The key official responsible for the Government’s massive infrastructure programme left New Zealand and went to Queensland at the start of the lockdown.
He has been there ever since.
Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones confirmed that the official, Jon Grayson, the CEO of the Infrastructure Commission, had not been in New Zealand during the lockdown.
Grayson has a controversial past in Queensland and has been a business associate of the corrupt New South Wales former Labour politician, Eddie Obeid.
Throughout the lockdown the Chair of Crown Infrastructure Partners, Mark Binns and Jones have been briefing the infrastructure industry soliciting bids to use government money to get projects up and running within the next two months to try and create employment.
Those bids are supposed to be evaluated and prioritised by the Infrastructure Commission.
Grayson did not tell the chair of the Infrastructure Commission, Alan Bollard, that he was going to Queensland.
Bollard told POLITIK that while his departure has not directly impacted the work of the Commission, he should have been in New Zealand.
Both Bollard and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones made it clear that Grayson’s contract would not be renewed when it expired in June.
Formerly a Deputy Secretary of Treasury it is likely that Grayson was on around $500,000 or more at the Commission.
Bollard said that since the Commission’s meetings were all by Zoom, it didn’t matter where he was when the meetings took place.
“I think it’s more a matter of showing leadership to the troops,” he said.
Grayson was appointed Chief Executive of the Commission last August.
He had been Deputy Secretary commercial and financial at the New Zealand Treasury and was responsible for Treasury’s debt management, the Crown’s commercial portfolio and advice on infrastructure and housing policy.
His appointment as Chief Executive was announced by Jones, and he is titled “Chief Executive” on the Commission’s website.
However, Bollard told POLITIK that his position was “Establishment CEO” and that he had a contract through to the end of June.
“We are currently interviewing CEO applicants for an ongoing position,” he said.
Jones was particularly irked when he found out Grayson was not in New Zealand.
“Given that I shared multiple Zoom calls with the CEO, never once did I suspect he was communicating with me about the urgency of infrastructure from the Gold Coast,” he told POLITIK.
“I’m advised that the search for a CEO replacement is underway.
“And I’ll leave it with Dr Bollard.
“But it’s a very good lesson for the members of the Infrastructure Commission Board that they really should have informed the Government the guy they were paying the salary to was actually not in the country to help lead the infrastructure recovery. “
Bollard said that when Grayson did eventually confess to being in Australia, he told him he had gone there on a family matter.
Jones told the “Building Nations” symposium last year, when he announced Grayson’s appointment, that while he was at Treasury, he had played “an integral role in the establishment of the new Commission.
Grayson is from Queensland where he was head of the state Premier’s office from 2012 to 2015.
During that time he was found to have held shares in a company, Gasfield Water Management,(GWM) set up to work on ways to deal with the disposal of waste water from coal seam gas operations.
The company was involved in the water infrastructure for a large new housing development at Ipswich in Queensland.
The other shareholders included the corrupt New South Wales Labour party power broker, Eddie Obeid; his cousin, Dennis Jabour and a business associate, Nick di Girolamo.
All three appeared before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over the activities of another company they owned, Australian Water Holdings.
Documents provided to Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption showed that Grayson had asked for $30,000 in consultancy fees to set up a joint venture in Queensland with Australian Water Holdings when the company was allegedly siphoning taxpayer funds from Sydney Water to pay for its interstate expansion.
A year before Grayson was appointed director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, He emailed AWH boss Nick di Girolamo with a $450,000 estimate to establish and begin operations for the joint venture.
Grayson stepped down from the GWM board days before Mr Newman won the Queensland Liberal – National Party leadership in 2011 but retained his shareholding.
The Brisbane Courier Mail reported that Grayson signed off on a briefing note advising the Premier on coal seam gas matters, including outlining the case against plans by the Federal Government to tighten the approval process for new coal seam gas projects.
Then Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk told the state Parliament that Mr Grayson’s name was also mentioned at a Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearing in New South Wales in connection with a company owned by Obeid.
She said Mr Grayson should reveal all his pecuniary interests.
“Is there something wrong with this? Absolutely there is,” she said.
“Does this stink? Absolutely it does.”
The Premier said while Mr Grayson had already exceeded disclosure requirements, he would divest himself of interests in private companies.
The ICAC did not instigate him.
He also featured in allegations that he had overspent on limousines and catering while he headed the Premier’s office.
POLITIK referred questions about Grayson to the State Services Commission, but a spokesperson said that the Infrastructure Commission was a Crown entity, and was accountable to the Minister, not the Commission.