Health Ministry lost the plot and heads should roll

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, March 9th, 2016 - 23 comments
Categories: accountability, health, national - Tags: , , ,

This is appalling:

Health Ministry sought to recoup costs of $18m bungle from DHB budgets

Treasury was forced to object to the Health Ministry recouping the cost of an $18 million blunder, over an office refurbishment, from District Health Boards (DHBs).

So “serious financial mismanagement” leaves the Health Ministry $18 million short for spending on their own offices, and they tried to claw the money from the front line DHBs delivering health care to New Zealand? The same DHBs that already don’t have enough funding to do their jobs properly (witness Southland DHB)? The same health system that is already pushing thousands off official waiting lists for care? Take the money from them? That’s outrageous.

However, the ministry placed a bid at the last budget for $18 million, and Treasury uncovered the ministry did not hold anywhere near the required amount in its cash reserves. It was already contractually committed to the project, however.

How incompetent do you have to be to commit to spending $18m that you don’t have?

The $18m has now been factored into the ministry’s lease agreement, but documents reveal it first sought to divert depreciation funding – earmarked for spending on the ministry’s IT systems – to plug the gap. Treasury objected, saying that represented 90 per cent of the funding set aside for future IT upgrades. It also informed the ministry that taking the money out of DHB expenditure was not an option.

Well done Treasury, on this occasion, for calling a halt to that bullshit.

Little said it was a “fiasco”. “You know who’s going to suffer most? Not just the people in Dunedin, but it will be the elderly. Because we know when it comes to health decisions and health rationing, it’s always the elderly who suffer.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman Annette King has called the debacle a “cover up”, saying she would refer the blunder to the Auditor-General, and called on the Director General of Health, Chai Chuah, to offer his resignation.

That would seem to be in order.

Coleman has expressed “total confidence” in Chuah.

Then Coleman should resign with him. But he won’t, there is no accountability in National’s government – anything goes.

23 comments on “Health Ministry lost the plot and heads should roll”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Is the minister responsible for his ministry or not? 😆 sorry that was a joke – personal responsibility from anyone connected to the National Party, yeah right.

    • tinfoilhat 1.1

      As much as I dislike the Nat government, the one minister that seemed to have a reasonably good handle on his portfolio was Ryall.

      Coleman is a joke.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        Ryall was good at keeping a tight lid on bad publicity. The waiting list for the waiting list, a case in point.

      • ianmac 1.1.2

        I think that Ryall got out just in time. His chant of more elective surgery and quicker A&E times were at the expense of other systems which would/have imploded. The strife now faced by DHB are Ryall’s real legacy.

        • TC

          He knew exactly what he was doing and got out so chumps like coleman get to ‘front’ this.

          A very capable operator sinecured away now who did alot of heavy lifting on the power generator flogging also.

        • Lanthanide


  2. Stuart Munro 2

    Time for the whole Gnat abortion to gtfo.

  3. ianmac 3

    Yesterday during the Urgent Debate re the disaster of the Health Ministry, Minister Coleman gave a rancid spiteful response to Andrew’s excellent speech. Coleman of course denied responsibility or that there was even a problem. Disgusting and Coleman used the time to rant against Labour instead of addressing the issue. What a disgrace!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Meanwhile, would someone please explain to the Prime Minister that ‘refute’ doesn’t mean what he apparently thinks it means.

    • gsays 3.2

      hi ianmac,
      on rnz yesty, on the focus on politics item (just before the 7pm news), i heard the minister react to the accusations. amongst other things he refferred to the leader of the opposition as a doofus as well as trying to blame the deputy leader of the opposition. over a decade after her influence.

      i am aware that the speaker isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, however this seemed a new low in the house. i seem to recall the speaker saying last year that he would get pollys to stick to the subject.

      it beggers belief these handsomely renumerated people can behave like this.
      i do feel for the likes of malconz below, this is their representative.

  4. McFlock 4

    This is exactly the job Treasury should be doing.

    They lose the plot when they go all ideological, but we need backstops like treasury to stop ministries becoming feifdoms

  5. Malconz 5

    Sigh. This guy – who stuffs up every portfolio he gets anywhere near – is my local MP. There’s not much prospect of unseating him in Northcote, so maybe he’ll be able to screw up some other departments before he finally falls off the perch. There should be a vacancy in Police when Collins finally rolls FJK….

    • TC 5.1

      Nats neutered them with consultants and alot of inside knowledge from former treasury analyst bill english long ago

      Pointless expecting govt depts to reign in this shonky mob as they will not risk their jobs given the vengeful nature of national.

  6. Mosa 6

    I remember Key promising accountability and high standards when elected
    That proved to be a nonsense and the first of many untruths
    This is a huge cock up and bad mismangement to say the least
    Another thing to sweep under the rug

  7. Jones 7

    How did they go to market without the money being available? This is monumental. I would like to see the procurement process (or whatever process it was) they followed.

    In the procurement work I’ve done in government it is explicitly understood that you do not commit to buying something from any market, without the money already ring-fenced.

    • Sacha 7.1

      Does seem to violate all manner of public sector rules. How did they expect the details to stay hidden, and who was in on the cover-up?

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    How incompetent do you have to be to commit to spending $18m that you don’t have?

    Was it incompetence or hubris/corruption?
    They could definitely have made the decision knowing that the government would have to pick up the slack.

    Definitely need an inquiry and one set up by the opposition. This government will make sure that any inquiry will be so restricted it wouldn’t be able to find anything.

  9. saveNZ 10

    “Chuah had been the subject of a long-running investigation into historic salary payments.

    It twice probed allegations that he incorrectly received tens of thousands of dollars as a senior manager of Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) back in 2001-2002.”

    Chuah repaid thousands of dollars in allowances at the time.

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