Nanaia Mahuta confident she's been 'assiduous' in declaring conflicts of interest as probe looks at departments' handling

Labour minister Nanaia Mahuta has requested the Public Service Commissioner look into a number of government contracts awarded to her husband's company. 

The minister is confident she herself has managed the conflict of interest. However, questions have been raised about whether government agencies are treading with enough care around conflicts.

Mahuta was well aware on Wednesday of what's been said about her family. For weeks, questions have been raised about her husband getting government contracts, but she said she's been "assiduous" in declaring conflicts of interest. 

Mahuta's husband Gannin Ormsby is the director of Ka Awatea Services, a consulting firm specialising in Māori issues that has been awarded contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars by Kāinga Ora, the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation.

"I had no say in approving at contract level any of the matters that have been raised," Mahuta said.

Mahuta wants a probe into it. She called for that herself, writing to Public Sevices Minister Chris Hipkins asking him to get Peter Hughes, the Commissioner, to take a look not at her actions but whether government departments are managing conflicts as well as they should. 

"It's concerned me for some time that even though I have declared conflicts and noted that they have been managed in accordance with Cabinet Manual, these stories are still persisting," Mahuta said.  

Hipkins said New Zealand is a small country.

"Conflicts of interests are inevitable. The really important question is are they being appropriately managed," he said. 

The Opposition is welcoming the scrutiny.

"What we want to be really reassured about is the way in which government contracts are awarded and that any real or perceived conflicts of interest have been well managed," said National leader Christopher Luxon.

Some more gleefully so. 

"[It's a] long overdue inquiry and I hope for New Zealand's sake Nanaia Mahuta is cleared. If these allegations were true it would be an example of corruption that does not belong in New Zealand," said ACT leader David Seymour. 

The acting Prime Minister said Mahuta's actions are not being called into question.

"There is absolutely no suggestion that minister Mahuta has done anything wrong, or indeed any other minister," said Grant Robertson.

Mahuta's hoping the examination puts a full stop to the end of the story.