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Former ACC Minister contradicts herself

Hon Dr Nick Smith

ACC Minister

03 December 2008

Former ACC Minister contradicts herself

"Former ACC Minister Maryan Street has given two different accounts about when she came to know about the $1 billion blow out in the ACC Non-Earners' Account," says ACC Minister Nick Smith.

In newspaper reports this morning, Ms Street reportedly told her colleagues that she 'denied knowing any details of the shortfall until October'.

"But a statement issued by Ms Street this afternoon shows that to be false. She now claims the first she knew of the issue was August 14, when she received an 'indicative outline' of a blow out that was worth 'approximately' $300 million per year.

"I am advised by officials that the Minister was given an oral warning in May and detailed figures in August. I will leave it to the Ministerial Inquiry to determine which is correct.

"Did Ministers know about the $1 billion blow-out before the election? Yes. At a time when the books were heading south, should they have told the public? Of course they should have. It was the right thing to do."

It is estimated the ACC Non-Earner's account is underfunded to the tune of $297 million this year, $320 million in Budget '09, $316 million in 2010/11 and $322 million in 11/12.

"When you're talking hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and a problem of this size, a Minister should be injecting urgency to the process, not using the process to hide behind.

"This was a monster of a hospital pass that the previous Government failed to tell the public about. I find that quite appalling."

Dr Smith suspects previous Ministers kept the figures secret because they did not want to provide the then opposition with a target to attack.

"Instead, the previous Government treated Kiwi taxpayers like mushrooms, to be kept in the dark and fed manure.

"Even if New Zealanders were to accept the argument that processes were followed, the question remains as to whether the public deserved to know about the blow-out.

"It's clear that despite the 'process' argument, Maryan Street had ample opportunity to come clean, but chose not to."


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