ACC Board chair John Judge goes

ANDREA VANCE, JOHN HARTEVELT AND DANYA LEVY
Last updated 14:48 12/06/2012
JOHN JUDGE: Confident ACC had acted properly.
ACC board chairman John Judge

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Outgoing ACC board chief John Judge deserved the sack and that is what the Government should have done, the Greens say.

Judge met with ACC Minister Judith Collins this morning after calls for him to be sacked over apparently misleading statements relating to ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

Judge "agreed" that it was time to go, Collins said.

Collins confirmed they had been discussing his future "for a while" after his term expired in March. He leaves later in the month, when he is to take over as chairman of the ANZ bank.

"Mr Judge agreed with me that it would be appropriate given his new role and the fact that to bring in the new culture into ACC, improving on the work, that I would like to see. It would be appropriate for a new chair."

She added: "I had no problem with Mr Judge's abilities around the financial performance of ACC. I think he has done an outstanding job in relation to the finances but I believe it is important that we have a new era in ACC and part of that is a new culture."

Government enforcer Paula Rebstock - already a board member - would take over for a few weeks. Collins said she already had a replacement chair in mind.

However, she would not express confidence in chief executive Ralph Stewart, insisting that was a matter for the board.

Collins also spoke to Stewart this morning.

Collins added: "I believe privacy and information security is now the number one priority for ACC and it must refocus on rebuilding public trust and confidence."

Judge's departure was a surprise announcement and came after pressure from Green MP Kevin Hague for his sacking.

Hague said it was untenable for Judge to remain in the role.

"It's a shame the Government has declined to take the opportunity and to rise to the duty that they have to have sacked him.

"He deserved the sack and that's what the Government ought to have done."

Hague called for his head after police last week decided not to prosecute Pullar following a complaint from ACC that she had tried to blackmail senior managers over the accidental release to her of the private details of more than 6500 claimants.

Police said they found no case for Pullar to answer, but Judge and Stewart stood by their decision to go to police.

Pullar made a recording of the meeting at which it was alleged she had tried to blackmail the managers and both Judge and Stewart told reporters last week that despite requests, police had not provided them with a tape of the recording. But Stewart had been played the tape.

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Collins quizzed Judge and Stewart this morning. "What they have said to me that Mr Stewart and legal advisers were able to hear a transcript. They were not given it to take away, they were not given a copy.

"Mr Judge has neither heard nor seen a transcript.

"They have no way of working out whether it is all the transcript or part of the transcript."

She said she has no reason to doubt Stewart's word. He has supplied her with a legal opinion that ACC took the "correct action".

"At the end of the day he has heard a recording I haven't. Mr Stewart reports to the board and until somebody shows me proof I need to be very much able to look at people and to take them at their word.

"I'm not going to enter into guessing and second guessing what they've said when this is subject to two investigations, one by the Privacy Commission the other by the auditor-general."

She was expecting the Privacy Commissions report to be finished in August and "something" from the office of the Auditor-General next month.

Prime Minister John Key said the timing of Judge's departure was "a little bit unfortunate" but he had done a "tremendous job" for the Government.

"He inherited ACC when it was a complete mess from the Labour Party and he has come in and turned that organisation around."

It was important the auditor-general and privacy commissioner completed their investigations into ACC.

"Those inquiries will carry on and those answers will have to be found. He has been the chairman so if he is required to answer questions he will."

Key said he didn't believe the Government had put pressure on Judge to resign.

However, Labour's ACC spokesman Andrew Little said Judge had been pushed.

Collins was not fronting up and taking responsibility for the things that had gone wrong in her portfolio, he said.

Judge's departure made the Government look like it was doing something but it wouldn't resolve the issues raised by Pullar.

- Stuff

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