Bridges’ leak source narrowed down
Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has cleared himself and all non-political Parliamentary staff of any involvement with the leak of National leader Simon Bridges’ expenses.
This makes it incredibly likely that the leak of Bridges’ large limo bill to Newshub came from either a National MP or a member of their staff.
Mallard said on Wednesday that a KPMG inquiry into the leak that he commissioned found no evidence that any of nonpolitical staff or the Speaker himself had leaked the information.
The Speaker arranged the forensic investigation of staff involved in the preparation of the expenses, including his own office’s staff and Parliamentary Services’ finance staff – about 20 staff in total.
These are the only people known to have access to Bridges’ travel bill before their planned public release, other than the 56 National MPs and possibly their staff, who were sent a master list of all of the expenses.
Mallard had cancelled a wider high-powered inquiry into the leak after he and Bridges received a text message from the leaker saying they had serious mental health issues.
Bridges then commissioned a separate inquiry into his own MPs and staff, carried out by PwC and Simpson Grierson.
Mallard said he wanted to make sure his staff were cleared of any possibility of blame, but didn’t want to further inflame the leaker, who he believed had mental health issues, by making his new investigation publicly.
‘‘I was 99.9 per cent sure having read the text [from the leaker] that it was someone who had a lot of knowledge that people on my staff wouldn’t have. But I just wanted to cover off that point,’’ Mallard said.
He said he told National of the results of the inquiry on September 4 when it was returned to him.
National deputy leader Paula Bennett responded to the news on behalf of National on Wednesday night, saying the party’s separate inquiry into their own MPs and staff was not affected.
‘‘The Speaker’s inquiry, which he had publicly stated he was not having, is a matter for him. The National Party is conducting its own inquiry and will comment on that once it has concluded.
‘‘The inquiry only received the final set of relevant information from Parliamentary Services on Friday,’’ Bennett said.
Bridges commissioned PwC and Simpson Grierson to carry out the leak inquiry after it was reported he had a large Crown limo bill days before the expenses were officially due to be released.
He is paying for the inquiry from the National Party leadership budget, a taxpayer-funded pool of money for party leaders to use essentially as they see fit.
He has insisted the surprise decision of MP Jami-Lee Ross to take a break from Parliament to deal with an unspecified health issue has nothing to do with it.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important the Speaker’s ‘‘impartiality was demonstrated’’.