10 Mar 2009

New ACC boss to focus on financial sustainability

8:59 pm on 10 March 2009

The new head of the Accident Compensation Corporation says his focus will be on improving the corporation's financial sustainability.

Chairman John Judge takes over at the head of the board of ACC from former Council of Trade Union leader Ross Wilson, who was sacked on Monday.

The Labour and Green parties accuse the Government of sacking Mr Wilson to clear the way for the dismantling of ACC.

But Mr Judge, a former head of accounting firm Ernst & Young, says he is under no instructions to prepare ACC for increased competition or privatisation.

Mr Judge says his initial mission will be to establish the exact position of ACC and understand why its liabilities are growing faster than its assets. But there is no quick-fix.

A Radio New Zealand political reporter says the only surprise about Mr Wilson's sacking in the end, was that the entire board was not dumped.

ACC Minister Nick Smith says costs have risen out of control under the board's watch and that cannot continue.

Last week, Dr Smith said ACC's costs rose by 12% a year under the previous Labour-led government, from $1.4 billion in 2000 to $3.2 billion now.

Dr Smith said ACC's liabilities were almost $22 billion - more than double its assets.

However, a letter written by the board to Dr Smith says its financial governance has been excellent.

In the letter, written last week and made public on Tuesday, Ross Wilson told the minister that ACC's financial issues are being driven by the global recession, accounting changes and legislative and policy changes broadening entitlements and coverage.

Mr Wilson argued that, though ACC's liabilities have increased by $9.2 billion in the past three years, only 20% of that was able to be influenced by the board through operational programmes and interventions.

Mr Wilson told Dr Smith the board objected to any inference that its financial governance has not been excellent.