The Minister of Health has denied holding back information about District Health Boards' growing debt woes and says he wasn't aware the data was sitting in his office for six weeks.
National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse has accused Minister David Clark of delaying the release of financial data about struggling DHBs because it's "bad news".
A reply to written questions from Woodhouse shows a report on DHB's financial performance to the end of April made it to Clark's office on June 21.
But when Woodhouse asked for a breakdown of finances last week he received the reply: "I am unable to provide a response at this time and undertake to provide the Member
with a final response at a later date."
"It seems to me he has information he has not released, even when he's asked to," Woodhouse said.
"Because it's bad news and he wants to delay it as long as he can."
Woodhouse said while recent financial results for struggling DHBs was significantly worse than projections, the public was being left in the dark.
"It's now August and there's been no update on DHBs' finances since March," he said.
But Clark said he only became aware the information was sitting in his office after media inquiries today and had now cleared its release by the Ministry of Health.
"There are other things going on in health right now. Immediately I found that the data was there. I signed it out," he said.
Financial reporting needed to be intensively checked before going out, he said.
"It's just normal office processes, things make their way through the office. There was interest. I thought it was better to get it out sooner rather than later."
Clark would not comment on what was in the soon-to-be released data said but it would show "challenges".
"There's a history of major underinvestment," he said.
He denied misleading Woodhouse.
"The data was in my office, so we made clear in the way that these things are ... we made clear that the data was in the office," Clark said.
Figures for the year to March were released in June and showed the total deficit across the country's DHBs had jumped $40 million in just a month to $264 million.
That information was also released after a request from Woodhouse.
It also showed the Ministry of Health were expecting the final 2018/19 financial year deficit to be $390 million.
The 20 DHBs were given $13.98 billion in the May budget, compared to $13.24 billion last year.