I think that politics and psychotherapy are worlds apart, and largely in the different ways they approach the truth. Psychotherapy is largely the search for the truth along with understanding and validating one persons experience of it.
Politics these days seems to be largely about the manipulation of the truth, to most closely match whatever agenda is being pushed. In some ways I can live with that, it’s what I expect from politicians and a healthy news media can assist us to dive into the debate and decide who and what we want to believe. But it’s much harder to take from a public organization charged with the care and treatment of all New Zealander’s.
Both of the recent reports into the ACC by the Auditor General and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner point to “culture problems” within the ACC. (See: “Dual investigations shows culture problems at the ACC“). In my view this starts to get us to the heart of the problems that have plagued the Sensitive Claims Unit for a number of years. I believe the culture problem that exists within the ACC’s Senior Management is an ongoing pattern of cynical manipulation of the truth for financial and political gain. And sometimes blatant self -preservation.
For example when the now infamous Sensitive Claims “New Pathway” was introduced back in 2009 it was repeatedly and vigorously denied that this had anything to do with cutting costs, but was instead about providing a higher level of care.:
“1. Are the changes ACC is making really just about saving money?
No, the driver for these changes has always been to provide survivors of sexual abuse or assault who have a mental injury with a better level of assistance, and to help them achieve a more timely and successful recovery.” (See: Provider FAQs(FINAL))
We now know it was all about cutting costs (at the direction of the then Minister of the ACC Hon. Dr. Nick Smith) and did nothing to improve care, in fact it nearly destroyed the provision of sexual abuse treatment in this country.
At the time these changes were happening in 2010 I pointed this out and was threatened with legal action. (See “Someone really should tell them.“)
ACC also vigorously denied that there was a concerted plan to get the long term and expensive claims off the scheme. (See: “The Swamp Creatures.”) That’s very hard to deny now we have a detailed transcript of Denise Cosgrove and Senior ACC Actuary Wayne Anderson outlining a very detailed actuarial plan to do exactly that at a conference in Australia in 2011. The only thing we got wrong was they are not swamp dwellers. But low hanging fruit (See: “Low Hanging Fruit“).
“ACC should be viewed as insurance and not social welfare and this has permeated itself through the way the organisation is run now… …help those who you are supposed to help ,but the reality was… under the political thing [change between Labour and National Governments] the pendulum had probably swung more towards customer focus than towards a financial sustainability” (See: “Low hanging fruit” and click here for audio)
At the same conference Senior Manager Denise Cosgrove also explained that the change process with Sensitive Claims and elective surgery wasn’t handled well, too much press coverage.
“Media – Some concerns around ACC’s approach – especially with elective surgery and sensitive claims”. (See “ACS2011PresentationCosgroveFrank“)
Not that they got it wrong, but they didn’t manage the spin effectively enough.
So when the next roll out of changes earlier this year came out in the area of vocational rehabilitation the independent providers were “gagged” from talking to the media to prevent such annoying interference. When asked directly by the media about this:
“ACC’s general manager of claims management, Denise Cosgrove, earlier said there was no confidentiality clause in the vocational rehabilitation service contract. However, there are four separate confidentiality clauses in other documents suppliers were required to sign, including one stating they will not make adverse comments to the media.”
Cosgrove has now conceded that her first answer, though “technically correct”, was “cute”.” (See: “ACC Gags vocational rehabilitation providers“)
Not cute. Not even vaguely adorable. In fact quite repulsive.
Now in today’s Dominion-Post we discover that the ACC have also lied about hiring PR consultants to help with the fallout about the Pullar Privacy Breach. So rather than spending all their time and resources on fixing the problem and providing support to those affected, they spent $450,000 of our money getting help to manipulate the truth in their own favour. (In case you’re wondering that’s about 5,625 hours of sensitive claims counselling, or enough to provide one year of counselling to 118 individuals.)
Perhaps it was their costly advice that suggested to the ACC the best approach would be to mislead the Police and make unsubstantiated blackmail accusations about Ms. Pullar, without realising that the meeting had been recorded. Not only did the Police dismiss the ACC’s charges, but also the investigation by the Auditor General and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner upheld all public assertions made by Ms. Pullar. (See: “Blow your own whistle”) And none made by the ACC about Ms. Pullar’s actions.
To me all of this points to a clear agenda, implemented by the ACC’s Senior Mangers, to cover their own arses (cute or not) and do all that is required to manipulate the truth in their favour, whilst at the same time continuing a profit driven insurance model of “treatment.” This is all while everyone involved, including the Minister and the Government, tries to distance themselves from actually being involved or responsible for any of it.
So let’s be clear. The ACC as an office of the public service shouldn’t be playing politics. It’s our money, and they are accountable to all of us. There have now been multiple damning reports into their culture and practices., with more to come. The Chair of the board is gone, as is most of the board, the Chief Executive Officer and the Minister.
But like some headless zombie in a ‘B’ grade horror, charging mindlessly around despite being decapitated, we all still face the same ongoing problems as those actually in charge of the day to day running are more invested in keeping their well paying jobs and presumably performance related bonuses than helping those in need.
So what’s the silver bullet? I don’t know. But I do know lying ain’t cute. But I guess at the moment, neither’s the truth…