09 August 2023

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes said today the use of taxpayers’ money for farewell and welcome events for a chief executive of a government agency was not appropriate.

A Public Service Commission review(PDF, 173 KB) considered whether expenditure associated with the farewell and welcome aligned with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) policies and guidelines, and with relevant Public Service guidance.

The review found the expenditure for the farewell did not meet the requirement of being moderate and conservative. There was inadequate oversight of expenditure and there was no agreed budget for the event. Expenditure decisions were not consistent with MPP’s Hospitality, Gifts and Entertainment Policy or its Business Expenditure Policy, and did not align with the Public Service Commission’s model standards on Chief Executive Gifts, Benefits and Expenses.

MPP spent $39,262.22 on a farewell for its former chief executive, Secretary for Pacific Peoples, Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae, on 13 October 2022. This included $7,500 spent on gifts for Mr Leauanae.

Mr Leauanae was not involved in planning or decision-making concerning the farewell. However, as chief executive at the time he was responsible, overall, for agency expenditure. On being made aware of the money spent on gifts he immediately repaid the $7,500 and returned all the gifts.

The review also found MPP spent $4,919.47 on travel for one staff member, formal guests and family members of Mr Leauanae to attend his welcome at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH). This included travel costs of $2,977.91 for six members of Mr Leauanae’s family to attend the welcome, which the review found was not appropriate because MPP did not follow internal policies which would have identified the spending as sensitive,  with a real or perceived benefit to Mr Leauanae. He has since reimbursed MPP $4,115.38 for travel costs associated with all family members and guests. 

The review also considered expenditure by MCH and found the spending was within policy and guidance and had adequate oversight.  

“This is a case of one agency getting it wrong,” said Mr Hughes.

“Taken together, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ expenditure on the farewell and the welcome was an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money.

“When a mistake is made, I expect public service chief executives to own it, fix it, learn from it, and to be accountable.

“Mr Leauanae owned his part. When he became aware of the matter, he immediately repaid the money spent on gifts in full and returned all cultural gifts to MPP. He also repaid the money spent on travel for his family and a guest who did not have a formal role in the welcome. That is appropriate and I thank Mr Leauanae for putting the matter right at the first opportunity.”

The Commissioner has reminded chief executives of his expectations. He said farewells and welcomes can be held in culturally acceptable ways and still align with guidance on sensitive expenditure.

“It is important to be able to host events in a manner that is culturally appropriate, and there are well established rules and policies to support that,” said Mr Hughes.

“New Zealanders expect their tax dollars to be used responsibly and appropriately.”

Notes for editors

The MPP farewell cost $39,262.22. Of this, $7,500 in gifts were repaid and all gifts returned.

MPP costs for the MCH welcome were $4,919.47. Of this, $4,115.38 was reimbursed in full the travel costs associated with all family members and guests. 

Related content 

17 January 2023 - Letter to Abba Fidow(PDF, 1.3 MB)

19 June 2023 - Letter to Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae(PDF, 634 KB)

19 June 2023 - Letter to Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone(PDF, 615 KB)


Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or grahame.armstrong@publicservice.govt.nz