Two ministers in spotlight: Kiri Allan dismisses reports of concerns as Jan Tinetti apologises

With the Prime Minister away wooing China on one of the most important trips of his career, back home in New Zealand, two of his ministers are under fire.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan is completely dismissing reports that senior public servants raised concerns about staff working in her office

Meanwhile, Education Minister Jan Tinetti has been found not guilty of contempt by Parliament's court, but she has had to apologise to the House. 

Allan faced an awful lot of questions on Thursday, fronting to media four times. 

"There has never ever been any allegations put to me which is why I find this story challenging," she said. 

The allegations relate to reports that leadership in ministries raised concerns about the treatment of staff seconded to her office.

One of those was the head of the Department of Conservation, who wouldn't elaborate on Thursday on a statement she issued on Wednesday. 

In that statement, Penny Nelson said concerns were raised about the working relationships in Allan's office and that it was not running as smoothly as it might. One staffer left early. This happened more than a year ago.

The head of the Emergency Management agency said he was aware there were concerns about relationships in the minister’s office.

"I am really proud of our crew and I am really proud of our team," Allan said. "We are the kind of office, we run hard while we have got the ball and I think it's been a pretty great place to work, to be honest."

There was a showdown in a Select Committee over the matter, with Allan telling National's Simeon Brown: "You've OIAed everything under the sun and you've still yet to turn anything up so have the opportunity to ask if there is anything that prohibits me as a minister from doing my job that the public can trust me to do."

Brown said: "With all due respect, the impact that ministers and the relationship with their staff is incredibly relevant because of the way that they have significant power and influence."

"Those are important questions that should be answered."

Allan said, "some of us come to work with a real focus on getting things done for New Zealanders." 

"This isn't a blood sport for most of us."

Heads at mega ministry MBIE - the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - on Thursday backed Allan.

"From time to time, we fall short and we will have a conversation about that," said chief executive Carolyn Tremain.

"That's entirely appropriate."

Robert Pigou, Head of Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, said: "We have a really good open relationship and I have had far more challenging ministers to deal with in the past."

It was a challenging first day back for Allan after taking some mental health leave after breaking up with her fiancée - former RNZ presenter Mani Dunlop.

"Needed a little break. A little heartbroken," she said. 

Meanwhile, the Education Minister was found not guilty of misleading the House for not correcting the record early enough after finding out her staff had been interfering with the release of the Ministry of Education's data.

The powerful Privileges Committee ruled Tinetti was not guilty because her actions arose from "a high degree of negligence on her part, not an intention that the House be misled".

National's shadow leader of the House Michael Woodhouse said: "My view is that was because she was too ignorant to have been malicious."

"That is an indictment on minister Tinetti."

Tinetti went on to apologise to the House. 

"I accept the committee's findings and I apologise to the House."

One of the day's silver linings was one ministerial mess mopped up.