CERA 'corruption': Trust in public servants is on the line - lawyer

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral
Christchurch Cathedral (File)

The State Services Commissioner is taking control of an investigation into corruption claims against three former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery (CERA) employees.

It's alleged Canterbury District Health Board chairman Murray Cleverley and Otakaro staff members Gerard Gallagher and Simon Nikoloff used their positions in CERA to advance their private business interests.

Employment lawyer Anthony Russell says trust in our public servants is on the line.

"When you're talking about CERA and the Canterbury earthquake recovery generally and the rebuilding that's going on, you're talking billions of dollars as opposed to thousands of dollars, you're talking about a lot of money that's involved," he says.

"New Zealand has a reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world so these things are taken seriously when they arise in the public service."

The three employees could just be the tip of the iceberg, and the investigation could reveal a wider network, Mr Russell says.

"If it's found that other people knew about this and did nothing about it then it could be other issues for people who are in senior levels who were supposedly supervising."

Crown agency Otakaro said it is taking the matter seriously and the two employees being investigated have been stood down. Mr Cleverley has stood down from his roles on Canterbury and South Canterbury DHBs.

He says he'll co-operate fully with the investigation. He says he's confident he carried out his responsibilities at CERA in a proper manner.

The State Services Commission is carrying out the investigation using the commissioner's powers under the State Sector Act.