What action, if any, did the Ministry of Health take when it received documents relating to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s failed community service RFP in response to an Official Information Act request to the board last year; and did any of those documents include material related to the handling of the whistleblower’s disclosures?
I am advised that the ministry examined the documents around the process of cancelling the community service request for proposal. It concluded that the process had been handled in accordance with the district health board’s legal advice. The ministry has described the documents to me as being “unremarkable”, and it gave them back to the district health board at the request of the district health board.
Can the Minister confirm that those documents in fact included matters relating to the whistleblower’s disclosures, plus recollections of the various parties involved in those disclosures; and what were the conclusions of the ministry in respect of the whistleblower?
No, I cannot conclude that, because to the best of my recollection I never saw them. They were returned to the district health board at the request of the district health board, and were not copied.
Has the Minister received any reports regarding a statement made in the House yesterday: “lo and behold, the whistleblower was the only person in the entire district health board to lose her job;”; is that statement correct?
Yes, I have received a report. When I heard the statement made by Mr Ryall yesterday, I decided to check it out. Through the ministry, the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board has advised me that there was more than one person made redundant in that staff restructure; throughout the entire district health board not one person lost a job and left the organisation, but 28 of them. Seven of those 28 were in management and administration.
Why is the Minister refusing to answer the question of whether the ministry papers included disclosures by the whistleblower, by the acting chief executive, and what conclusions were drawn about those?
I will just repeat gently but firmly to the House that the best of my recollection is that I did not myself see the papers. As far as the ministry is concerned, it became aware of the whistleblower issue not in June or July 2006, which is the period of time this question is about, but in January 2006, when the chair of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board rang the ministry to tell it.
Does the Minister realise that those papers that were made available to the Ministry of Health included matters relating to the whistleblower and the way in which she was handled; and does the Minister think that this woman was dealt with appropriately—in that she was the one person who blew the whistle on what was going on there and then she was eventually moved on by the very people she had blown the whistle on?
I just draw to the attention of the House that yesterday the person who asked the question of me—the same person who is asking it now—framed the question in order to leave a misleading impression with the House. It was in order to leave a misleading impression. The truth of the matter is that the whistleblower issue is being looked at by the independent review team. That team has spoken to the whistleblower, and has spoken to other people who interviewed the whistleblower. They have examined—
—because they told the director-general, who told me—they have examined the papers around the issue. They will report in a fair, reasoned, and considered manner, in due course, to the director-general, who will report to me, and I will make that information public.
How can this be an independent inquiry when the panel chosen by the Director-General of Health will report to the Director-General of Health, and when the same Director-General of Health in looking at all the papers has already said that there was “nothing remarkable” about the events surrounding this?
It would be a good idea for the member not to impugn the integrity of senior health players in this country, at random. It is not a good idea.
Yes, exactly—one after the other. The member says: “This corporate lawyer”, “That DHB chair”, “That person who used to be a chief executive at a district health board in an earlier time”, and so on, implying that these people, somehow, are not independent. They have very free and open terms of reference. They are people who have been appointed to various positions by both Governments, in some cases. Therefore, it seems to me that a good thing to do might be to leave them unmolested and see what they come up with.
I seek leave to table an email from David Ritchie, the chairman of the audit committee of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.