The report into the Hawke’s Bay DHB is out and, like everything to do with DHBs, it makes boring reading.
That tireless muck-raker, Tony Ryall, won’t like it but the report reveals no corruption just sloppy work by DHB board member Peter Hausmann and the DHB Board.
Hausmann worked for Healthcare NZ on a tender for providing health services for the DHB before he was appointed to the Board. The Board accepted Healthcare NZ’s tender after he was appointed to the Board. Hausmann did not immediately make his conflict of interest known but neither did he participate in the Board’s discussion of the contract. The Board’s Chairman knew of the conflict of interest but also failed to immediately bring it to the Board’s attention.
Conflicts of interest are a fact of life in DHBs. Nearly everyone capable of competently being a board member is already involved in the healthcare sector and could stand to benefit from a board’s decisions. Where conflicts of interest exist, conduct must be transparent and above question.
The report found there was no impropriety in the Board’s decision to award the contract to Healthcare NZ but circumstances were such that a reasonable person might have thought there was some impropriety. It is on this ground that the Board and Hausmann failed. Not corruption but a bad look due to bad conflict of interest management.
So, this storm in a tea-cup over the technicalities of a DHB contracting process can now be laid to rest but a more important point is raised. Once again, DHB boards have been found to lack competence at a basic level and the smell, if not the fact, of impropriety is again associated with them. We have to ask whether the DHB model really produces good results: to the outsider it seems nothing more than an unweildy sop to democracy and local control that fails because no-one knows who their board members are.