OPINION: ACC and its board are about to get the message by ministerial megaphone that there are consequences for messing with voters and embarrassing the Government.
ACC Minister Judith Collins was yesterday at pains to divorce the abrupt (and voluntary) end to chairman John Judge's tenure from any suggestion he had been fired. He was, she suggested, too busy now that he was to take over as chairman at ANZ Bank and anyway his term had expired.
Frankly, it is a stretch to believe a man of Mr Judge's experience could not effectively chair two boards at once.
Ms Collins did express confidence in him, in terms of his financial management, but she has withheld any similar endorsement over the handling of privacy and information security pending the outcome of two investigations now under way.
But when letters of termination thud on to the desks of deputy chairman John McCliskie and board member Rob Campbell today it will become obvious to all that Ms Collins is undertaking a clean-out as part of her required culture change at ACC.
At the moment the focus is all on privacy issues and lack of security, highlighted by whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar.
But Ms Pullar has raised other questions about the corporation's attitude towards its clients and the enthusiasm with which it "case manages" long-term claimants off its books.
With private competition now off the table, Ms Collins made an intriguing observation yesterday; she wants the corporation to treat its claimants as if they are clients who can take their business elsewhere, even though it is operating as a monopoly.
That suggests a very different approach from the one identified by Ms Pullar, Labour's Andrew Little and the Greens' Kevin Hague.
They have suggested ACC's culture these days is more about saving money, treating claimants with suspicion and getting them off the books than respecting those entitlements set under the Woodhouse principles at the birth of ACC.
That might be going a bit far, but many believe the balance has tipped too far away from the concept of a social contract towards controlling costs and encouraging claimants back to work "for their own good".
Whether Ms Collins' newly fashioned board will change that remains to be seen.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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