EQC flagged prominent claimants as 'sensitive'

The Earthquake Commission told staff to flag claimants who were television personalities and sports stars, documents show.

Training documents released under the Official Information Act show staff were told VIPs were a special category under sensitive claims and advised them to flag them in the Claims Management System.

The document advises them to collect "what information you can", check if the "Sensitive Flag" is already flagged and complete the activity "Review Sensitive Status Request" for a manager to review.

It tells staff the information is not for prioritising the claim.

Other special categories classed as sensitive claims were those covered in the media, those where threats were made to staff, allegations of fraud and imminent bankruptcy, and non-English speaking.

EQC national customer and claims manager Gail Kettle said the "sensitive" categories referred to in the training material were to enable better tracking of vulnerable claims.

No specific activity was triggered by the mere existence of the flags.

"As the training material notes, the High Profile/VIP information was used for reporting purposes and not for prioritisation unless used in conjunction with other sensitive criteria."

VIP flags were largely "placeholders", with the thought they could become useful in future.

While staff could "tick the box" if they saw it as relevant, no activity resulted from doing so.

In all, the "high profile" flag has been marked only 36 times for claims, predominantly from 2010-2011.

"Settlement is not complete on 16 of those claims and another 10 remain open while administrative work is completed," Kettle said.

Brent Cairns, spokesman for Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WECAN), which made the Official Information Act request, said the organisation was left wondering why the VIP category was created if the claimants were not to be given preferential treatment.

"Why is it important to look after a TV or sports star over someone that has a broken home on a low income, or a large family living in one room of their home.

"It is outrageous that they would be included in a document that categorises the vulnerable . . . unless VIPs are there because EQC are concerned more about their profile or brand," Cairns said.

The Press