ACC Minister Judith Collins lays job on the line

VERNON SMALL AND JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2012
Judith Collins
ANDY JACKSON
ACC MINISTER: Judith Collins

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ACC Minister Judith Collins has promised to quit if she or her office is found to have leaked an email at the centre of a spat over an ACC claimant as the auditor-general launches an investigation into governance at the state insurer.

ACC hit the headlines after it was revealed that the details of more than 6000 clients were accidentally sent to claimant and former National Party activist Bronwyn Pullar.

Ms Collins became caught up in the controversy when an email sent to her and a staff member about Ms Pullar was leaked to the media.

Ms Collins has insisted the leak did not come from her office and told Parliament yesterday she would resign if that was disproven.

"Of course I would, because I have integrity," Ms Collins said.

She would not say if she had filed court papers over a defamation suit against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little and Radio New Zealand over remarks made about the issue.

Asked if she could guarantee court action, Ms Collins said: "I'm guaranteeing that I'm taking a lot of advice on this matter and that as far as I'm aware, matters are proceeding."

The alleged defamation last week had been exacerbated by the behaviour of Mr Mallard, Mr Little and by Labour leader David Shearer, she said.

Mr Little, along with Green MP Kevin Hague, earlier asked Auditor-General Lyn Provost to look into aspects of ACC's governance that would not be examined by the investigations already under way by the privacy commissioner and being considered by the police.

Ms Provost said yesterday she would hold an inquiry examining aspects of ACC's governance.

"The inquiry will examine how ACC manages a range of risks at the board level of the organisation. It will also examine how any matters relating to ACC claimant Ms Pullar that came to the attention of the board or individual board members were dealt with," she said.

As well as this inquiry, Ms Provost intended to develop an audit proposal on ACC's general operations, with a focus on its case management.

Mr Little welcomed the inquiry, saying Labour hoped it would be widened to include the behaviour of ministers in the case.

"The inquiry by the auditor-general into how ACC manages conflicts of interest and relationships between board members, clients and staff is an opportunity to examine the real problems plaguing the agency," he said.

ACC Futures spokeswoman Hazel Armstrong said her organisation had been concerned for some time about the culture at the top of ACC. In the past four years an increasing number of claims had been rejected and there had been an increase in appeals against ACC's decisions, she said.

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