NEW ZEALAND – Fonterra’s Board of directors has announced several personnel changes following the launch of two independent and one ministerial inquiry into the whey protein debacle.
The biggest casualty has been Gary Romano, who resigned from his role of Managing Director on Wednesday after coming under increasing pressure from the New Zealand media.
Wily Leferink, Dairy Chairperson of Federated Farmers of New Zealand said that farmers were sad to see a popular man go and that Mr Romano had done a lot of hard work for farmers.
Chief Executive, Theo Spierings said Mr Romano made a ‘significant contribution during his tenure at Fonterra.
Mr Spierings will assume interim responsibility of day to day operations.
The cooperative will assist ministers Nathan Guy and Nikki Kaye in a joint ministerial inquiry, to be run alongside Fonterra’s own inquiries. Mr Spierings welcomed the announcement stating that all information will be made available to the ministers to allow a thorough examination.
Two Fonterra inquiries have been launched. An internal operational review is underway which will conclude at the end of the month and will be led by Chief Executive Theo Spierings and Group Director of Strategy, Maury Leyland.
A further independent inquiry has been initiated to scrutinise the chain of events leading up to the contamination and subsequent actions.
On Friday, Fonterra announced that two senior managers had been placed on immediate leave.
Directors were quick to reassure that the absentees would not compromise the findings of the on-going investigations.
On Thursday, the Inquiry Committee welcomed Professor Stuart McCutcheon and Jacob Heida with immediate effect.
Mr Heida, an expert in whey production processes and standards for infant and food ingredients, currently sits on the controlling authority for milk and milk products disciplinary committee in the Netherlands.
Inquiry Chairman and Fonterra Independent Director, Sir Ralph Norris said the pair bring vast experience to the contamination investigations.
Sir Ralph described Professor McCutcheon, of the University of Auckland as having ‘strong credentials as a scientist’ who will ensure proper conduct ‘without fear or favour’.
Sire Ralph said: “With work now underway, the Committee is focused on a thorough and independent investigation into all relevant aspects of the WPC80 quality issue and will speak further about the findings of the inquiry when our deliberations are complete.”