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Ms Susan Bathgate Statement On AG Report

For immediate release Wednesday 14 November 2001

Ms Susan Bathgate, through her counsel Hugh Rennie QC,
has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the report of the Auditor-General. It has clarified many matters, and enabled the Department of Labour and I to complete a reconciliation of my salary entitlements.

The findings of the Auditor-General are consistent with the actions I have taken to resolve the issue.

Both officials and I have found it difficult to administer a matter on which there were no rules, or even guidelines. When I took up my position, both officials and I noted the need to reconcile the remuneration for my various Crown duties. As the Auditor-General has found, there are still no rules on how to reconcile duties and payments under different warrants. I am very pleased to note that the Auditor-General will be working with others to deal with this problem, and to establish a better system.

The Report shows that I have acted correctly throughout. In hindsight, I should have been more active in pressing to have these matters resolved. As the report notes, the Department of Labour was “aware at the outset” of my multiple duties. It then became a matter for the various sections of the Crown to work out my entitlements.

I, and other members of the Employment Relations Authority, are not employees. We are statutory officers of the Crown. We receive the benefits assigned to those positions by the Crown. This includes payment, and also annual and other leave.

I am pleased that the Auditor-General has confirmed the reconciliation be undertaken on the basis of leave adjustments, and adjustments in payment. That is the approach I have taken throughout. The Crown’s liability to me for leave has always been similar to any financial adjustment which was required.

I applied, as the Auditor-General notes, to the Higher Salaries Commission to have the issue confirmed by determination. Had this been done then, both officials and I would have been spared much work, and some controversy.

I have already agreed the adjustment recommended by the Auditor-General, and have also implemented a system, with the agreement of both Departments, in respect of future duties.

I am pleased that the report also records that I have been fully available to take on all Authority work that was required of me and had done so to a high professional standard, that I had asked for and had been given additional ERA work from other centres, and that I had undertaken my other duties during 'down-time' and personal time when there was no ERA work to do.

MF …. (2)

- 2 -

I have been disappointed by the attacks, often personal, which have been made on me. This has been, in essence, a personal matter, and one which was not easily resolved because of genuine differences and difficulties in the interpretation and application of the law.

I understand that the Minister wants to discuss some consequential actions with me and I expect to do this shortly. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on that.

I consider that both the ERA and I are now seen to have acted in a proper way throughout. I have been fully available to the Crown at all times in all the duties I hold. I have assisted by introducing efficient procedures to the ERA, and ensuring that duties under my other warrants are also dealt with promptly.

I will continue to do all I can to provide the best possible service in all the work for which I am responsible.”

Statement ends. Attached: Summary of Report of the Office of the Auditor-General

For enquiries, please contact Mr Alistair Wishart at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts – Tel 04 498 5028.
If any further information is to be provided, this will be from or through Hugh Rennie QC.


Summary of the report of the Office of the Auditor General on Ms Susan Bathgate

1. The Auditor-General is satisfied that “all audit issues relating to Ms Bathgate's remuneration from 12 October 2000 have now been satisfactorily addressed”, and that here is no need for further action by his office (para 38).

2. The Auditor-general was asked to rule on the appropriate arrangements for paying Ms Bathgate for the work completed on the 3 crown warrants she holds. A problem arose as to the way she should be paid for each warrant, one of which carried a full time salary. The report confirms that the Department of Labour was aware from the outset of Ms Bathgate's other tribunal appointments.

3. Possible causes of the problem, says the Auditor General, were that:

- the Authority and the other tribunals were administered by different Government departments
- the Employment Relations Service did not have the right procedures to help Ms Bathgate manage her competing commitments
- the caseloads of Authority members in Wellington had been lower than expected
- there is a lack of policy or guidance on how anyone is to deal with Authority members who hold multiple warrants (para 22).

MF … (3 F)

4. The report records Ms Bathgate’s assurances that:

- she had been fully available to take on all Authority work that was required of her and had done so to a high professional standard
- she had asked for and been given additional ERA work from other centres
- she had undertaken her other duties during 'down-time' and personal time when there was no ERA work to do (para 24).

5. The report says that there is no need for Ms Bathgate to reimburse the Department of Labour for work she did in her own time (para 5).

6. The report records that for those days for which she performed other work during the hours 9-5 Ms Bathgate and the Secretary of Labour have reached a settlement which includes the debiting of annual leave over the past year and a cash settlement (para 5).

7. The Auditor General has written to ACT M.P Rodney Hide, who has sought an inquiry into Ms Bathgate, stating that further inquiry by his office would not be appropriate (para 9).


Report Summary Ends.

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