Independent Assessor Safety Concerns Submissions to withhold OI act Information

Anthony Jordan made this Official Information request to Accident Compensation Corporation

The request was partially successful.

From: Anthony Jordan

Dear Accident Compensation Corporation,

On the 15 January 2013 The Ombudsman states the ACC has used 9(2)(c) to justify further non disclosure of income paid to Independent assessor Dr John Lewis Collier of Hamilton (Specialist Psychiatrist), specifically for reasons of "that it has received submissions from a number of assessors, including Dr Collier, raising concerns about the effects of the release of the information on their safety."

The information withheld was part of a request made on the 14 September 2010 in which the ACC replied in a letter dated 18 November 2010..."the information for years 2008-2010 has been withheld because Dr Colliers private practice was closed two years ago and ACC is now the single source of his income. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to release the information as there is a need to protect peoples privacy."....

In another request made, letter received by ACC 4 august 2011, a further request for income '2010 to date' was made relating specifically to Dr Collier.

Request for previously withheld 2008-2010 income was also reiterated in same letter. ACC's response to 2008-2010 figures was again 9(2)(a) in reply letter dated 15 September 2011

ACC's reasons for declining '2010 to date' income was "You have stated why you believe there are public interest grounds for the release of his payment information. The reasons provided relates to concerns you have about Dr Colliers professionalism and integrity. You suggest a possible connection between payments made to Dr Collier, as his single source of income, and his ability to remain objective and independent while he carries out assessments for ACC. ACC does not consider that these concerns provide sufficient reason for ACC releasing information about payments made to Dr Collier."

It has recently been brought to my attention that the information persistently declined has being released to another applicant (contrary to what has been submitted to Ombudsman to assist an official investigation). However, the ACC has also informed the Ombudsman reasons of non disclosure of further income and 2008-2010 figures to be that for fear of safety.

In Summary I request the following:

Disclosure of submission made by Dr John Lewis Collier (Specialist Psychiatrist - Hamilton) Company address (as listed in Companies register) Firth Street Hamilton that requests the non disclosure of further income and years pertaining to earlier requests

Proof that would have been provided by Dr Collier to convince and justify a Government Dept. that he has made it known to a Law Enforcement Office, Medical Council or other appropriate agency that is required under New Zealand Medical law/Code of Ethics for such matters, that he has safety concerns. (If we are to consider such a issue are we to assume there is previous history etc of public conduct) This fear could be purely subjective which to the general public is of little concern and justification to withhold information.

Disclosure of other applicants with same concerns as Dr Collier

Assessors or figures of previously accreted by the ACC that have been discredited by the ACC due to misconduct and ethical practices contrary to New Zealand Medical code

The best avenue to take from the ACC's perspective to formally raise ethical concerns of a 'sole source of income' assessor when allegations such as questionable report compiling is concerned.

Definition of 'Employee' because it would appear Dr Collier could be classed as an employee (given the sole source of income and closure of private practice)

If the ACC is to appear transparent to New Zealand public when providing information, particularly when its alleged claimants and the general public are at risk, it is important there is consistency and fair disclosure to all applicants and not what would appear to be 'pick and choose'.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Jordan

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From: Terence Routledge
Accident Compensation Corporation


Attachment Acknowledgement Letter A Jordan 30 Jan 2013.pdf
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Good afternoon Mr Jordan
 
Please find attached an acknowledgement letter to your request of 24
January 2013.
 
Regards
 

       
Terence Routledge, Advisor, ACC
 
  ACC / Government Services
  PO Box 242 / Wellington 6140 / New Zealand / [1]www.acc.co.nz

  ACC cares about the environment – please don’t print this email
    unless it is really necessary. Thank you.

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From: Terence Routledge
Accident Compensation Corporation


Attachment Response A Jordan 22 Feb 2013.pdf
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Good afternoon Mr Jordan
 
Please find ACC's response to your request of 24 January 2013.
 
