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Prezzy card debacle The final report

After a investigation spanning seven months, the Wairarapa Times-Age has gained access to the Prezzy Card party report.

In November last year, the Times-Age received a tip-off that Wairarapa District Health Board [DHB] staff were spotted paying for a private work function using Prezzy cards.

This was at the same time Prezzy cards were used as incentives during Wairarapa’s covid-19 vaccine rollout. From November 6, people getting vaccinated were entitled to $100 Prezzy cards issued at the vaccination centres.

A tipster said a large amount of food and alcohol was bought by the DHB revellers using the cards.

The results of the investigation have just been released, more than seven months after the incident.

It found the cards spent at the Wingate Lane restaurant were given to the staff at the restaurant as gifts from Te Hauora [Kaupapa Maori health provider]. The cards were not the same as those in the vaccination centres, as was alleged.

The report found there were six transactions made on three cards used at the restaurant by DHB staff, totalling $169.50.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff said it was against the health board’s sponsorship, gifts and donations policy to accept gifts, and any gifts or donations to an individual had to be declared.

“I’ve talked to Te Hauora. They came from the best of places.

“I am totally relieved that the allegations were found to be false. That behaviour is not what our staff do.”

She said the Prezzy cards were from a completely different batch and had a different design from the ones given out for vaccinations.

The report was a long time coming, initially due to be released three months ago.

Oliff said the delays were due to the Christmas period, staff sickness, and difficulty finding a firm to conduct the investigation.

“Alyn Higgins started the investigation in February. Since then, we’ve had multiple staff unwell. It’s been a process. We’ve been cursed with covid.”

Oliff said it had been hard waiting for the investigation to conclude, with staff encountering public abuse at vaccination clinics.

She said that she was satisfied the situation was resolved now that the findings had been released.

“I’ve drawn a line in the sand.”

The report said about 100 cards from the vaccine rollout were unaccounted for, but Oliff said an audit conducted by the DHB found only three or four unallocated NHI [National Health Index] numbers.

“Our chief financial officer is all over this.”

The tipster’s allegations of the affair included inappropriate behaviour of DHB staff, such as vomiting in the toilets, which would breach the DHB’s code of conduct.

However, the report found no evidence to support that claim.

“I think they were noisy,” Oliff said. “They were asked to tone it down, and the second time they were asked, they were quiet.

“That’s the problem with tipsters. They use their own view of the world to tell the story rather than the truth.”

Oliff did not regret the Prezzy card incentives scheme.

“It worked. We saw a huge uplift. It was very important for our community to reach the 90 per cent mark and to help them stay well against covid.”

Te Hauora chief executive Ronald Karaitiana said the function was after the ‘Super Saturday’ [October 16] vaccination initiative, and the dinner was to celebrate the work of the vaccination staff.

“Taonga [gifts] were purchased to recognise staff and volunteers that went over and above their normal responsibilities and assisted Wairarapa in reaching 1200 people being vaccinated in a single day.

“The taonga purchased for the vaccination clinic staff came in the form of Prezzy cards.

Karaitiana said he was disappointed Te Hauora was wrongly implicated in the distribution delay of Prezzy Cards in the community.

He said Te Hauora had supported the DHB’s inquiry and welcomed their findings.

When asked why Te Hauora failed to meet the DHB’s code of conduct on gifts policy, Karaitiana said Te Hauora was not the DHB and could not be expected to know all DHB policies.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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