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More revelations in Thompson case

Published: 7:01PM Saturday May 17, 2008 Source: ONE News

Disgraced former immigration head Mary Anne Thompson gave a contract worth half a million dollars to set up a new division to a friend, ONE News has learnt.

Thompson has resigned but a review has been launched into the Immigration Service's Pacific division she was responsible for.

On Thursday night, ONE News revealed 19 cases of serious offences against division staff in just three years.
But it has now been discovered there were problems right from the beginning.

The Pacific division was set up in 2005 for more than half a million dollars and three years on, that money has bought a whole lot of trouble.

"I've got disclosure that told me that a $500,000 contract for the establishment of the division was not publicly tendered," says Richard Small, Immigration lawyer.

On top of it not being tendered, an investigation was launched into who ended up getting the contract.

ONE News has uncovered it is the current director of the Pacific division Mai Malaulau.

As well as getting paid more than half a million dollars to set it up, a year later she was given the job to run it.

According to documents obtained under the Official Information Act, the position was advertised but apparently there was a lack of applicants with the right skills and experience.

Malaulau, who had extensive public service experience, was recommended by Immigration Service's Kerupi Tavita.

Both he and his boss Mary Anne Thompson had decided she was the best person to get the contract.

The problem is Tavita and his wife set up a business with Malaulau.

But then he resigned, though his wife is still in business with her.

"I believe Kerupi Tevita was reprimanded over that and ministers I am sure would have been briefed and I am sure ministers would have kept that covered up," said Lockwood Smith, Immigration spokesperson for National.

Both Malaulau and Tavita are still at the Pacific division of the Immigration Service in senior management positions.

An independent inquiry commissioned by the Department of Labour found while there was no obvious wrongdoing, there was the potential for a perceived conflict of interest and so Tavita should not have been involved.

Malaulau is currently being investigated as part of a wider probe into the division.

It's her that allegedly ordered other staff to approve residency application's for Thomspon's Kiribati family members - despite failing immigration criteria.

"These things need a thorough investigation. We just need a calm evidence approach to find out what's happened and put proper governance in place for the future," says Small.

It's expected more details of murky goings on at the Pacific Division are still to be revealed.

Thompson's Kiribati family members who arrived into New Zealand after their residency was approved are being seen as the innocent party and while there is a chance they could still be deported, it looks highly unlikely.

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