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New ACC CEO can’t rule out more privacy breaches

Sunday 18 August, 2013
New ACC CEO can’t rule out more privacy breaches
ACC chief executive Scott Pickering has told TV One’s Q+A programme that he can’t guarantee there won’t be another breach of privacy in the organisation.
“No, I can’t. I can’t. But I think what is important is that we have made significant progress in terms of bringing down the number of breaches in the organisation,” Mr Pickering says.
He told Q+A host Susan Wood that an investigation into the leak, which occurred during a home burglary in Christchurch with a case manager’s notebook being stolen as part of the break-in, would be held next week once the staff member concerned returned from leave.
Mr Pickering says staff at the organisation have been disappointed by the security breach which comes after a series of privacy breaches at the corporation were revealed last year, including ACC inadvertently emailing private details of more than 6,500 clients to claimant Bronwyn Pullar.
Meanwhile, Mr Pickering has ruled out privatising ACC.
“Both the Minister of Finance and my own minister have been very clear that that is off the agenda. Um, but that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t want our people working as if we’re in a very competitive environment. I think it’s very important that we have that level of dedication to our clients and really driving outputs,” Mr Pickering says.
Q+A, 11-midday Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz   
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SUSAN WOOD         
Joining me now in his first television interview since taking the top job at ACC, CEO Scott Pickering. You’re a brave man, aren’t you?
SCOTT PICKERING - CEO, Accident Compensation Organisation
(CHUCKLES) I don’t know about brave man, Susan. I’m really enjoying my job, actually.
SUSAN           Enjoying it this week when you found you had yet another security breach?
SCOTT           It’s been a challenging week for the organisation and clearly a disappointment that we found the incident that occurred in the burglary in Christchurch with the case manager’s notebook being…as part of that theft. It was very disappointing.
SUSAN           What’s going on? Are people just not following the rules? Are the rules not clear enough?
SCOTT           We have very clear policies in place around that. Managers are not able to take personal information home without prior approval from their manager, unless it’s on an encrypted stick. So, in this instance, we had something outside policy. What we’ve done this week is clearly ensured that all of our staff are aware of our policy. We’ve had training sessions for staff. I’ve also included very clear information in my weekly video.
SUSAN           What are you going to do with this person? Will they be fired? Will they keep their job? What’s going to happen to them?
SCOTT           What we will do is we’re going to review the case itself, and obviously we’ll conduct an internal investigation based on the policies that we have in place.
SUSAN           How long does that all take, though?
SCOTT           We’ll be looking at that over the course of the next week. The staff member concerned is actually presently on leave, and we’ll be talking with that person when they return to work.
SUSAN           But you regard this pretty seriously, don’t you?
SCOTT           Absolutely. I think it’s a very, very serious issue that we have to address.
SUSAN           Because the problem is how do people have faith in you keeping their information safe if we have yet another example this week after all those breaches last year?
SCOTT           Yeah, I think, as an organisation, we’ve made tremendous progress over the last 12 months. We had the independent privacy review last year, which had 44 recommendations. Of those recommendations to date, we’ve had…so far we’ve closed 15 of them. By the end of the year, we’ll have 37 of the recommendations closed. The remaining seven are ones that do take us over several years in order to complete. It is a process that we have to go through, but I can assure you I’m absolutely committed to this, and privacy is near the top of my list, because I know it’s intrinsically linked to public trust and confidence.
SUSAN           You may be committed, but are your staff?
SCOTT           Absolutely. I have found, as I’ve gone around the country over my first couple of months in the job, I’ve found a staff who are absolutely committed to producing outcomes, and there is an absolute realisation of the integrity around privacy.
SUSAN           But the Privacy Commissioner talked about an almost cavalier attitude to private data and also systemic weaknesses. Has that attitude just suddenly changed?
SCOTT           I think so. I think we’ve made significant progress. I certainly haven’t seen a cavalier attitude. I think what’s important with privacy as we go forward is we’re having privacy by design, and what we’re saying with that is that privacy must be embedded in every new strategy-
SUSAN           But how do you just change an attitude of an organisation in a couple of months?
SCOTT           I think- (LAUGHS) I’m good, Susan, but I’m not saying I’m that good.
