The scan­dal be­hind the scan­dal

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Few peo­ple would have pre­dicted the Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion Cor­po­ra­tion would be en­gulfed by a scan­dal over the se­cu­rity of emails re­lated to its core busi­ness, or by the ACC Min­is­ter of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to a party in­sider seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion.

More glar­ing prob­lems ex­ist.

For years, the nit­pick­ing way that the ACC com­monly re­sponds to many vic­tims of ac­ci­dents has been con­tro­ver­sial – not to men­tion the way it rou­tinely ar­gues that the in­ca­pac­ity in ques­tion was re­ally caused by an un­der­ly­ing process of age­ing and de­gen­er­a­tion and was not by the ac­ci­dent men­tioned in the claim.

Miser­li­ness is not the source of ACC’S cur­rent trou­bles, though.

In­stead, the scan­dal hog­ging the head­lines last week con­cerned who had leaked an email and who had in­sti­gated a meet­ing in De­cem­ber re­lated to the leak­ing of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion about ACC clients.

There was spec­u­la­tion about who stood to ben­e­fit from this lapse of se­cu­rity.

With each pass­ing day, this con­vo­luted tale be­came murkier.

One of the con­spir­acy the­o­ries hinted at by Labour MPS Trevor Mal­lard and An­drew Lit­tle has re­sulted in both MPS and Ra­dio New Zealand be­ing threat­ened by ACC Min­is­ter Ju­dith Collins with le­gal ac­tion for defama­tion.

Mean­while, there must be hun­dreds of ACC claimants around the coun­try won­der­ing why the me­dia has never shown any­thing like the same in­ves­tiga­tive zeal in pur­su­ing the griev­ances they have felt about their treat­ment by ACC.

Very few ACC claimants, it seems safe to sup­pose, are in the same cir­cum­stances as Bron­wyn Pullar, the woman at the cen­tre of the cur­rent furore.

She has re­port­edly re­ceived a $1 mil­lion in­sur­ance pay­out and was seek­ing an ACC ben­e­fit as well as her com­pen­sa­tion for the one bi­cy­cle ac­ci­dent.

While Ms Pullar may have gen­uine griev­ances and valid en­ti­tle­ments, she seems an un­usual case to be awak­en­ing the me­dia’s sud­den con­cern about whether ACC is func­tion­ing prop­erly.

Of course, the cur­rent scan­dal, while highly di­vert­ing as po­lit­i­cal drama, has lit­tle to do with the day-to-day work­ings of a state or­gan­i­sa­tion whose de­ci­sions im­pinge on the lives of thou­sands of cit­i­zens in need.

Clearly, ACC to­day is not the same kind of or­gan­i­sa­tion – and is not fol­low­ing through on the same trade-offs – as those en­vis­aged by Sir Owen Wood­house in the early 1970s and for which the public gave away its right to sue for neg­li­gence.

The public con­tin­ues to be short-changed by ACC and the main rea­son that fail­ure has not erupted into po­lit­i­cal scan­dal be­fore is that both ma­jor par­ties have sup­ported the quiet ero­sion of the scheme’s orig­i­nal vi­sion.

At the very least, the cur­rent scan­dal sug­gests that ACC vic­tims who have pow­er­ful friends – and po­lit­i­cally em­bar­rass­ing in­for­ma­tion in their hands – will get sen­si­tive treat­ment and pri­vate meet­ings with top of­fi­cials. We should all be so lucky. Ul­ti­mately, the furore may re­veal fur­ther ev­i­dence of the work­ings of po­lit­i­cal priv­i­lege and more heads may roll.

That will mat­ter to the public only if it re­sults in be­havioural change at ACC.

Long ago, we gave away our right to sue when harmed in ac­ci­dents, in re­turn for fair, read­ily avail­able, com­pen­sa­tion.

The fact that suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have got away with welsh­ing on that deal is the real ACC scan­dal.

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