Kris Faafoi says he hopes the Companies Office will act over the a breach of the Companies Act by car importers owned by the Optimus Group.
Newsroom reported last week that two companies, JEVIC and VINZ, had made incorrect declarations to the companies office, hiding the fact that they were both owned by the Optimus Group, a Japanese auto firm.
“If there’s an issue I hope they’ll deal with that,” Faafoi said.
“This seems like a relatively clear cut issue, if it hasn’t been right it should be put right,” he said.
Misleading the Companies Office carries hefty penalties. It must be notified of an ownership change within 20 working days of it taking place, with failure to do so punishable with a fine of $10,000.
JEVIC and VINZ have been owned by the Optimus Group since it was formed in March 2015, but only informed the companies office of their true ownership on July 24, 2017.
In the meantime, both companies filed misleading declarations at the the Companies Office.
In August 2015, VINZ notified the Companies Office that its ultimate shareholder had changed to Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre Company LTD. In July 2016, the company filed another, similar declaration at the Companies Office, this time on behalf of JEVIC.
Asked whether the Companies Office should pursue the companies for making an incorrect declaration, Faafoi responded, “I hope so”.
Meanwhile Transport Minister Phil Tywford also weighed in on the issue, saying it reflected the tougher regulatory stance taken by NZTA.
Alongside car exporter Nichibo, JEVIC and VINZ inspect cars exported from Japan to New Zealand. This is in violation of international standards which say that testers should not have a financial interest in the things they inspect.
But NZTA initially raised no concerns with JEVIC and VINZ. It was only later, after the agency had discovered further information that it issued a formal reprimand to the companies. However the agency did not take any punitive action beyond the warning as it was satisfied the conflicts of interest were suitably managed.
Twyford said that he welcomed the agency’s actions.
“I want to see a tougher and more rigorous approach to regulation,” Twyford said.
“The light touch regulation of the last 20 odd years hasn’t served us well,” he said.
Twyford said New Zealanders would see a “tougher response” on regulation in future.
“We’re going to see a much more serious and proactive response to conflict of interest in the future,” he said.
NZTA currently issues licenses to vehicle testers. Each licence carries a requirement that the tester notifies the agency immediately if it believes it has a conflict of interest in its operations.
JEVIC and VINZ appear to have flouted this with relative impunity beyond a caution from the agency. Twyford’s comments today suggest that while they may escape sanction for now, other firms may not be so lucky in the future.