Two inquiries have begun into the award of an $80,000
military contract after the Defence Minister was told the
private company doing the work was owned and run by serving
The contract for maintenance of lifejackets was let to a
private firm, Miltech, after the Defence Force accepted it no
longer had the capacity to do the work.
But it has now emerged the owner of Miltech when the contract
was awarded was senior air force non-commissioned officer
Graham Berry -- whose job is to oversee the same maintenance
division where it was no longer "viable" to carry out
Other defence staff working in the maintenance division, or
former staff who have recently left the air force, have also
been linked to the Miltech operation, the Herald has learned.
Maintenance was a key focus in the inquiry into the death of
Private Michael Ross, the soldier who drowned during a
training exercise near Waiouru because his lifejacket failed
to inflate. Inquiries later found the gas canister meant to
inflate it was empty.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said yesterday he was "very
concerned" after being briefed on the Miltech contract.
Dr Coleman said he was briefed a fortnight ago about "a
potential breach of NZDF regulations involving serving
personnel and a commercial operation".
He said he asked the Auditor-General to investigate the same
"It is important to confirm whether any inappropriate
activity occurred, and that the NZDF systems are appropriate
and effective in recognising and managing potential conflicts
He was briefed three weeks after the Herald began probing the
An internal inquiry is also under way. A Defence spokeswoman
said: "The NZDF has begun an internal investigation to ensure
our expected high standards of probity were followed in this
Defence told the Herald Miltech was awarded a short-term
$80,000 contract in February after Defence found "in-house
maintenance support" of the navy's lifejackets was "no longer
a viable option".
Defence said the contract was intended to be a "stop-gap"
solution until a way to service lifejackets across the
military had been found. It said no Defence equipment was
used by Miltech to fulfil the contract.
Miltech's operations manager, Richard Mosley, said yesterday
that he had "no idea" about any inquiry into the company.
Mr Mosley was listed as the shareholder of Miltech a week
ago, taking over the shareholding from Mr Berry.
Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff quizzed Dr Coleman in
Parliament yesterday over the Miltech contract.
He asked whether it was being investigated "because it may
not be certified to provide services ... and because there
were huge conflicts of interest".
Mr Goff told the Herald he had questioned Dr Coleman but had
not had answers. "The fact he has referred this matter to the
Auditor-General means he is having trouble answering my
questions in a way that satisfies him appropriately."
- David Fisher of the New Zealand Herald