Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

EQC cleared of deliberately excluding unhappy claimants

An earthquake-damaged house in Avonside Drive, Christchurch.
An earthquake-damaged house in Avonside Drive, Christchurch.

An EQC customer satisfaction survey has been cleared of deliberately excluding thousands of unhappy claimants after an independent review.

The State Services Commission review found 31,311 claims were excluded from the survey, conducted by research company UMR, for valid reasons such as multiple or duplicate claims.

Only 18 of the 123,000 closed claims were omitted from the survey.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said that would not have an impact on the overall results, and the survey results were valid and reliable.

The review was ordered by Government minister Gerry Brownlee, who is the Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

It came after EQC claimant advocate Bryan Staples accused the commission of appearing to deliberately exclude unhappy customers from the surveys.

The review looked at the reliability of the results of EQC's customer satisfaction surveys, as well as EQC's processes for ensuring the reliability of information provided to the minister.

It also covered the engagement between EQC and the Office of the Auditor-General on the customer satisfaction information reported in the Auditor General's report on the Canterbury home repair programme.

The review found only completed claims were surveyed, which was in line with good practice.

Of the 86.7 per cent of the excluded claims to be validated so far, the primary claim had already been surveyed or was still available to be surveyed.

The review found engagement between EQC and the Auditor General was appropriate and effective.

It said there were opportunities for EQC to improve its processes and systems for providing information and support to Mr Brownlee, and EQC was already acting on a number of these.

The review made 10 recommendations for improvement.

"This has been a thorough review of how these surveys are conducted and how results were reported, as well as EQC's internal processes and the systems for supporting their minister," Mr Rennie said.

"The review has found that EQC's surveys are consistent with good practice, the survey results are valid and reliable and the answers given by the minister were correct."

Mr Rennie said ministers needed to be able to rely on agencies to provide clear and timely information.

"The report makes a number of recommendations for how EQC can improve the support it provides and how the relationship with the minister's office can be improved."

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