Prime Minister John Key and his State Owned Enterprises
Minister Tony Ryall say they have no problem with former Solid
Energy boss Don Elder appearing before a select committee to
answer questions about Solid Energy's problems.
Opposition MPs are calling for a vote to issue a subpoena
forcing Dr Elder to front to Parliament's Commerce Committee,
and they also want an inquiry into the company's problems
including debts totalling $389 million.
Talking to reporters in Chile earlier today, Mr Key said
whether Dr Elder appeared before the committee was a matter
for Solid Energy's board, but he was "relaxed "about whether
or not that happened."
"If he wants to go and they [the board] want him to go, he's
not going to get any opposition from my office."
Mr Ryall said whether or not Dr Elder appeared "is a matter
for the Committee, Solid Energy and Dr Elder, and I don't
have a problem either way".
Labour State Owned Enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove
today said he would write to committee chairman Jonathan
Young to request an inquiry and to issue a subpoena to Dr
Elder, if necessary.
Mr Cosgrove said he understood Dr Elder was paid out $1.5m in
addition to his annual salary of $1.3m.
Current Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford appeared before the
committee yesterday with interim chief executive Garry Diack,
but neither man was able to answer most of the questions put
Mr Ford said it was unusual for former chief executives to
appear before the select committee, but said he would not
stand in the way of Dr Elder appearing in front of the
commerce committee. He went as far as to say he would clear
Dr Elder to speak about any payout he received.
Mr Ford confirmed Dr Elder was "working from home" in a
consultancy capacity and was receiving full pay. He is due to
finish with the company on April 1.
"It's called risk management. I needed to have access, or the
company needed access, to Don's memory to have a very smooth
Dr Elder did not receive a severance payment but would
receive his entitlements under the terms and conditions of
this contract, Mr Ford said.
When asked how much the entitlements were, he said: "If Dr
Elder was happy for us to report his salary, I am more than
happy to disclose what it is".
Dr Elder headed Solid Energy for 12 years, but resigned on
February 4. A fortnight after his resignation the Government
revealed the company was carrying $389m in debt, and was in
talks with bankers and Treasury.
He is still being paid his old salary of $1.3m a year to work
from home for a two month period.
- By Adam Bennett of The New Zealand Herald and Kate
Shuttleworth of APNZ