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More murk at Immigration Service

Lockwood Smith MP National Party Immigration Spokesman

5 August 2008

More murk at Immigration Service

Confidence in Immigration New Zealand has been damaged further with more allegations of murk, says National's Immigration spokesman, Lockwood Smith.

Dr Smith is commenting on media reports that the executive assistant to the Service International Group Manager, Kerupi Tavita, has been convicted of multiple counts of fraud totalling $30,000.

"The concern is that this latest incident is part of a wider, worrying trend of possibly questionable behaviour.

"Mr Tavita was head-hunted from the Prime Minister's Department by Mary Anne Thompson. A Buddle Findlay investigation found that soon after his appointment, he authorised a $400 gift to himself - a clear contravention of departmental policy.

"He appointed Mai Malaulau to set up the Pacific Division within the same Immigration Service, despite the pair having had interests in the same private company.

"Buddle Findlay's investigation found that despite signing Ms Malaulau up to a $1,000-a-day contract, including all expenses, Mr Tavita then authorised expense payments to Ms Lalaulau.

"Media reports suggest that Mr Tavita did not question the claims submitted by his executive assistant, including for international travel, luxury accommodation, and for a flat screen TV and DVD player.

"At best, this seems to show careless use of taxpayer money by very senior officials. All government departments must be prudent managers of the public purse.

"This is a department beset by scandal. Last year's Oughton inquiry into apparently unlawful decision-making revealed that staff were signing off applications 'as instructed by' where they considered government policy was being breached.

"Following on from the Oughton inquiry and the Mary Anne Thompson scandal, it's clear a new management culture is needed within the Immigration Service."

ENDS

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