National party insider Bronwyn Pullar's 2002 cycle accident after a night out left her with brain injuries that still plague her today but also resulted in a massive headache for the Accident Compensation Corporation, its ministers, board, management and staff.
Two reports published today cast light on how ACC dealt with Ms Pullar and the internal problems at the corporation that her case has brought to public attention.
ACC was already under pressure for its tougher line on claimants and privacy slip ups when the Dominion Post in March reported it had mistakenly sent information about 6700 clients to a claimant in August last year.
Ms Pullar was identified as that claimant a week later after an email from her friend and supporter Michelle Boag to ACC Minister Judith Collins was leaked to the Herald On Sunday.
That disclosure led to the Herald's report that Cabinet Minister Nick Smith, an old friend of Ms Pullar, had written a letter in support of her claim when he was ACC Minister. The report led to Dr Smith's resignation from Cabinet.
Ten days after the privacy breach was first reported, ACC announced an independent inquiry into the matter.
The inquiry had three objectives:
- To investigate the circumstances of the Pullar privacy breach, including the cause and ACC's response;
- To determine whether ACC's policies and practices relating to the security of information are appropriate and effective;
- To make recommendations to the Privacy Commissioner and the ACC board to restore public confidence in ACC's current and future client information handling policies and processes.
The inquiry was led by former Australian Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton and conducted in conjunction with accountancy firm KPMG.
A few days after the privacy inquiry was announced, Auditor-General Lyn Provost said she had decided to investigate how ACC's board dealt with potential conflicts of interest, legal compliance and interaction between themselves, management, staff and claimants in relation to the Pullar case and also more generally.
The Privacy Commissioner has also been investigating how the email from Ms Boag to Ms Collins about the December meeting was leaked to the Herald on Sunday. However it is unclear whether the findings of that inquiry will be made public.
On top of Dr Smith's resignation, the saga has resulted in a string of resignations at the corporation.
Two months after the story first broke a police inquiry into ACC allegations that Ms Pullar tried to use the information to extract financial gain from the corporation found no evidence of that.
Shortly after, it was announced chairman John Judge and directors John McCliskie and Rob Campbell were to leave. That was followed by chief executive Ralph Stewart's resignation and that of another director Murray Hilder.
Mr McCliskie, another old friend of Ms Pullar, was approached by her last year with concerns about the way her case had been handled.
Mr McCliskie took her concerns to Mr Judge who referred them to senior managers. That led to the December meeting between ACC manager's Philip Murch and Hans Verberne where Ms Pullar and Ms Boag told ACC of the privacy breach. ACC alleged it was during that meeting the pair tried to trade trade the information for financial gain for Ms Pullar and threatened to go the media about the breach if their demands were not met.
- Newstalk ZB and the New Zealand Herald