Former Solid Energy boss Don Elder confirmed late last night
he will go to Parliament to answer questions about the
But in a strongly worded statement, Dr Elder also lashed out
at the stricken state owned coal miner saying it was always
his intention to appear before MPs but he was prevented from
doing so by the company itself.
Dr Elder resigned as chief executive early last month just
two weeks before the company revealed it was in talks with
the Government and its banks over a crippling $389 million
His absence from the company's financial review before
Parliament's commerce committee last week fuelled controversy
over his management of the company and led to Opposition
calls for him to front.
Last night he said he had "always been willing to answer any
question members of the committee may have about Solid Energy
and my time as its chief executive".
"I made myself available to assist the Solid Energy team at
last week's sitting of the committee, but was advised that I
was not required to be present," he said in the statement.
"I have never refused to cooperate. I will endeavour to help
the committee in any way I can, subject to the lifting of
obligations imposed on me by Solid Energy."
The committee had previously asked that Dr Elder attend last
week's financial review of Solid Energy if the company
thought it "appropriate", but he did not appear.
At that review, it emerged Dr Elder was still on Solid
Energy's payroll and chairman Mark Ford said he would have no
problem if he appeared.
Solid Energy last night confirmed it would place no
constraint on Dr Elder appearing but it could not compel him
Dr Elder's statement last night was in response to a formal
invitation issued to him via the company by the committee.
Labour's state-owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove,
who claims the Government was "asleep at the wheel" while
Solid Energy made a series of poor investment decisions, has
led calls for Dr Elder to appear.
He is also calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the company said reports that Dr
Elder was still receiving a $1.3m salary were incorrect. She
said Dr Elder's $850,000 base salary before performance-based
incentives was more likely to reflect his current pay rate.
Committee chairman Jonathan Young issued the invitation to Dr
Elder yesterday after other National MPs agreed to support
"In response to the public interest I felt that it would be
good to invite him sooner rather than later," Mr Young said.
"I think a simple invitation extended to him is appropriate.
"I would assume that he would want to appear, because he has
received a lot of criticism - I don't think it will be an
easy appearance for him by any means. I think he deserves the
right to put his side of the story," said Young.
In response to Mr Cosgrove's calls for a Parliamentary
inquiry, Mr Young said he wanted to first hear what Dr Elder
said at the committee hearing which will take place on
Dr Elder is scheduled to appear for 45 minutes but Mr
Cosgrove and other Opposition MPs are likely to call for that
time to be extended.
Prime Minister John Key, who has said Solid Energy's problems
began under the previous Labour Government, said last week he
was "relaxed" about Dr Elder appearing before the committee.
SOE Minister Tony Ryall, whose oversight of the company has
been questioned by the Opposition, said he didn't care
"either way" whether Dr Elder appeared.
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald