SFO running two investigations into Christchurch rebuild, Fletcher defends invoicing

The Serious Fraud Office is running two investigations relating to the Canterbury rebuild, with the SFO saying there’s evidence of other insurance fraud not serious enough for it to get involved. Separately, a unit of Fletcher Building defended its auditing of rebuild related invoices.

The white-collar crime investigator has been keeping tabs on the $30 billion rebuild, which it expects will attract a certain level of offending due to the size of spending needed. Its two probes underway are “progressing well,” it said in a statement.

The release comes after NZ First leader Winston Peters yesterday asked Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee what Fletcher Building’s level of involvement was in fraudulent invoicing relating to the rebuild, given its role as project manager for the rebuild.

In a separate statement today, Fletcher Building subsidiary, Fletcher EQR, said it has robust audit processes and had reported a small number of false invoices that had been detected to the Earthquake Commission.

“Fletcher EQR takes its responsibility to the government, taxpayer and the people of Canterbury seriously in all that it does in delivering value for money,” Fletcher EQR general manager David Peterson said. “Any implication that Fletcher Construction is involved in any invoicing irregularities is entirely false.”

Last year, the EQC chairman Michael Wintringham defended Fletcher as providing value for money, saying the repair programme has met the government-backed natural disaster insurer’s criteria around cost, quality, timeliness and safety.

Fletcher manages EQC’s repair programme for homes with damage of between $15,000 and $100,000. The company was forced to defend its track record in Christchurch against labour union claims it was profiteering by cutting pay rates for painters and plasterers.

The company’s shares gained 1.1 percent to $8.66 today.

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