ACC Management Still Hostile To Media Queries
Management Still Hostile To Media Queries
By Dave Crampton
ACC is delaying responses to media compiled by it’s own media advisors by insisting that any written replies to journalists be signed off by senior management, who in turn are delaying signing the responses. In many cases, senior officials are ordering responses to be altered by the advisors as it is not the desired response.
In some cases the responses are repeatedly drafted to the satisfaction of senior management, but not to the satisfaction of reporters. Some questions are avoided or diverted, but not directly answered. This is despite several redrafts of the answers at the request of management.
In November both Scoop and the Sunday Star Times newspaper presented a similar set of questions to ACC. They were promptly answered, only for the joint response to be sitting on a manager’s desk until the end of the week. The day before the response was issued to the reporters, the manager concerned was in Auckland and was unable to sign off the responses that had presumably been on his desk before he left Wellington.
Towards the end of November, ACC created a set of protocols specifically constructed for the Sunday Star Times, and then dumped them when the ACC minister was alerted. These protocols included refusals to comment on any issues ACC did not regard as current, even issues during the current tenure of current chief executive Gary Wilson. Also ACC refused to respond to verbal questions or answer questions in time for deadlines. No media was allowed to contact ACC or Catalyst management or staff.
Yet ACC officials still refuse to answer verbal questions, insisting all questions be in writing, and through the media officers only. The Corporation also insists that all questions must be submitted together - and returned together irrespective of deadlines, even if half had been answered before the stipulated deadline. This makes it difficult for any media to get timely and adequate answers from ACC, and seek timely clarification.
Yet the Corporation has insisted that rehabilitation plans sent to claimants that detail assistance ACC provides to long term claimants must be signed and returned within a week in some cases, or compensation will be stopped.
Sunday Star-Times editor Suzanne Chetwin has said that ACC’s protocols and tactics appeared to contravene the Official Information Act. She said they are designed to obstruct inquiries, thus restricting a free flow of information from ACC to the public.
“In some ways it is confirmation that ACC does not want close examination of its policies in public.”
Last month Scoop submitted a list of questions to the ACC, and the final draft was submitted to senior manager Gerard McGreevy “as of courtesy”. Yet the response was sitting on his desk for ten days just waiting to be signed off, making a mockery of deadlines. This is despite another manager having signed off the questions the previous month.
When Mr McGreevy was telephoned about the response to the questions sitting on his desk he said, “What questions – I’ve never had any questions from you?”
When pointed out to him that the draft had been sitting on his desk for days Mr McGreevy sharply responded by insisting the media liaison team be phoned for a response. Yet the team was waiting for the replies to be signed off to make that phone call. After saying he’d ask the Corporation’s media advisor to contact this writer (and then failing to do so) Mr McGreevy quickly and abruptly ended the conversation and refused to take any further calls or respond to messages. Even the Corporation’s media advisor had a hard time seeking answers regarding a timely signoff response time.
One ACC spokesperson said such delays were “general tardiness” on the part of management.