12 Jun 2012

ACC board chair to leave position

10:39 pm on 12 June 2012

The chairman of the Accident Compensation Corporation board, John Judge, is to leave his position.

The Privacy Commissioner is investigating privacy breaches at ACC, while the Auditor-General is looking at how the corporation manages risk.

ACC has been embroiled in controversy over its dealings with Auckland claimant Bronwyn Pullar, who was mistakenly sent private details about thousands of claimants in December last year.

ACC Minister Judith Collins.

ACC Minister Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ

ACC Minister Judith Collins will not say whether that led to Mr Judge's departure from the corporation.

Mr Judge was appointed chairman in March 2009 for a three-year term and will take up a new role as ANZ National Bank chairman at the end of June.

Ms Collins said on Tuesday that, after discussions with Mr Judge, he agreed it was appropriate that he finish at the end of the month.

"His position was very clear to me that, if I felt that he should stay he would be willing to stay.

"But in all the circumstances, given what I expect from the corporation, he's just not going to be able to frankly spend that time on it. He's a very busy person."

In Parliament on Tuesday, the minister said she had full confidence in John Judge's work on ACC's finances, but is reserving judgement on privacy issues until the investigation by the Privacy Commission is complete.

However, Ms Collins believes it is important that a new culture be introduced at ACC.

Paula Rebstock, who chaired the Welfare Working Group, will be acting chair of the ACC board until a permanent appointment is made.

Questions to answer - PM

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key repeated his view that management at the Accident Compensation Corporation still has questions to answer about the Bronwyn Pullar case.

Ms Pullar is in dispute with ACC about what was said at a meeting with senior managers after she was mistakenly emailed details of 6500 ACC claimants in December 2011.

ACC claimed a threat was made, but Ms Pullar rejects that. Police have investigated and decided not to take any action, saying no offence was committed.

Mr Key says ACC management made some claims that have been refuted, and will ultimately need to back up those claims.

He declined to express confidence in ACC management, saying legally, that's a matter between ACC Minister Judith Collins and the corporation's board.

The Green Party on Monday called for John Judge to be stood down over the Bronwyn Pullar case. It also said Mr Judge had presided over a change in culture which had seen it deny treatment and rehabilitation to clients and that 3500 long-term claimants have been removed under his watch.

"(ACC) has moved away from what New Zealanders gave up the right to sue for, which was a culture in which full rehabilitation was the standard," Green Party ACC spokesperson Kevin Hague says.

However, Mr Key says the Government supports ACC's approach in providing rehabilitation and getting people back to work.

"If you're asking me whether it's the right thing for the Government to be trying to tackle the long-term tail and ensuring that people get the support where they practically can to get back into work, I think that's the appropriate course of action to take."

Labour says Judge pushed

Labour MP and the party's ACC spokesperson Andrew Little believes John Judge was pushed to stand down from the role following the controversy over the corporation's dealings with Bronwyn Pullar.

Mr Little said on Tuesday that Mr Judge leaving ACC will not resolve the issues raised by Ms Pullar's case.

"Well, I'd say that he's been pushed and I'd say that this is another National Party Cabinet minister who is not fronting up and taking responsibility for the things that have gone wrong in her portfolio, and somebody else has had to jump as a consequence."

Green Party MP Kevin Hague said on Tuesday it was untenable for Mr Judge to remain as ACC board chair. He says the Government has a duty to sack Mr Judge and would be surprised if this is not what happened.

"I think it would be a very surprising coincidence if in fact Judge had left of his own accord, but we've been asked by the minister and by ACC to believe a series of very extraordinary coincidences in this whole affair."