Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is firmly denying accusations that he is the person who leaked National Party leader Simon Bridges’ travel expenses.
Bridges called a press conference at 1pm today where he announced that the lengthy leak investigation identified Ross as the person likely to have leaked the information.
In a press release Bridges states, “Earlier today I received the independent report from PwC on their investigation into the recent leak of the National Party’s travel expenses.
“The report states that the evidence identified points to Jami-Lee Ross as being the person who sent the anonymous text message.”
The report findings however states “we have not identified the leaker of the expense documents or the sender of the text message with certainty.”
Shortly before the announcement Ross posted on Twitter fiercely denying the claims and accusing Bridges of using him as a scapegoat.
In one tweet Ross says, “Later today Simon Bridges is going to attempt to pin his leak inquiry on me. He can not find who the actual leak is, so is attempting to use contact with my local Police area commander, and a journalist that is a friend (not Tova), as evidence that I am somehow involved.”
The report was independently assessed by John Billington QC.
Bridges says he, alongside deputy leader Paula Bennett, visited Ross before the press conference to discuss the report.
“[I] explained to him the report and the opinion of Mr Billington and gave him an opportunity to respond. I was not satisfied with his explanation,” Bridges says.
“I also discussed with Jami-Lee other matters concerning his conduct that have come to my attention and suggest, together with the leak, a pattern.”
Bridges says the investigation report and Mr Billington’s opinion will be presented at a meeting of the National Party Caucus along with other matters relating to Ross’ conduct.
He says the Caucus will be asked to consider all relevant matters, including Ross’ membership of the Caucus.
The report findings follows Ross’ announcement that he will be taking medical leave for personal health reasons.
Bridges says he has taken steps to ensure that Ross has the necessary support around him at this time.
Ross has said in a series of Twitter posts that Bridges pushed him to take medical leave to prevent Ross from speaking publicly about concerns he had with Bridges actions as party leader.
“Some months ago I fell out with Simon. I have internally been questioning leadership decisions he was making, and his personal poll ratings which show he is becoming more and more unlikable in the public’s eyes,” he tweeted.
“When I started to become expendable, I confronted him with evidence that I had recorded him discussing with me unlawful activity that he was involved in. Working on his instruction, he asked me to do things with election donations that broke the law.
“This evidence led Simon to push me out on medical leave a few weeks ago. It was essentially an attempt to stop me from speaking publicly. I now have a duty to speak publicly on these matters. I will do so in coming days.”
The report states that the evidence against Jami-Lee Ross is not conclusive.