An independent inquiry into Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray’s expenditure has lead to the board announcing today the CEO’s immediate resignation.

Dr Murray has been on leave since July 22. It is believed concerns about his expenses were first raised by staff last year.

The inquiry identified that Dr Murray had spent “more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorised expenses involving potential financial breaches of the Chief Executive’s obligations”.  

In a statement, the board of Waikato DHB said it accepted Dr Murray’s resignation with immediate effect, on the basis that he repaid all outstanding amounts.

“The Board acknowledges that this has been a challenging time for Waikato DHB staff and the Waikato community,” said the statement.

The New Zealand Herald reported last night that a special meeting was to be called today to hear the outcome of an investigation into alleged unexplained spending by a district health board chief executive.

Waikato District Health Board members were to hear a report into the two-month-long investigation of chief executive Dr Nigel Murray’s expenses at the special board meeting .

The Herald understood the meeting was to determine Murray’s future at the DHB, after he went on leave on July 22 amid concerns over alleged unauthorised and unexplained spending.

A source close to the DHB told the Herald the meeting had been called to consider an “employment matter”, but the board is only responsible for employing the chief executive.

The investigation, conducted by an Auckland barrister, looked at Murray’s expenses dating back to July 2014 when he took up the $560,000 a year post.

An Audit New Zealand review of the DHB’s management of the process, including the authorisation and payment of the expenses, occurred simultaneously.

It’s believed concerns about Murray’s expenses were first raised by staff last year.

In December Murray came under fire by government watchdog the State Services Commission after the Herald revealed he had not filed expenses for his first two financial years in the role.

When they were finally disclosed in January this year, the expenses showed Murray had spent $108,000 of taxpayers’ money on international and domestic travel for the job.

By comparison, his predecessor at Waikato DHB, former chief executive Craig Climo, spent $17,670 in a two-year period.

When the Herald asked chairman Bob Simcock about Murray’s comparatively high expenses in February, Simcock said he was comfortable with them and that they included $36,000 worth of relocation costs from Murray’s former job in Canada to Hamilton, which skewed the total.

The relocation costs included $11,710 for early arrival accommodation costs because Murray finished his role at Fraser Health in British Columbia earlier than expected.

It’s understood these costs were a focus of the investigation, and accounted for three months’ accommodation.

When the investigation was first launched Simcock told the Herald its outcome would first be reported to the board’s remuneration committee, and then to the board with the public excluded.

Simcock has not responded to repeated questions from the Herald around the progress of the investigation and whether the remuneration committee has met.

Acting chief executive Neville Hablous said in late September that the remuneration committee, which includes Simcock, deputy chair Sally Webb, and board members Sally Christie, Tania Hodges and Crystal Beavis, last met on August 4 and only meets at the behest of the chair.

“The committee is concerned primarily with the payment and performance of the chief executive.”

The Herald understands the committee was to meet last week, but questions on the issue yesterday went unanswered.

A DHB spokeswoman previously refused to answer further questions on the subject and said the DHB would not comment while the investigation is ongoing.

Multiple requests made by the Herald under the Official Information Act for information relating to Murray’s expenses have been declined by the DHB.

The board said today in its statement that it would commence a search as soon as possible for a new chief executive.