two things ... It's not a time for senior mandarins to be giving him apparent support in the public eye when there are victims of his wrong-doing who are no doubt suffering and feeling hurt."

He said SSC chief executive Iain Rennie's handling of the matter also prompted serious questions, but he did not go as far as say he should resign.

Mr Little said the key issue was that people should be safe in the workplace and the commission had sent a bad signal by not holding Mr Sutton to account.


"Sexual harassment is one of the most serious things that can happen in a workplace.

"Anybody who goes to work is entitled to know they are free and safe from ... that sort of behaviour."