Computers focus of ACC privacy inquiry

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 14:39 28/03/2012
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ANDY JACKSON
PROBE DISCUSSED: ACC Minister Judith Collins.

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Another investigation in to privacy breaches at ACC has been launched, with the Privacy Commissioner set to make forensic investigations of computers over a leaked email.

ACC Minister Judith Collins today said she had been told by Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff that an investigation was under way in to the leaking of personal details about ACC client Bronwyn Pullar.

Collins has insisted she is "100 per cent certain" neither she nor anyone in her office was responsible for the leak of an email about Pullar.

Collins yesterday said the email, from former National Party president Michelle Boag, had been forwarded only to ACC board chair John Judge and chief executive Ralph Stewart. Both have told Collins they do not know who leaked the email and Boag has also denied responsibility.

Collins today admitted she had printed out the email, but she maintained the leak had not come from her office. She has already twice assured Prime Minister John Key she was not responsible after he sought guarantees.

"It's now a matter for the Privacy Commissioner and I think that's the right place for it to be," Collins said today.

"The Privacy Commissioner has indicated to me that any investigation may well involve computer forensic investigation and that any other question should be referred to her."

Collins had encouraged Pullar or Boag to lay a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner to try and resolve the matter. Collins today said she did not know who had made a complaint.

"Frankly I welcome that," she said.

KEY SEEKS PLEDGES OVER ACC LEAK

Key has twice sought assurances from Collins that she was not behind the release of private details about ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

Key said yesterday he was "utterly convinced" the leak did not come from Collins or her office and he had no reason to question her assurances.

But he revealed that he had "directly asked her the question on two occasions" as the row over how Pullar's name got into the public arena intensifies.

"She has absolutely assured me that it didn't come from her office and I've got no reason at all to question her."

Former ACC minister Nick Smith was forced to resign from the Cabinet last week in the fallout over a series of leaks involving Pullar after it emerged he had intervened in her case despite an apparent conflict of interest over their close friendship.

Last night, Collins contacted Shroff to discuss a possible probe into the source of a leaked email detailing a meeting involving Pullar and ACC staff.

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The email was written by Boag, who was at the ACC meeting with Pullar.

Collins said she would welcome Pullar putting in a complaint to the privacy commissioner "because I would like to have this matter dealt with".

A spokeswoman for Shroff said it was possible that an inquiry could be started without a complaint being laid.

Yesterday, Collins rejected any suggestion of involvement in the email being leaked and shifted attention to ACC.

Collins said Boag's email was sent to herself and one staff member.

"I did not send it to anyone else. My staff member sent it to the chief executive of ACC and the chairman of the board, as I requested her to. It was not sent anywhere else."

Judge, who Collins confirmed had been summoned to the Beehive on Monday over concerns about ACC privacy breaches, did not respond to questions last night.

But Collins said he had told her he did not know the source of the leak.

Judge had been "quite forthright", she said.

Stewart has also given Collins an assurance the information did not come from him or his staff.

However, Collins said she was "not at all satisfied" with privacy systems at ACC after revelations that it had accidentally sent a spreadsheet with information about 6748 ACC clients to Pullar last year.

"I'm not satisfied in terms of the overall privacy but I'm not going to accuse anybody of leaking information because that might well be defamatory," Collins said.

Boag said she was not responsible for the leak. However, she would not lay a complaint.

"I'm a busy girl. I've been in Wellington working all day for a living. I don't have time to dwell all day on these things.

"The ball now is in ACC's court. I will see what they will do," Ms Boag said.

Labour Party deputy leader Grant Robertson said Collins had "hung her own board chairman out to dry in a desperate act of self-preservation".

"A full, independent inquiry into this whole sorry saga is not only called for but should be a priority."

Former Labour government minister Lianne Dalziel was forced to resign as immigration minister after denying she was behind a leak that was later revealed as coming from her office.

- The Dominion Post

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