ACC whistleblower strikes back

PHIL KITCHIN AND DANYA LEVY
Last updated 11:29 19/03/2012

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The whistleblower at the centre of an ACC privacy scandal has broken her silence to accuse the corporation of lying to its minister about its account of a key meeting she and former National Party president Michelle Boag held with two senior managers in December.

An ACC report to Minister Judith Collins released on Friday claimed an ACC client, Bronwyn Pullar, threatened to go public with a mass privacy breach and withhold the huge file containing names of sexual abuse victims if the corporation did not give her a "guaranteed benefit payment for two years".

The report was complied without ACC speaking to the client or her advocate at the meeting, Boag, and ACC has said it has referred the matter to police.

Pullar today slammed the report as "false''.

''I made no threats and no demands of ACC. I never mentioned the words 'payment, guaranteed, benefit'. I made no threats and no demands for the return of the information.

"I did not threaten that I would inform the media of the alleged privacy issue. I did not threaten ACC to get my own way in any way. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how ACC could most effectively help my rehabilitation and return to work," she said.

Puller said at the end of the meeting a document was tabled identifying 45 privacy and protocol breaches by ACC and the two senior ACC managers at the meeting, Philip Murch and Hans Verberne, were asked to address those issues with their chief executive Ralph Stewart, their board and Collins as a matter of good corporate governance.

After the meeting ACC sent a letter thanking the client for the meeting and outlining a proposed agreement "to move forward with the management of your claim''.

"I believe the meeting was productive and gave ACC the opportunity to understand the issues you have with the management and progress of your claim.  As discussed at this meeting ACC would like to find a way forward with your rehabilitation and relationship with you," ACC said.

Pullar has also ridiculed a report today saying she threatened former ACC Minister Nick Smith to go public in an email saying "ACC is rotten to the core and I have numerous examples that could seriously embarrass you over and above this".

Pullar said that email could not be construed as a threat to go public because the same email was copied and sent to five reporters.

PM SAYS NO TO INQUIRY

Prime Minister John Key says he doesn't see the need for an independent inquiry into an ACC privacy breach and the police investigation into alleged demands from a client who was sent the personal information.

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"All the relevant parties are looking very closely at that, including ACC themselves," he told Newstalk ZB.

"I think that is good enough in the way it has been handled internally."

Key said he had met the woman who had been emailed the ACC files, "many years ago".

She had raised the issue of ACC compensation with him.

The woman was good friends with Michelle Boag and he was unsurprised by the involvement of the former National Party president.

Either ACC or Collins' office appears to have compounded the breach of privacy.

Details about Pullar were leaked from an email Boag sent to Collins.

The leak was likely to be another breach of the client's privacy because it is understood ACC had no authority to disclose any aspect of the woman's ACC claim to the media.

Media and privacy specialist lawyer Stephen Price said last night that, if the breach came from the minister's office or ACC, there would be good grounds for a complaint to be made to the privacy commissioner.

- The Dominion Post

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