War of words over ACC probe

Last updated 07:13 03/08/2012
JUDITH COLLINS: Justice Minister.

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Tensions between ACC Minister Judith Collins and former ACC chairman John Judge have boiled over in public after claims an investigation into a leaked email was hampered because Mr Judge had replaced his computer and wiped data.

Mr Judge yesterday described the claims as "pathetic".

Ms Collins said she did not know whether the inquiry by Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff had been delayed or hampered, and had not said that. But she would not descend to "name calling".

The war of words came after Ms Collins confirmed, in response to an Official Information Act request, that Mr Judge had destroyed or replaced his home computer in April, after an inquiry was launched into how an email, sent by former National Party president Michelle Boag to Ms Collins, was leaked.

The email related to ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar, who was at the centre of a mass ACC privacy breach. Ms Collins has launched defamation action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little over suggestions the leak came from her office.

Asked in the OIA if she had information Mr Judge's computer had been destroyed, Ms Collins said: "Yes, the information I have received is that Mr Judge's home computer was replaced in April this year."

But yesterday she said she had received "slightly different" details.

Mr Judge said yesterday that Ms Collins was aware he had replaced his home computer before Mrs Shroff's inquiry was announced and all the data from the old computer was copied to the new one.

His personal computer was replaced in April, before Easter, as part of a routine upgrade. He had started the replacement process in February when he obtained quotes. As a security measure redundant material still on his old computer was cleared, prior to him disposing of it.

"There is nothing untoward in what I did. I had deleted the emails received from the minister's office shortly after I received them."

It was his practice to delete emails not directly relevant to him in the future and where they were held by the organisation with which he was involved.

Mr Judge said he was also provided with an iPad by ACC, which was wiped and handed back to ACC in June.

But it was not "synched" to ACC's computer systems nor to Mr Judge's personal computer.

It did not receive emails related to the leak.

He had co-operated fully and his personal computer was available to the Shroff inquiry.

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He had not copied, printed or forwarded any email received from Ms Collins' office.

Out-going ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart backed up Mr Judge.

Meanwhile, information provided by Ms Collins has revealed further tensions between her and Mr Judge in March, about the time the Pullar leak was made public.

In a letter to him on March 27 she said she was concerned ACC made no reference to privacy issues in its draft plan for the year.

"I advised you that I had serious concerns about the level of commitment across ACC to protecting the privacy of claimants' information," she said.

The letter also ticked him off for seeking a law change as a precursor to privatisation.

"I have not suggested this change and made it perfectly clear to you in our meeting on 10 February, when you raised this matter, that this would not be happening," she said.

Ms Collins yesterday said she was "staggered" at the absence of a reference to privacy, although the board had since rectified that.

She had also made it clear privatisation was not on the agenda.

"So I don't expect the board to be going off in directions that are contrary to Government policy." Fairfax NZ

Contact http://tinyurl.com/DPT-phil-kitchin
Investigations editor
Email: phil.kitchin@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post


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