Mary Anne Thompson said she held a doctorate at a very early stage in her public service career and climbed the ladder on the back of it, Prime Minister Helen Clark said today when she explained for the first time how doubts were raised about the qualification.
Ms Thompson resigned last week as head of the Immigration Service after the State Services Commission asked the police to investigate allegations that she never obtained a doctorate from the London School of Economics (LSE), as she had claimed she had.
The LSE has confirmed to NZPA that it has no record of Ms Thompson gaining the qualification.
Before she went to the Immigration Service Ms Thompson held a senior position in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), and Miss Clark said she never doubted the validity of the qualification.
"I've been put in the position, as prime minister, of having someone who was acting head of my department who is now the subject of a police investigation with respect to integrity issues," she said at her post-cabinet press conference.
"And I've been very surprised by revelations that concerns about the PhD were drawn to the previous State Service Commissioner's attention."
Miss Clark said the qualification was "represented" at a very early stage and that led to Ms Thompson "sailing through a career in the public service on a basis of trust which wasn't justified".
She said that as she understood it, the matter came to light when Ms Thompson, who was acting chief executive of the DPMC, applied for the job of chief executive.
"At that point the personnel consultants who are employed to advise the State Services commission apparently interviewed Ms Thompson and they then developed doubts which were reported to the SSC," she said.
"The SSC confronted Ms Thompson, who absolutely denied the matter, and for reasons which aren't clear to me Mr Wintringham didn't take the matter any further with his minister and certainly not with me."
Michael Wintringham was State Services Commissioner at the time.
He refused to comment when NZPA contacted him on Friday.
Miss Clark said she always assumed Ms Thompson had a doctorate because her title was Dr Thompson.
It was now "perfectly plain" that the most basic of checks were not carried out when Ms Thompson first claimed to hold a PhD.
"That should have been done by the employing body. . .from now on you can assume vetting checks will specifically ask questions," she said.
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