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Statement From Christine Rankin

3 August 1999

A Personal Statement from Christine Rankin
Chief Executive
Work and Income New Zealand

I have read Mr Wintringham's statement and will naturally be discussing the matters he has raised with the WINZ management team.

I want to say at the outset that I accept the two conclusions he has reached.

There was a lack of financial discipline in organising the Wairakei event and I, as Chief Executive, accept ultimate responsibility for that.

I also accept that investigation of the Wairakei episode has highlighted some deficiencies in our system of financial accountability.

I take these findings very seriously.

I have already initiated a process of reviewing all financial policies and procedures within WINZ. That programme is underway and will be taken right through the organisation.

Having said that, I think it's really important to remember the very special job that WINZ has to do.

Our focus is, and always will be, on helping a significant number of New Zealanders evaluate their lives and the ways in which they support themselves.

We are here to help our customers take better control of their destinies and fulfil the potential they each have.

We are not a bunch of form fillers. WINZ staff must be trained to deliver the right advice, to offer the appropriate support and to make every endeavour to find suitable employment for everyone who seeks it.

If we're to succeed at this, WINZ staff need a huge degree of skill and commitment - in order not only to understand the complexities of a vast system but also to work with every person as an individual, with individual needs, to find an individual solution.

I am confident that every member of the WINZ staff shares this vision. My job is to provide the leadership that establishes the framework within which we make it a reality.

In the relatively short space of time that we have had to get this, the largest and most complex department in the country, working effectively, we have made a few mistakes.

I can stand here today and assure you that I have learned from those mistakes. I accept Mr Wintringham's findings that there have been deficiencies and I accept the censure that goes with that.

I am personally committed to ensuring that extremely high standards are clearly understood and adhered to throughout WINZ.

Let me also say that I am sorry if the Wairakei episode has served to erode confidence in this and other government departments and also to overshadow government policy.

However, I share the Commissioner's view that debate over the incident has often tended to be out of proportion to events and has descended unnecessarily to an extremely personal and vicious level which serves no good purpose.

It is my sincere hope now that the debate will focus on the very real job that WINZ has to do and the very real progress we are making in doing it.

As a department, WINZ must now be allowed to move on, to grow and to mature, and to continue to develop our place in the lives of New Zealanders.

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