The State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said today he had finished looking into the questions raised in Parliament by Jami-Lee Ross MP.

The Commissioner initiated a review into Mr Ross’ concerns on 28 June. The review was conducted by the Commission’s Chief Legal Officer, Andrew Royle.

Mr Royle had reviewed all available documents, including those tabled by Mr Ross in the Parliament, and discussed the matter with all of the people central to the issue. The Commission also wrote to Mr Ross inviting him to share any information he had relevant to the review.

Mr Ross’ questions raised issues about the former Counties Manukau District Health Board chief executive Stephen McKernan, and the management of a possible conflict of interest when Acting Director-General of Health from February to June this year. And specifically, whether the Minister of Health was advised of a potential conflict, if one in fact existed.

The Commissioner said the review had found nothing that would cause him to be critical of Mr McKernan or any actions and decisions he took in his time in the role.

“I have found nothing in the concerns Mr Ross has raised that causes me to be critical of Mr McKernan or any decisions and actions he made while Acting Director-General of Health,” said Mr Hughes.

Mr Ross was questioning whether Mr McKernan had oversight of, or made any decisions, regarding a Ministry of Health review into a number of decisions made at Counties Manukau DHB. Mr McKernan was CE of the DHB from 2002-2006. The Ministry review was established before Mr McKernan became Acting Director-General of Health.

The Commissioner said if he had found any evidence of inappropriate conduct or a lack of integrity he would have called it out.

“That is not the case here,” said Mr Hughes.

“The questions that were raised, and the manner in which they were raised, cast doubt on the integrity of a well-respected former public servant. This is regrettable. I have a responsibility to correct that. This report settles the matter.

“Mr McKernan is highly regarded in the health sector and returned for a short stint as Director-General of Health from a desire to continue to provide public service.  I thank him for his service.

“The only decisions that Mr McKernan made relating to the progress of the Ministry of Health review were to ensure that people that could be affected by it were properly advised and had an opportunity to comment.

“The key decisions on scope were made prior to his arrival, and the review has not yet reported back and therefore no decisions have been made on next steps.  The fact that Mr McKernan was acting Director-General between February and June 2018 has had no material impact on the Ministry’s review.”

Mr Hughes said it was now appropriate to allow the Ministry to get on and complete its review into decisions taken at Counties Manukau DHB. The review was initiated following a DHB audit report. The review into these matters started in mid-2017 and the work is understood to be well advanced.


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