VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the ongoing debacle around BC’s public insurer continues, action is now being taken to address concerns repeatedly raised by an ICBC whistleblower as far back as 2001.
After previously describing the financial situation at the agency as a “dumpster fire,” Attorney General David Eby has confirmed ICBC is hiring 60 estimators thanks to a recent review he ordered into the accuracy of auto body repair invoices.
“The reason that I asked for that was specifically coverage on NEWS 1130 related to the whistleblower from ICBC who came forward and said there was an issue here. They did identify that somewhere around the order of around two per cent of all estimates are looked at grossly under where we should be. Auto body repair costs are up 30 per cent in the last two years and I’m concerned that it’s linked with a lack of oversight.”
A recent government-directed independent review of ICBC, conducted by PwC, identified at least $60 million worth of savings. It also found staff at ICBC do a fairly good job of tracking and preventing fraud. “When we have a system like this, it really depends on the integrity and honesty of people who are submitting the claims.”
Eby adds the PwC report he ordered last year was partly thanks to complaints filed by whistleblower Lance Leswick who told NEWS 1130 he’s been tracking invoice irregularities as far back as 2001, but his complaints were never addressed by the former BC Liberal government.
“I don’t think anyone’s pointing fingers at anybody in terms of some sort of corruption or something like that. Just the fact that having somebody come by and have it double checked to ensure that the numbers that are coming forward are accurate for the damage that the car sustained.”
Eby points out there is no significant evidence of over-billing, but only two per cent of all estimates are actually being reviewed.
“There simply weren’t enough people looking at these claims, going out to physically look at the car and confirm that the information they were getting was right and that there was a reasonable expectation on the part of the auto body shops that someone would be swinging by to double check their work.”
Eby goes on to say NEWS 1130’s story indicating stronger oversight is needed was right. “There were decisions to dramatically cut front-line adjusters at ICBC and that resulted in more and more people hiring lawyers when they called in with a claim and nobody was there to deal with it.”
In October, NEWS 1130 first reported Leswick’s claims some auto body shops have been inflating repair costs since 2001 when the former Liberal government gave them the power to write their own estimates.
Eby says he’s not prepared to cancel that program. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but if the obvious conflict of interest is the auto body repair shop is doing the repair has an interest in the estimate being as high as possible, having some oversight, having enough people to come in to make sure that people are making good decisions and submitting reasonable estimates is an important part of a system like that.”
Even though the PwC report identified millions in savings, ICBC is still expected to lose more than $1 billion this fiscal year.ICBC Statement of Operations 2017
It’s blaming the numbers on a surge in claims and the growth in the costs of those cases. “Our projected net loss for our full 12-month, fiscal year (ending Mar. 31, 2018) now stands at almost $1.3 billion,” the agency previously said in a statement.
It adds, the current trend is not sustainable as net claim costs for the first nine months of the current fiscal year have totalled $4.25 billion.