$410,000 spent by SDHB on outside financial advice

The Southern District Health Board has now spent at least $410,000 obtaining outside advice in a bid to improve its financial performance.

Figures released under the Official Information Act updates what the board is paying business services company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

The company was contracted around the middle of last year, when the board discovered its financial projections had been significantly wrong. PWC has charged $410,000, excluding gst, up to November 31. Its work continues. The board has refused to state the number of hours billed, citing the company's objection. PWC's rate was a ''considerable discount'' from what it normally charged, board communications director Steve Addison said.

''With regards to the request for the number of hours worked, while PWC are happy to provide this information to SDHB for audit and review purposes, they deem this information commercially sensitive as the fees and hours allow the calculation of their hourly rates.

''Therefore, the release of this commercial and confidential information into the public domain could be very damaging to their business.''

The board last November declined to release the PWC report that identified $30 million savings over three years. The Otago Daily Times has complained to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Finance and risk committee chairman Tim Ward said yesterday he expected to see specific cost-saving projects presented to his committee, and probably the full board, in March. He did not know when they would be made public.

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