Friday, July 05, 2019

What good is the SFO?

Former Waikato DHB CEO Nigel Murray allegedly misused public funds, spending more than $120,000 of public money on unjustified travel. He was forced to resign and the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation. But despite the SFO finding that the misuse was criminal, it has decided not to prosecute, because the cost of investigation and prosecution outweighed the amount stolen. Which makes you wonder what use the SFO is, or why we pay their salaries if they're going to refuse to prosecute.

The purpose of the SFO is to prosecute serious fraud. Fraud by senior public servants is serious by definition as it goes to the heart of public trust in government. For them to just shrug their shoulders and say "too expensive" sends a terrible message: to the public sector, who are being told they can steal from us and get away with it, and to the public, who are being told that their government will look the other way on corruption by their own. And neither message is acceptable. We should have absolutely zero tolerance for fraud by public servants. And if the SFO isn't going to apply such a policy, we need to sack their CEO, and appoint someone who will.