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Former Ministry of Transport employee pleads guilty
Joanne Harrison has pleaded guilty today to Crimes Act charges in relation to a fraud committed during her employment at the Ministry of Transport.
The former General Manager of Organisational Development appeared in the Manukau District Court facing three representative charges of ‘Dishonestly taking or using a document' laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on 5 August 2016.
Following questions raised by the Ministry's management team, an internal investigation found that suspicious payments had been made to various entities and the matter was referred to the SFO.
Entities associated with Ms Harrison obtained approximately $726,000 from the Ministry of Transport.
SFO Director, Julie Read said, "The Ministry referred the matter to the SFO at a very early stage which enabled the investigation to progress quickly. The Ministry is now taking measures to ensure its processes minimise the risk of fraud. Ms Harrison's actions betrayed her colleagues and we hope this case reminds other entities, both public and private, to review any weaknesses in their financial operations."
Ms Harrison will next appear on 19 December 2016.
For further media information
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550
BACKGROUND TO INVESTIGATION
Joanne Harrison worked for the Ministry of Transport from April 2011 until leaving in 2016. Her role included responsibility for change, people and development; communication and external relations; administration and ministerial support; knowledge management and information and the shares services programme management.
CRIMES ACT OFFENCES
Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document
(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,-
(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or
(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.
(2) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document knowing that-
(a) the document was, dishonestly and without claim of right, taken, obtained, or used; and
(b) the document was dealt with in the manner specified in paragraph (a) with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration.
ABOUT THE SFO
The SFO was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.
The SFO's role is the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex financial crime. The SFO's focus is on investigating and prosecuting criminal cases that will have a real effect on:
- business and investor confidence in our financial markets and economy
- public confidence in our justice system and public service
- New Zealand's international business reputation.
The SFO operates three operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.
The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.
Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director "has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud."
Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: "...the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed..."
In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:
- the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
- the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
- the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
- any relevant public interest considerations.
The SFO's Annual Report 2016 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO's strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz