19 Apr 2017

Jailed fraudster may have tricked another govt agency

7:10 am on 19 April 2017

The jailed Ministry of Transport fraudster Joanne Harrison appears to have tricked another government agency into giving her husband a job.

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The Transport Accident Investigation Commission confirmed it hired Patrick Sharp in March 2015 without knowing he was married to Joanne Harrison. Photo: 123RF

Harrison was sentenced in February to three-and-a-half years in prison for stealing $723,000 while working as a manager at the ministry.

She created a series of fake companies and paid them for work that never took place.

Now RNZ has learned the Transport Accident Investigation Commission hired her husband, Patrick Sharp, in 2015, on Harrison's recommendation, and that the commission never clicked that they were related.

Harrison used other aliases including Joanne Sidebottom and Joanne Sharp.

In response to questions by RNZ, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission confirmed it hired Mr Sharp in March 2015 as an investigation support officer after he was recommended for the role by Harrison.

"TAIC did not know Patrick Sharp was married to Joanne Harrison at any point during his employment at TAIC," the commission said in a statement.

"Patrick Sharp was interviewed by the Chief Investigator of Accidents - based on the interview and his prior experience Patrick was considered suitable for the project work proposed."

"He undertook the work asked of him until the point he left. There were no investigations into the performance of Patrick Sharp while he was at TAIC."

Mr Sharp resigned in July 2015 but the commission has not said why.

The commission has not yet been able to say whether others were interviewed for the role or whether it was unusual for Transport Ministry managers to be recommending people for roles at TAIC.

It has not said whether it would have hired Mr Sharp if it had not been for Harrison's recommendation.

The State Services code of conduct said civil servants must behave in a trustworthy manner and "ensure our actions are not affected by our personal interests or relationships".

It also said they must never misuse their position for personal gain.

TAIC said Harrison also put Mr Sharp forward for another role but that was declined.

Labour MP Sue Moroney said staff at the commission raised concerns with management there about Harrison's close involvement in Mr Sharp's appointment.

"And they were told that Joanne Harrison was already under investigation at the Ministry of Transport and that their concerns would be getting dealt with.

"Now this was in, as I understand it, at around July 2015 ... and yet it still took until April the following year when any action was taken against Joanne Harrison," Ms Moroney said.

The commission has not yet responded to a request for comment on this matter.

No one at the Ministry of Transport would be interviewed.

It said it was still considering whether or not it would release the information already given to RNZ by the TAIC about Harrison recommending Mr Sharp for the role.

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