23 March 2018
Stern warning to DHBs about spending but important not to then micro-manage
“The Health Minister is right to put the country’s public hospital managers on notice about their spending but it’s
important not to over-react and go down a path of micro-management,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
He was commenting on the State Services Commission report into excessive and unauthorised expenditure by disgraced
former Waikato District Health Board Chief Executive Nigel Murray, and the resulting commentary.
“What happened in Waikato is absolutely disgraceful but it was an extraordinary situation, a bit of a perfect storm, and
certainly not typical in my experience of other DHBs or chief executives.
“I’ve had my differences with chief executives over the years, some of them quite sharp, but I believe none of them
would have behaved inappropriately over their expenses and they shouldn’t be tarnished by Nigel Murray’s scandalous
He says it is worth noting that the SSC report was not critical of Waikato DHB’s policies and practices, but rather the
abuse of them, and the failure to abide by them.
“That’s an important distinction. What we had in Waikato was the combination of a chief executive impervious to
accountability and a Board Chair who did not do his full diligence during Nigel Murray’s recruitment processes. Only
minimal checks were carried out. These were clearly inadequate given the situation that has subsequently unfolded there.
There was plenty of evidence prior to appointing Nigel Murray to suggest there had been a parting of the ways with his
“It’s particularly unfortunate that the former Board Chair, Bob Simcock, is now blaming everyone but himself, including
the DHB’s accounts staff. This shows a lack of insight and accountability, and he really needs to take a good hard look
in the mirror.
“It’s also important to remember that this debacle has had a serious effect on the morale of staff working at the DHB,
many of them on the front line of providing clinical care to patients. Waikato DHB’s current senior leaders and managers
now have the difficult task of rebuilding trust within the organisation. It is early days but the new Acting Chief
Executive is making a positive start.”
He says Health Minister David Clark has quite correctly given DHB Chairs and senior managers a stern message about being
accountable for their expenditure on the taxpayers’ purse, but it would be counter-productive to then micro-manage every
aspect of their future spending.