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Outgoing health boss Chai Chuah spends $27,000 on nine-day course in San Francisco

by December 22, 2017 General
Recently resigned Director-General of Health Chai Chuah clocked up over $50,000 in expenditure in the last financial year.


Recently resigned Director-General of Health Chai Chuah clocked up over $50,000 in expenditure in the last financial year.

New Zealand’s outgoing health boss spent over $50,000 of taxpayers’ money during the last financial year, including nearly $26,000 on a nine-day course in San Francisco and more than $5000 on flights.

Director-General of Health Chai Chuah was one of the highest-spending government chief executives in 2016 and 2017, managing to spend four times as much as his counterparts at the Ministries of Education and Justice.

Chai Chuah resigned on December 4 and will leave the role in February following a string of high-profile blunders, including the misallocation of $38 million in new Budget funding to district health boards and a $18m accounting error in 2016 relating to the refurbishment of a new ministry head office.

Chuah expenses included $27,000 on a nine-day course aimed at


Chuah expenses included $27,000 on a nine-day course aimed at “future-oriented” leaders.

Chuah spent $54,165.01 in the last financial year, about half of which was for the nine-day course at San Francisco’s Singularity University, a technology university set up in Silicon Valley in 2008.

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Singularity University states on its website that its mission “is to educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges”.

Chuah attended the ‘Executive Program’, where, according to the university, “world-class experts deliver interactive presentations in an immersive classroom setting, paired with insightful discussions and activities that leverage the diverse cohort of thought leaders and innovators we convene for each session”.

The course helped “future-oriented senior influencers” to “think exponentially”.

Chuah spent $5318.86 on flights from Wellington to San Francisco.

The course fees cost $20,131.60 and another $5602.85 was spent on university fees.

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Chuah also spent $5422.97 on flights to New York for the Commonwealth Fund International Symposium on Health Policy in November 2016.

In a statement, Chuah said he attended the university programme to “support the important shift our health system needs in terms of health and technology” and his flights were “carried out in accordance with our travel policy”.

Chuah was pipped in expenditure last year by Foreign Affairs chief Brook Barrington who broached six figures on $104,770, mostly on international travel. 

In contrast Secretary of Education Iona Holsted and her predecessor, Katrina Casey, spent a combined $12,240.51 in the year from July 2016 to June 2017, comprising solely domestic travel.

Ministry of Justice chief executive Andrew Bridgman spent $12,915.78 on domestic travel and one flight to Australia.

Helene Quilter, the Ministry of Defence boss, flew to China, Australia, the Philippines and Singapore for a total of $38,240.28.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brook Barrington – $104,770.00

Ministry for the Environment, Vicky Robertson – $63,068.45

Ministry for Primary Industries, Martyn Dunne – $60,858.14

Ministry of Māori Development, Michelle Hippolite – $58,108.70

The Treasury, Gabs Makhlouf – $56,938.64

Ministry of Health, Chai Chuah – $54,165.01

Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Hampton – $51,078.04

Serious Fraud Office, Julie Read – $46,396.99

Department of Corrections, Ray Smith – $44,480.70

Land Information New Zealand, Andrew Crisp – $39,217.49

Ministry of Defence, Helene Quilter –  $38,240.28

Department of Conservation, Lou Sanson – $36,536.07

Ministry of Transport, Peter Mersi – $33,071.83

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite – $29,930.36

Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle – $26,189.91

Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Gráinne Moss – $25,760.22

Ministry of Culture and Heritage, Paul James – $24,520.29

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, David Smol – $22,393.86 

Department of Internal Affairs, Colin MacDonald – $19,036.80

Crown Law Office, Una Jagose – $17,926.26

Inland Revenue, Naomi Ferguson – $17,670.37

State Services Commission, Peter Hughes – $13,948.07

Ministry of Justice, Andrew Bridgman – $12,915.78

Ministry of Education, Iona Holsted and Katrina Casey – $12,240.51

Education Review Office (three chief executives over the last financial year) – $12,299.66

Ministry of Women (five chief executives over the last financial year) – $6151.82

New Zealand Customs Service, Carolyn Tremain – no information available.

Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Laulu Mac Leauanae – no information available.

Statistics New Zealand, Liz MacPherson – no information available.

 – Stuff