Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 14 March 2008 - 14 March 2008 (#322)

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

The Great Hawkes Bay DHB Cover-Up

These people never learn. Appointing an internal enquiry designed to deliver a cover-up never works. Such was the case with the “Lie in Unison” affair at the Department of Labour, when an internal white-wash found everybody innocent, but a subsequent Ombudsman’s enquiry laid the whole sorry cover-up out for all to see.

And with the Ingram enquiry into the actions of Taito Phillip Field, which Helen Clark defended month after month before serious Police charges made a mockery of the whole process. Now, a so-called “independent review” appointed by the Director General of Health is due to report on conflict of interest issues at the Hawkes Bay District Health Board (DHB) next Monday. And the process has been so flawed that a subsequent independent report from the Auditor General is almost mandatory.

Just consider the following facts, and draw the obvious conclusions:

- Faced with allegations that previous Health Minister Annette King appointed an individual to the Hawkes Bay DHB who was also attempting to negotiate a multi-million dollar contract with that DHB, the Government refused to have an independent enquiry, insisting instead that the Director General of Health would appoint an enquiry team.

- The Director General of Health advises the Minister, reports to the Minister and depends upon a good assessment from the Minister to keep their job and get paid their bonus.

- The enquiry team produced a draft report last November. Suspiciously, the next draft was produced early this year containing “substantial changes”. How do we know this? Because that is the phrase used to describe the changes by High Court Justice Mallon in granting an injunction to the Director General of Health, and the contractor/board member Peter Hausmann and his company, Healthcare of New Zealand.

- Even more suspiciously, the Hawkes Bay DHB members were given only three days to comment on these substantial changes. So they issued proceedings to ask the High Court to give them a reasonable chance to respond.

- They were promptly sacked by the Minister David Cunliffe.

- A Commissioner (Sir John Anderson) was appointed, who very conveniently withdrew the legal challenge, thus denying the Court the chance to rule on the unreasonable approach of the review team.

- The Minister will release the substantially changed report on Monday.
A copy of draft one of the enquiry team (before the “substantial changes”) apparently came into the hands of the Dominion Post. They were promptly injuncted by Director General of Health, Hausmann and Healthcare NZ (is there a small clue about who benefited from the “substantial changes” to be found in the make-up of that unlikely tag team?).

Pressed for assurances that version one of the report (subject to the injunction) would be released with the final report on Monday, Cunliffe declined. So National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall quoted from version one of the report in Parliament this week. And it is now a reasonable assumption that the rest of version one will see the light of day at the appropriate time.

Unfortunately all of the indicators point towards another of the classic cover-ups for which the Clark Government is now famous. Sadly, the Minister having sacked the board and aborted any High Court imposition of fairness, the independent office of the Auditor-General may yet again be the only means of the truth being revealed. But never fear, Her Majesty’s Loyal and Very Determined Opposition is on the case.

Bureaucrats Paradise

The past eight years have seen major shifts in the balance between the public and private sectors. And a major shift within the public sector as the numbers of unproductive bureaucrats (hired to send memos to each other) have grown massively in number, while front-line services (teachers, doctors and nurses) have grown in a much more sedate manner. These important trends were the subject of a major speech by National Party Leader John Key this week. Along with some important commitments to impose changes.

According to Mr Key, the number of bureaucrats (memo senders and recipients) has increased from 26,200 to 36,000 between 2000 and today. That’s a 37% increase. Yet at the same time the number of other public servants (doctors, nurses, teachers) grew by only 10%. And when you drill down into individual departments the trend could hardly be more alarming.

Since 2000, the number of teachers in state primary and secondary schools has grown by 12%. But at the same time, the number of people employed by the education bureaucracies has grown by 40%.

Since 2000, the number of nurses and doctors employed by district health boards has grown by 28%. But at the same time the number of staff in the Ministry of Health has grown by 51%. And in the service delivery parts of Social Welfare (WINZ and CYF) staff numbers have increased by 23% since 2000. But the number of bureaucrats has increased by 109%.

The same trends are evident in any analysis of staff numbers across government departments since 2000. In Treasury, the department responsible for the Budget and most critical areas of advice, staff numbers have actually declined by 4%. In the Ministry of Economic Development they have fallen by 1%. And in the Ministry of Defence, they have grown by only 3%.

Yet at the same time staff numbers at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage have exploded by 493%. The State Services Commission, where Dr Mark Prebble provided a safe haven for all manner of political correctness, grew by 75%. And the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs grew by 63%.

Get the picture? Not satisfied with strangling the private sector with taxes and levies to feed an increasingly bloated and sluggish public sector, the Clark Government has compounded the problem by targeting the available resources away from the delivery of services, and towards the recruitment of memo senders and recipients. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why over 77,000 New Zealanders, in the past year, voted with their feet by leaving this country permanently.


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