A tale of conflict and confusion

… and a campaign by a government department to bury the truth …

The long-standing saga of a damaging campaign against Andy, Pat and the Manaaki/We Are Indigo team continues unabated, fuelled by ongoing attacks, enabled by the continued lack of action from those at Callaghan Innovation who could put this matter to bed, once and for all.

Hopes of a resolution from the official enquiries currently underway remain, but like all good enquiries, time ticks on and meanwhile, the damage continues.

Recent releases of information under OIA requests make interesting reading to those of us immersed in the details.  A recent article (10 May 2023) in Business Desk again details the “facts” of the case (paywalled HERE).

How can Callaghan continue to deny that their due diligence investigator was conflicted, when their own internal emails and correspondence clearly document the conflicts? 

Why is the conflict-of-interest story so important to Manaaki and We are Indigo? 

The reports written show clear bias, omission of evidence, factually incorrect statements, personal opinions and frankly outrageous conclusions that are both inflammatory and defamatory. Manaaki and We are Indigo are bearing the full brunt of this.  And Callaghan Innovation is obscuring the truth.

The whole due diligence process looks like the capture of a Government procurement process either by a private individual or by those within the Government organisation itself.  More on this later.

For me to make such statements is not a trivial thing – and I do not do this lightly.  But I see no other way to interpret the evidence.  All of this is based on actual correspondence, released under OIA requests and in public statements, relating to the claims that Callaghan Innovation engaged a conflicted investigator.  And given extra weight by a letter from Stefan Korn to Andy Hamilton.

And this is but a small selection of the OIA disclosures that support the central proposition that Callaghan is struggling to keep its story straight.

23 March 2023:   Stefan Korn, CEO of Callaghan Innovation, quoted in the NZ Herald:

“Callaghan Innovation has consistently rejected conflict of interest allegations in the appointment of an external provider procured to carry out the due diligence report”

Exactly the same words used by other Callaghan Innovation spokespeople in other interviews – clearly the official line!

30 October 2022:   Stefan Korn, CEO to Ryan Challis (Callaghan Innovation Head of Procurement)
in an email released under the OIA, detailing the timeline of the engagement of John Borland (JB), the investigator)

“March 2022 – JB was contracted using a standard service agreement which contains a clause to declare any conflicts of interest.  During a meeting with JB Ryan asked JB specifically whether there were any conflicts he was aware of that would affect the work – he stated that there weren’t any”

“June 2022 – OIAs received from media and Manaaki.  As part of the OIA process CI receives an allegation that JB was conflicted at the time of writing the DD report.”

“July 2022 – CI contracts EY to perform a review of the DD report in light of the alleged COI of JB.”

“June 2022 (subsequently corrected to be August) – Ryan requests meeting with JB to enquire about alleged COI.  JB confirms that he was on retainer to one of the parties mentioned in the DD report and that he didn’t remember to declare the COI at the time of contracting / or he didn’t think it was a relevant COI.”

Also interesting is a letter, not in the public domain, from Stefan Korn of Callaghan Innovation to Andy Hamilton,
dated 27 September 22.

“We have not ignored the alleged conflict of interest.  We have actually taken it as a given.  We have specifically sought to address whether the due diligence process results can be relied upon. We also carried out a conflict disclosure process with all external parties involved in the procurement process at the outset.”


“As you know a conflict of interest in and of itself does not invalidate any decision or action – it is how the conflict of interest is handled that matters. The handling of the conflict of interest and its potential impact on the validity of the due diligence report was the very nature of the review by EY.”

Of note, the issue and impact of conflict of interest was specifically excluded from the EY brief, as were the findings of the reports.  EY was engaged to examine only the process, not the findings of the report, and definitely not the conflict of interest, which it appears Korn said Callaghan have “actually taken as a given”. 

So did they take it as a given?  Or did they, as was subsequently reported below, have “no idea” about any conflicts of interest!  Clearly someone is not sticking to the story!

And why was the conflict part of the scope of the EY review to begin with, and then removed from scope? Why would Callaghan itself not mount an investigation into the ‘alleged’ conflict when it not only had evidence from Indigo but also had confirmation of from the contractor of an undisclosed retainer relationship? Would you not investigate? Why did they not?

3 November 2022:   Callaghan Innovation is quoted in a Business Desk article, in which they say they have “no idea” about the conflicts of interest as they don’t have enough evidence.

BUT wait, there’s more…

Going back to the beginning of the saga, we have these exchanges between Crone (then CEO of Callaghan Innovation), JB the investigator, and Robett Hollis (the self-declared crusader driving the campaign against Andy Hamilton and the rest of the Manaaki / We Are Indigo team).

29 December 2021:  Email from Hollis to Crone, copying in John Borland (JB)

“Hey Vic,
As promised just connecting you with Johnny Borland from the Powermoves crew in regards to any other DD may need done for Procurement etc.

JB – Vic is FULLLLY across the chats we’ve been having….”

29 December 2021:  Email from Crone to Hollis, JB copied in

“Thanks Robett.
Johnny – we have some funding out of procurement now, on the short list is one service provider who I’ve heard via multiple services has been <<< rest of sentence redacted >>>
As we go through allocating out the next round of funding I’m keen to do good due diligence and look at some new methods to help inform our decisions as opposed to just traditional panel approaches. Maybe worth a chat if you think you can help?”

22 February 2022:  Message from Hollis to Crone

“Hey Vic…    Jonny just called me re Indigo. He has some more stuff bubbling with it so keen to link to with best person on the RFP side at Callaghan to properly engage”

And one last data point, skipping forward to much more recent times…

13 March 2023:  from Hollis’ newsletter Robett’s Ramble

“I feel Andy, Pat and of their business partners should NEVER be allowed to get close, advise, support, raise or invest in ANY startup, small businesses or Founders EVER AGAIN!!

So what do you think?  Could it be that Hollis has orchestrated a deliberate campaign , inserting his mate JB into the Callaghan Innovation procurement process via his personal relationship with Crone, the then CEO?   Crone clearly knew that JB had prior information about Manaaki/We Are Indigo and its business dealings.  JB’s leanings on these matters – which no doubt influenced his conclusions in the reports – are strongly signalled in the OIA extracts.

The fact that JB was in fact on retainer – ie. being paid – by one of the complainants against Manaaki may not have been clear to Callaghan at the time of his engagement, but was certainly known to Korn (the new CEO) just a few months later.  Did Borland really “forget” to disclose this, or was it part of the plan?

Did you know that the Office of the Auditor General has identified that knowingly failing to disclose a conflict of interest is tantamount to corruption?

The continued “official line” (as recently as March this year) that “Callaghan Innovation has consistently rejected conflict of interest allegations” seems to be to be disingenuous at best.  At worst, you may think it’s a bald-faced lie…  but of course, I couldn’t possibly say that.

So many questions spring to mind…

  • Why will Callaghan Innovation not own up to their issues in the process, and act in good faith for the good of the whole ecosystem?
  • It is simply too embarrassing, or are they worried about this being election year? Could they / should they have settled this sooner?
  • Who is covering up, and what are they covering up?

I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again. Callaghan Innovation – you are the only ones who can fix this, by admitting that the conclusions in the reports are unfair, in part because they were written by a conflicted investigator, and that you should never have allowed those reports to be weaponised to damage and destroy people and businesses.


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