Who doctored the Minutes?

Craig Foss has some fascinating information on the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board sacking. One justification for the sacking was an allegation board members doctored minutes of an audit committee meeting. But, who really did the doctoring? Read what Craig says:

In this case the minute taker, who is also the HBDHB Internal Auditor, took notes, wrote up the draft minutes and sent them to the Audit Committee Chair and CEO for review prior to the draft minutes being sent to the other Audit Committee members.

This is normal practice in most organisations – the meeting chair and CEO see the first draft.

Then began a series of email exchanges between the minute taker and senior management. Essentially senior management challenged the first draft of the minutes, suggesting they needed to have significant changes made to them. The minute taker, who is also the internal auditor, resisted this and said that the minutes should reflect a balanced record of the proceedings. The minute taker stood his ground, and in the end it was suggested that if management wanted to make significant changes they should raise these concerns at the next Audit Committee meeting when the minutes were to be approved.

Now here you get into a real area of concern. The internal auditor was correct to stand his ground, if he did not feel the changes management wanted would fairly reflect the meeting.

The correct course of action would be for the senior management to talk directly to the meeting chair (who is the officer who legally has to sign off minutes after ratification by the committee) and discuss with the Audit Committee Chair any concerns they had over the minutes.

Even more disturbing is the fact that this is the Audit Committee which has a special role in scrutinising how management perform, and that senior management are trying to change the minutes without discussing it with the Audit Committee Chair.

Independent to the above, the draft minutes with some changes but nothing major, made by the Audit Committee Chair, were sent to the other members of the Audit Committee and CEO. That should have been the end of the discussion. But, an additional set of minutes, never seen by the Audit Committee Chair, that included changes made by senior management were sent direct to Minister Cunliffe, who then used them as evidence to sack the HBDHB.

Management do not have the power to change minutes. It is grossly improper. And in this case it seems these doctored minutes were produced by senior management against the desire of the internal auditor who actually was the minute taker for the meeting.

It is not clear of the Audit Committee formally ratified the minutes at their next meeting, but that is what should happen – the committee itself testifies as to their accuracy.

The first the HBDHB members knew of these “new” minutes was when they were released as part of the Ministers HBDHB sacking media pack labelled as “Document H”.

This sound like juicy fodder for the judicial review. It also sounds like a strong reason why the Auditor-General must review the management of the District Health Board.

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