Report of the Auditor-General relating to Ms Susan Bathgate’s remuneration

  • Margaret Wilson
Labour

Wednesday, 14 November 2001 oMedia Statement

The Auditor-General has reported to the Labour Minister Margaret Wilson on remuneration issues involving Employment Relations Authority member Ms Susan Bathgate.

The report found that Ms Bathgate had been overpaid. She has agreed to reimburse $16,759.39 from accrued leave and by repayment.

The overpayments resulted from Ms Bathgate acting under other warrants while a full time member of the Employment Relations Authority.

The Auditor-General referred requests from Rodney Hide MP for further investigations to Margaret Wilson as Labour Minister and Attorney-General. Mr Hide had sought the withdrawal of Ms Bathgate’s warrant.

“While there is no evidence on the record to justify this course of action, I am conscious of the need for the conduct of those holding office with judicial functions to be beyond reproach. I have therefore asked the Solicitor-General to seek an opinion from independent counsel on whether there are any grounds for Mr Hide’s call for a formal investigation to be initiated for the removal of the warrant.

“I will be discussing with Ms Bathgate and the Chief of the Employment Relations Authority what duties she will carry out during this period”.

Margaret Wilson said it appeared that the overpayment was the result of a lack of clear policy and administrative guidelines.

The Auditor-General identified possible causes of the overpayment as follows:

*The fact that different departments administer the ERA and other tribunals

*Weak processes within the Employment Relations Service of the Department of Labour

*The fact that caseloads of ERA members in Wellington had been lower than anticipated when the Authority was established so Ms Bathgate had no work during normal working hours and used that time on tribunal work

*A lack of policy or guidance on how remuneration issues in the case of multiple warrants should be addressed

Audit New Zealand is working with the Department of Labour and the Department for Courts on a number of on-going issues about administrative and financial control arrangements.

The Auditor-General noted that all parties had cooperated fully in the preparation of the report.

Contact: Colin Feslier 04 471 9337 021 864 811 colin.feslier@parliament.govt.nz