Regards
 

       
Terence Routledge, Advisor, ACC
 
  ACC / Government Services
  PO Box 242 / Wellington 6140 / New Zealand / [1]www.acc.co.nz

  ACC cares about the environment – please don’t print this email
    unless it is really necessary. Thank you.

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1. http://www.acc.co.nz/

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Anthony Jordan left an annotation ()

Information was received promptly and within time frames. Great job and appreciated. I do however have to note (and with respect to Mr Routledges thorough Research and consideration) the lack of initiative to supply information that could be helpful to support good intentions is disappointing. The Office of the Ombudsmen has been informed the reason for not supplying certain information is based on assessors safety. However 30 November information sought since 2008 was released to another party which is contradictory to what the Ombudsman's Office has been led to believe while carrying out an official investigation.

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Luke left an annotation ()

The request could have been formatted more clearly, e.g. numbering each sub-part/aspect (as ACC have done in their reply). This makes it easier to refer to reference numbers by the agency responding.

There was a question around how ("best avenue") to respond to ethical concerns. If this was part of the request, then it should be included in it, otherwise you should set it aside at the bottom of the email under a new heading. Or alternatively, send an email to ACC as a separate issue.

The issue around the "definition of employee" is interesting. There are overlapping considerations here. One consideration is a legal definition, another consideration is information (or knowledge) held by ACC that defines what an employee is. ACC have interpreted your request as seeking "comment or opinion", rather than information. I can understand how they arrived at that interpretation, and it may be that proper wording of the request to make it clear to give the impression that information, and not an opinion, was being sought. However I do consider that the agency could have, and should have, in accordance with s.13 of Act (duty to assist), taken the step of contacting you to clarify this aspect of your request before responding (which supports Jordan's point about the unhelpfulness of the agency to supply the information).

There is nothing to preclude an agency from adding an opinion as additional information to an OIA request, to assist a member of the public with their desire to understand how best to proceed with an issue (raising ethical concerns, as in this case).

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Anthony Jordan left an annotation ()

Thank you Luke for your helpful comments.

It would appear where the formalities are concerned when asking for such assistance and information one has to almost be as qualified as a Philadelphia lawyer. It is borderline pedantic for the ACC to expect layman New Zealanders to have such ability and foresight to predict all the possibilities that could be misunderstood.

Also given that(I dare say) a signification number of those requesting the assistance may have some form of impairment or basic knowledge when dealing with these type of request and formal matters.

I would hope The ACC may assist in directing whom to best forward formal concerns to ie Parliament, ACC Head Office or the like.

I/we welcome feedback such as yours, its encouraging and informative

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DE Sheridan left an annotation ()

Now I understand a little more about what this question is about - though the safety part is still unclear.

In my experience, you have to be very specific when asking ACC questions.

You have raised a valid issue related to the potential corrupt influence on opinion when ACC (and/or other insurers) are an assessor's sole or major source of income.

Have you asked how many assessments he has done per year for ACC over each of the past 5 years; and what was he (and/or the group he works with) were paid per year for him to do ACC assessments?
(and have you asked for comparison numbers with the top 5 assessors in his area of specialty - because that may be relevant)

Have you asked how many of the cases he was involved in for ACC have gone to review and how many have gone to Appeal? (with comparisons with the top 5 assessors in his area)

Have you asked in how many cases he was involved in (per year for the 5 years) did ACC decline cover or suspend or cease compensation?

Have you asked whether ACC has flown him around the countryside to do assessments (and if so where) - and compared that with the numbers of incumbent specialists in the same area?

These matters are of public interest - because they serve to show whether there likely is (or is not) a likelihood of Assessor bias.

Finally, have you asked ACC for a copy of his up to date curriculum vita - including his training, work history and continuing education (because that also addresses the issue of bias. If he is preferentially used, does not have a contract but can charge whatever he likes and is being flown around the country - then one would expect there is no one else of equivalent expertise- albeit that does not address the issue of the likelihood of bias).

ACC has been found to have used biased assessors in the past - check out the Trapski report.

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