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Armstrong Report Fails To Identify Real Villain

Media Release
National MP Murray McCully & ACT MP Rodney Hide

19 December 2003

Armstrong report fails to identify the real villain

The report of the Auditor-General into payments made by Television New Zealand, New Zealand Post and Industrial Research Ltd to the former chair of all three, Dr Ross Armstrong, was never going to identify the real culprit - Prime Minister Helen Clark, according to National MP Murray McCully and ACT Rodney Hide.

Murray McCully and Rodney Hide were behind questions about Dr Armstrong's conduct, prior to the Auditor General deciding to launch his investigation a year ago.

Dr Armstrong was "virtually untouchable" by the normal processes of board and management accountability because of his close association with the Prime Minister, say the two MPs.

"Directors and senior managers in each of the three Government organisations of which Dr Armstrong was chair, make it clear that they were completely unable to question his conduct in the normal manner because he was a close friend and confidant of the Prime Minister.

"That association was underlined by the fact that he held three major Government-appointed chairmanship roles," say the two MPs.

"While the Auditor-General has largely confined himself to finding facts rather than passing judgments, those facts speak for themselves.

"In the space of three years, Dr Armstrong received $584,365 in fees, $292,407 in expenses, dispensed $145,874 of taxpayer funded hospitality, ran up $43,829 in miscellaneous expenses and ran up a bill of $248,884 for professional services he directly hired.

"Not a bad effort in Helen Clark's frugal and accountable regime.

"That Dr Armstrong was able to embark on a spending spree on such a scale was, the Auditor-General finds, a result of the normal systems of accountability breaking down.

"In any ordinary SOE environment the examples of double dipping and excess would have been picked up by the proper management process.

"Dr Armstrong was immune from that process as a consequence of his relationship with the Prime Minister.

"That is where the real villain and the real lesson in this report is to be found," the pair say.


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