Collins takes body blow over Pullar affair

Auditor-General Lyn Provost delivered a body blow to ACC minister Judith Collins for her board-level botching of the Bronwyn Pullar affair.

Without naming her, Auditor-General Provost makes severe criticisms of the circumstances surrounding Miss Collins’ hasty decision to sack experienced board members after the Pullar affair blew up in March.

When the Pullar incident went public Miss Collins reacted by promptly removing the ACC’s most commercially experienced directors – chairman John Judge (recently appointed chairman of ANZ National Bank), deputy chairman John McCliskie and Rob Campbell.

Director Murray Hinder resigned soon after, as did ceo Ralph Stewart, who finishes in a few weeks.

The expectation ACC board members would do two terms is supported by Auditor-General Provost.

In her report Ms Provost says this:

“The ACC board at the time was reaching this point of maturity. Most of its members had served about three years.

“Its primary focus for that period, at the direction of the previous minister, had been to address ACC’s long-term liabilities, to ensure ACC’s viability into the future.

“It had carried out that task, and was at the point of broadening its focus to ensure equal attention to all aspects of the business.

“We consider that a new board member, even if that person is an experienced director, will take two to three years to understand key actuarial and financial aspects of ACC, as well as its culture,” Ms Provost says.

Board members needed to understand these matters to be able to balance ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of its claimants and keeping ACC financially viable.

Ms Provost also acknowledged a positive business plan for 2012 to 2015, prepared under chief executive Mr Stewart’s leadership, and the value of retaining highly experienced ACC board members.

On the back of successfully meeting their government brief to turnaround and improve ACC’s financial position, the directors were expected to be re-appointed for a second three year term.

When Miss Collins did not renew their terms, she left leaving ACC – arguably the Government’s biggest investment instutition handling billions of dollars a year – commercially rudderless.

The jury is still out on how what is seen as a grave knee-jerk error of judgment will damage Miss Collins’ political future.

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