Consultants bill SDHB for $1.1m

The  total bill for two Auckland finance consultants working at Southern District Health Board topped $1.1 million, new figures show.

The pair, from Alma Consulting, charged $1,110,758, including $63,725 travel expenses, from June 2014 to the end of 2015-16.

In an Official Information Act response, chief executive Carole Heatly said the ``phase of work'' which involved Alma had finished.

Ms Heatly refused to release three reports written by the consultants.

It is the second time the board has tried to keep secret reports prepared by Alma.

Last year, it withheld three reports, releasing two after an Office of the Ombudsman probe was announced, and then the third, later, on the instruction of the Office of the Ombudsman.

At the time, it was unclear why the board withheld the reports as they did not appear to be particularly sensitive.

Yesterday, the Otago Daily Times lodged a fresh complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, and has requested urgent consideration of the complaint.

Ms Heatly cited privacy, commercial sensitivity, and a right to ``free and frank expression'' as reasons for withholding the documents.

Advice to Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman last year - released last month after an Office of the Ombudsman complaint - said the board was ``heavily reliant'' on consultants because it had lost so many finance staff.



What else can SDHB do? Not a private company, not an elected board, a government Commission. Consultants are effectively taking $1.01 mil of taxpayer money. For Carole to cite 'commercial sensitivity' is puzzling. That usually applies to comparative remuneration. For eg, long ago a reporter named Deborah 'Liberty Belle' Coddington asked me (of all people), 'and how much do you earn, on a pro rata basis?'. I pleaded commercial sensitivity. Deborah then asked people in the same industry what they earned, made a rough assessment of my income and published the figure (2/6d per half hour).



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