Editorial: Accidents will happen

Last updated 09:32 08/06/2012

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OPINION: In the arthritic language of the police, "no offence has been disclosed" from their investigation into poor wee ACC's complaint that it was the victim of an extortion attempt from that dreadful bully Bronwyn Pullar.

The public are not required to take quite so legalistic a view of what constitutes an offence.

We are entitled to conclude that it was ACC's own behaviour that was – at least in the broader sense – offensive.

Ms Pullar is a pugnacious former National Party activist who has been battling ACC over her own personal claim following a cycling accident. In the midst of this the corporation mistakenly and with scandalous ineptitude sent her sensitive information about 6500 people on its books.

Her wrongdoing, as ACC tells it, was then insisting that unless she received a guaranteed benefit payment for two years, she would hang on to this information and take news of the privacy breach to the media.

Ms Pullar denies she said any such thing and has since provided the media with a recording she took of her meeting with ACC officials. It supports her contention.

She did wind up going public with the fact the files had been wrongly sent to her. But this was done fully three months later, having had no followup from the corporation regarding the privacy breach or even to reclaim the documents which she still held.

There's no getting around it that ACC did not go to the police until the matter was humiliatingly public and credibility issues between the corporation and the complainant were to the fore.

It smacks of having been a purely tactical counterpunch. A slow-motion one, which missed by a mile.

Still defending its own account as complete and accurate, ACC is left to adopt a less than convincing "trust us" stance.

It's all the harder to get away with this given the almost simultaneous release of another story reminding us of the lengths ACC has historically been prepared to go to, to prevail against problematic clients.

An Auckland man may receive up to 25 years' worth of ACC backpayments because he was refused compensation on the say-so of the discredited Dr Laurie Gluckman, whom Judge Peter Trapski once formally describe as a "hitman" called in to write reports staff needed to decline compensation. Such was the corporation's sour tradition of having tame doctors on hand to screw some people out of their rights.

The corporation doesn't seem to have learned a lot in the interim.

ACC is an imperfect system, but far better than any detectable alternative. It handles a great deal of public money and needs to do so carefully because it attracts its fair share of cheats, and then some.

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What's more, it scarcely simplifies things that its policy decisions are made at the behest of politicians adopting varying, not necessarily consistent, ideologies.

Its wrongs are fixable. They need fixing. Its credibility has taken a hammering for reasons that have less to do with competence than with treating people honestly.

- The Southland Times

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