The Chief Ombudsman today announced he has reopened an investigation into an Official Information Act (OIA) complaint against former government minister Stuart Nash.
It comes as Prime Minister Chris Hipkins this week revealed an email which led to Nash's sacking was originally part of an OIA request and had been brought to the attention of the prime minister's office at the time.
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier gave a statement regarding the reopening of the OIA investigation this afternoon.
"The original inquiry was discontinued in May last year in discussion with the complainant. The complainant has now asked me to reopen the case. I have recommenced my investigation," Boshier said.
"The original complaint was about the former minister's decision to refuse a request for information about his communications with a named group of individuals on the grounds the information was out of scope.
"Mr Nash withheld the information under the OIA on the grounds he was not communicating with them in his capacity as a minister."
Boshier then outlined how his investigation will unfold.
"I will start by carefully examining Mr Nash's original response to me including the material provided by his office at the time.
"I will consider whether or not the information in question was held in his capacity as a minister, which is subject to the OIA, or as an electorate MP that is not subject to the Act, and whether there was a basis for withholding the information."
He said the inquiry will be carried out "in secret" and completed as soon as possible.
The OIA request was in 2021 and Hipkins has clarified neither former prime minister Jacinda Ardern or her chief of staff were made aware of the email.
The email was one sent by Nash in March 2020 to two contacts regarding a commercial rent relief package that Cabinet had considered.
The contacts, Troy Bowker and Greg Loveridge, via GRL Holdings Ltd, had both donated to Nash.
In the email, Nash divulged both confidential Cabinet discussions as well as the position fellow ministers took, which is against the Cabinet Manual. It was Nash's fourth offence and saw him sacked from all of his portfolios last night.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon is calling it a "cover up", something Hipkins denies.
Hipkins said the email was "not covered up" it just was not within the scope of the OIA request.
Luxon said staff may have deliberately chosen not to advise Ardern or Hipkins of the documents to allow both of them "plausible deniability".
"This is a serious and shocking revelation, and the public deserves to know why, when staff in Mr Nash's office and the PMO knew of his behaviour, he was allowed to continue in Cabinet until yesterday."