Part 1: Introduction

Inquiry into aspects of ACC's Board-level governance.

On 4 April 2012, the Auditor-General announced an inquiry into some aspects of the governance of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) at the Board level. Our inquiry focused on those matters that had given rise to suggestions that an ACC claimant, Bronwyn Pullar, had gained an advantage though her approach to the Deputy Chairman of the ACC Board, John McCliskie.

A number of people, including Kevin Hague MP and Andrew Little MP, had asked the Auditor-General to consider inquiring into those matters. Appendix 1 sets out the terms of reference for our inquiry.

Our inquiry began during extensive media coverage of ACC's breach of the privacy of a number of its claimants.

On 13 March 2012, the Dominion Post published an article alleging that ACC had released "private details of more than 9000 ACC claims" to an unnamed ACC claimant. The article said that the recipient had told:

  • senior management at ACC of the breach of privacy three months earlier; and
  • ACC's Board and the former ACC Minister (Hon Dr Nick Smith) about "systemic failures of the corporation's processes for respecting the privacy rights of claimants" before that.

On 14 March 2012, ACC briefed its Minister (Hon Judith Collins) about the breach of privacy. On 16 March, ACC gave the Minister a written briefing on the privacy breach and on a meeting on 1 December 2011 at which the claimant had disclosed the breach to two ACC senior managers.

On 18 March 2012, the Herald on Sunday wrote about the 1 December meeting between the claimant and the ACC senior managers. The article revealed that the claimant was named Bronwyn Pullar and that she had been supported at that meeting by Michelle Boag, a former President of the New Zealand National Party.

On 20 March 2012, media stories focused on a letter of reference for Ms Pullar that the former ACC Minister, who knew Ms Pullar, had written on Ministerial letterhead. After a second, earlier, letter that he had written about Ms Pullar's claim was identified, the Minister resigned from his portfolios on 21 March 2012.

About this time, the Chairman of the ACC Board, John Judge, confirmed to media that the 1 December meeting was held in response to Ms Pullar's approach to Mr McCliskie, the Deputy Chairman, in September 2011.

The ACC Board and the Privacy Commissioner then jointly commissioned an inquiry into ACC's release of information to Ms Pullar, which would also review ACC's policies and practices for the privacy and security of client information ("the privacy inquiry"). The Privacy Commissioner also received a number of complaints from individuals alleging breach of their privacy by ACC, which she is investigating.

Our inquiry does not directly address ACC's breach of privacy or its handling of client privacy more generally, because those matters are the subject of the privacy inquiry. We comment briefly on those matters where they are relevant to the governance issues with which we are concerned.

Further, because our inquiry focused on the ACC Board, it avoided as far as possible anything particular to Ms Pullar's injury claim or ACC's handling of it.

We carried out our inquiry in June and July 2012. Our inquiry involved interviewing several ACC officials and Ms Pullar, and reviewing a range of documents. Appendix 2 lists the people we interviewed.

Structure of this report

Parts 2 and 3 discuss events before and after two meetings with Ms Pullar, because those meetings directly or indirectly involved Board members. Part 4 discusses ACC's Board-level policies and practices, and we set out our conclusions in Part 5.

We have not corrected the text of any of the emails quoted in this report.

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