Gabriel Makhlouf 'apologises' over Budget 2019 Treasury leak saga

Gabriel Makhlouf has apologised over his handling of the Budget leak saga after the State Services Commissioner labelled his actions "clumsy". 

Makhlouf, outgoing Treasury secretary, responded in a statement on Thursday to State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes' investigation into his actions following the National Party obtaining sensitive Budget material. 

Hughes said Makhlouf "did not act reasonably" in his use of the phrase "deliberate and systematically hacked" in his media statement on May 28, after National released Budget material before its official release. 

In response, Makhlouf said: "I have read the report carefully and encourage others to do so. I apologise that Budget information was not kept secure."

But he also pointed to Hughes' determination that Makhlouf "acted at all times in good faith and with political neutrality". Makhlouf said he was "pleased that my honesty and integrity are not in question".

"It has been my privilege to have had the opportunity to serve New Zealanders and I'm very proud of what my Treasury team has achieved over the last eight years."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also highlighted to Newshub on Thursday how the investigation found Makhlouf acted in good faith during the debacle. 

Outgoing Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf (left) and State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes (right).
Outgoing Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf (left) and State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes (right). Photo credit: Newshub

"The report finds that the secretary of the Treasury acted in good faith, and so ultimately I think that demonstrates what we've maintained all along, and that the right thing to do is to get along with delivering the Budget."

Makhlouf - who's set to become Ireland's next Central Bank governor - was slammed for publicly claiming on May 28 that there were "multiple and persistent" attempts to access classified Treasury information. 

It prompted Finance Minister Grant Robertson to issue a statement that same day following the Treasury's lead by describing a "hack" and publicly naming the National Party. 

But the day Budget 2019 was released, National leader Simon Bridges revealed a search tool on the Treasury website had been used to uncover the classified material - no hacking. 

A few hours prior, Treasury admitted it hadn't been hacked, prompting accusations the Government misled New Zealanders by allowing them to think Treasury had been hacked, despite the GCSB advising otherwise.

National deputy leader Paula Bennett said on Thursday: "Mr Makhlouf had a responsibility to keep Budget information confidential. It is disappointing that he has taken no responsibility for the incompetency he has shown."

Earlier this month it was revealed Treasury knew for certain it had not been hacked for about 12 hours before it issued a public statement to clarify. 

Last week Makhlouf didn't show up to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee alongside the Finance Minister, which National MP Amy Adams labelled "unacceptable".