Health Ministry admits failings in handling contracts it awarded to firm with links to Peeni Henare

Rowan Quinn for RNZ

The Health Ministry has admitted failings in its handling of contracts awarded to the company Tātou, a consultancy with close ties to former cabinet minister Peeni Henare.

The concession is a significant shift from six months ago when the ministry told RNZ it was generally satisfied it had followed the necessary rules and procedures.

A just-released review has found the ministry failed to raise any concerns about any conflicts of interest when it awarded seven contracts to Tātou between 2021 and 2022 when its chief executive was Henare's partner Skye Kimura.

There has been no suggestion Henare was involved in any of the contracting decisions.

The review by PWC was completed in September but only released to RNZ this week following repeated requests over the past three months.

It found Tātou did not raise any possible or perceived conflicts, even though there was a requirement to do so in six of the contracts it signed.

But it said the ministry also failed to do any proactive checks to seek out any potential association with the ministry or a minister.

Its information for staff on how to avoid conflicts was scattered and outdated, and the ministry should consider making it easier to find and follow, the review found.

An internal "situation report" has also been released - from the ministry's acting deputy director general for government and executive services Elisabeth Brunt to its director general Diana Sarfaiti.

Brunt said the ministry would hold an "integrity week" to better educate staff on conflicts of interest and integrity in general.

And she suggested spot checks of contracts to check proper processes were being followed.

Kimura left Tātou last year and the company has since been dissolved.

The Public Service Commission said it was satisfied with the steps the ministry had taken to address the matter.

Skye Kimura has been approached for comment.