The Southern District Health Board tried to settle its
dispute with South Link Health by offering to halve the more
than $7 million interest bill, correspondence about the row
Emails released by Green Party MP Kevin Hague show the
Dunedin-based independent practitioner association declined a
2010 offer for it to pay the contested amount, nearly $5.3
million, as well as half of nearly $7.3 million interest
calculated on the sum.
The offer is disclosed in former health board chief executive
Brian Rousseau's correspondence.
Previously, Mr Rousseau has taken issue with public
statements from other parties indicating the board never
raised a red flag about the possibility of fraud in the
In an email to the MP, Mr Rousseau said the board lost a USB
drive he left with chairman Joe Butterfield upon departing
the role in September 2011.
''Fortunately [board member] Richard Thomson had a
password-encrypted copy of that drive for precisely this
''Richard provided that encrypted copy to the DHB CEO on
Friday 7th March 2014, and later that same day I provided the
CEO with the password.''
Mr Rousseau said he was disappointed with a lack of
subsequent comment from the DHB or Ministry of Health
officials acknowledging the unlocked emails.
The correspondence includes a South Link legal letter that
had requested an accusation of fraud be removed from the
record. It was provided to the Ministry of Health's then
director-general of health Stephen McKernan by Mr Rousseau.
The ministry's chief legal adviser, Phil Knipe, replied to Mr
Rousseau in mid-2010 saying he and Mr McKernan were
considering speaking to Health Minister Tony Ryall, but
''were of a view that this was unlikely to be a matter where
we would get much traction''.
''Our thought was that your chair (if anyone) would be the
person best placed to raise the issue with the minister and
to talk through the implications of the dilemma faced by the
The ministry has denied knowledge of fraud as a possibility
in the dispute, and has refused further comment, citing
commercial sensitivity. Yesterday, the ministry declined to
respond to a query about Mr Rousseau's statements.
In an email to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, health board
chief executive Carole Heatly said the retrieved
correspondence was helpful.
''We have received information from Mr Rousseau which will be
useful in our commercial negotiations with South Link Health
to recover these funds. We are in direct negotiations and we
don't want to jeopardise the outcome by commenting further
She had ''no idea'' about the lost USB drive.
''I learnt of its existence when I approached Brian looking
for detail around the dispute.''
When contacted, Mr Butterfield said he had no recollection of
receiving the USB drive.
South Link Health has maintained throughout the dispute that
it was entitled to use savings from 1990s-era laboratory and
pharmaceutical contracts, and owes no money.