SUSAN           Yeah, but you’re saying the cavalier attitude is not there.
SCOTT           I think, clearly, I haven’t seen that myself. I have absolutely, as I’ve gone round the country, I’ve seen a team of people who are absolutely committed. I visited a couple of offices this week, and the staff were really concerned about what’s happened. So, you know, there’s a clear desire from the team to get this right.
SUSAN           But you can’t ever guarantee 100 per cent that this won’t happen again, that there won’t be another breach, can you?
SCOTT           No, I can’t. I can’t. But I think what is important is that we have made significant progress in terms of bringing down the number of breaches in the organisation.
SUSAN           You’re also charged with improving the quality of service. How do you measure that?
SCOTT           Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I guess as coming in as the new CEO, what I’m looking at is the organisation into the future. It’s one of the things that I’ve been brought into do, and clearly, for me, customer service is something that’s going to be very important to us as an organisation. I’m really going to take a look at the future of the organisation from the customer’s viewpoint. So we’re going to have a real review of the process, the customer journey throughout the organisation.
SUSAN           Because we are told a lot of people when they apply are made to feel like they’re fraudsters from the get-go. The attitude towards them is that they are there to rip the place off.
SCOTT           No, well, I think things like that, we’ve got to stamp out, absolutely. I believe ACC is really a fundamental part of the DNA of this country. I think it’s a great organisation. I think it’s an organisation that has to be part of this country into the future, and I’m determined to make that happen.
SUSAN           ACC previously has relied on things like getting long-term claimants off benefits as part of their performance indicators. Those, I know, have gone, but what are going to be your performance indicators? How will you know if you succeed? Is it more people on? Less people on? How does it work?
SCOTT           I think in terms of long-term claimants, what’s important is that that situation is very much stabilised. The net incoming clients versus outgoing clients over the last 12 months was pretty much the same. Our projection for this year is flat, so I think what we’re doing is we’re working a lot closer with clients early on, working out rehabilitation plans, and, certainly, I don’t want to put targets around things like that.
SUSAN           So it’s not a one-on, one-off system at all now?
SCOTT           Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I mean, we want the scheme to do what the scheme should do. And, clearly, part of that is getting people back to the best possible place themselves. Rehabilitation’s very, very important.
SUSAN           You said something interesting to me a few moments ago - ACC part of the DNA of NZ. I think, personally, it’s a wonderful system the way it was set up. It’s been tinkered with, but it certainly leaves us in a non-litigious situation like the US, which is better.
SCOTT           Yes.
SUSAN           The trouble is a lot of people don’t think that. A lot of people think, ‘ACC - bad place.’ How do you change that?
SCOTT           I think that’s really important, and I agree with you. I think that that’s something that- As I say, what I see from our staff is a passion and a commitment to do the right thing. I think there is a real need for us to engage more, for example, with our medical providers and the industry itself. I’m looking forward to doing that. I’ve been doing a lot of listening, Susan, during my first 90 days in the job, and now I’m really starting to put- I want to put in place a number of new changes for the organisation. I’m looking forward to sharing that with my board in the very near future and really charting a course for the organisation into the future.
SUSAN           You’ve got a background in private insurance. Is that on the agenda? The privatisation of ACC? Because this government had talked about it. They’ve struggled a bit with it.
SCOTT           No, I think- I mean, both the Minister of Finance and my own minister have been very clear that that is off the agenda. Um, but that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t want our people working as if we’re in a very competitive environment. I think it’s very important that we have that level of dedication to our clients and really driving outputs.
SUSAN           Difficult to do that when you’re the only show in town, isn’t it?
SCOTT           Um, I won’t tolerate that in the organisation. I think that’s very important that we have to have a focus on driving outcomes, and that’s something that I’m absolutely personally committed to doing.
SUSAN           So how long do you think it will be an organisation that you can be really proud of?
SCOTT           I think it’s one of those things. I’m already proud of it. I’m proud of the team. I have been so impressed with the people that I have met. It drives me. It gets me out of bed every day, and I’m really, really looking forward to putting in place the strategies for the business that will really set it up for the future.
SUSAN           Nice to talk to you. Thanks for your time, Scott Pickering.
SCOTT           Thank you.


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