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Six months on, still no word on Ponia

Friday September 07, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Suspended MMR secretary Ben Ponia. 18090644 Suspended MMR secretary Ben Ponia. 18090644

Despite two reported deadlines for the completion of the investigation into suspended Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) secretary Ben Ponia having already passed, it seems Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas is still unable to comment on Ponia’s current situation or his future as MMR secretary.

 

Ponia was suspended from his position as MMR secretary on full pay in early April this year, pending the outcome of an investigation into a complaint against him.

In May, Thomas told CINews that the Ponia investigation would “wrap up” at the end of that month.

Later, in July, the Radio New Zealand website reported that the investigation was “expected to be completed” by the end of that month.

With no news on the investigation’s outcome yet forthcoming, earlier this week CINews contacted Thomas to ask whether the investigation had been completed, if a decision had been made regarding Ponia’s future as MMR secretary, and why the investigation and a decision was taking so long.

Replying via email, Thomas would only say that he was “not available to respond”, although he did add that he “may be available to respond early next week”.

While MMR has not revealed any details about the reasons for Ponia’s suspension, in April Thomas said that the investigation was with regard to his conduct and had nothing to do with stealing, dishonesty or corruption. CINews has been told the investigation involves an overseas meeting Ponia attended.

This is the second time the MMR head has been suspended. In 2015 there was an inquiry into Ponia’s involvement in an “incident” at an upmarket Auckland hotel during an international conference.

That inquiry resulted in Ponia being given a warning. He was also banned from travelling overseas in an official capacity until June that year.