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Calls for investigation into potential health spend fraud

19 February 2014

Green Party calls for investigation into potential health spend fraud

An investigation is needed into a dispute between South Island DHBs and GP organisation South Link Health (SHL) and allegations of possible fraud involving millions of dollars, Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said today.

Today in the Health Select Committee, Mr Hague questioned the DHB Chair Joe Butterfield who confirmed that the DHB had received legal advice in 2010 that fraud may have occurred. Mr Hague has written to the Auditor-General to request an investigation into the actions of the Southern DHB and the Minister and Ministry of Health and will be questioning the Minister of Health on this matter in Question Time today.

“Southern DHB Chair Joe Butterfield could give no real answer as to why this suspicion of fraud had not been referred to the Police or other appropriate authority for investigation,” said Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague.

“He was also unclear on the question of when the Ministry of Health provided assistance to the DHB meaning that an investigation is needed to uncover the misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

The dispute dates back more than 10 years to when SLH held a contract that enabled it to use savings it achieved on pharmaceutical and laboratory testing budgets to provide additional patient services, provided that funders agreed. The DHBs claim that the money was instead spent in other ways and without permission.

“The public needs to have confidence that health funds are actually being used for the intended purpose. There can be no confidence at all that this money – somewhere between $5.2 million and $15 million – has been used appropriately.

“It seems inexplicable that concerns around possible fraud were not tested through some kind of legal action.

“The public needs to have confidence that the DHB acted appropriately and that no undue pressure was brought to bear from the Minister or Ministry over the decision about whether legal action should be taken.

“The Ministry also needs to explain why no action was taken when the DHB asked for its assistance in investigating and providing advice about what to do in this very serious situation.”

The DHB also confirmed today that an IT failure had led to the loss of information being kept about women who had been tested for breast cancer.

“Several other serious issues were raised in the select committee today which point to an organisation struggling under pressure by the Health Minister to meet his requirements for financial results,” said Mr Hague.

ENDS

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