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Greens call for action on WINZ boss

18 February 2000

Greens call for action on WINZ boss

Green Co-Leader Rod Donald today wrote to the Minister of Social Services, Steve Maharey, seeking assurances that the steps are in place to fire WINZ boss Christine Rankin if she fails to meet the government's priorities and objectives.

Many tertiary students are struggling to enrol at various universities and polytechs because WINZ has botched the handling of their student loan applications. Last year WINZ also failed to handle student allowance applications which seriously disrupted the studies of thousands of students.

Rod Donald said he was appalled that Christine Rankin was trying to pass the buck for her department's mismanagement of student loans.

"Ms Rankin has pointed the finger at everybody else except her own department," he said. "She has blamed tertiary institutions and students for the mess her department has created and the buck must stop with her."

Mr Donald said WINZ had plenty of time to prepare for loan processing and their were no valid excuses for the current situation.

"I have written to Mr Maharey to ensure that if Ms Rankin is unable to deliver results that meet the government's priorities and objectives, the appropriate steps are in place to dismiss her," he said.

"The performance of WINZ in regards to students loans is clearly unacceptable to date and Ms Rankin must be accountable and responsible for the disruption her department is causing to students across the country."

Mr Donald has repeatedly called for Ms Rankin to resign in light of WINZ's poor performance in the past and said the grounds to terminate her employment were now stronger than ever.

"When Ms Rankin reported to the Social Services Select Committee last year, she was adamant that WINZ would deliver student loans successfully. This is far from the case. While I am aware an enquiry into WINZ has just begun I believe steps must be taken now on the matter of the chief executive's performance and suitability," said Mr Donald.

Copy of letter to Steve Maharey enclosed. Contact Rod Donald 025 507 183

Hon Steve Maharey
18 February 2000
Minister of Social Services and Employment
Executive Wing
Parliament Buildings

Dear Steve

I am writing to request that you seek an assurance from the State Services Commissioner that he has put in place the formal steps to ensure that the Chief Executive of Work and Income New Zealand performs competently in her position to meet the Government's priorities and objectives and, if she fails to do so, steps are in place to terminate her employment.

As you well know I have called for the Chief Executive's resignation on several occasions over the last year. Each time I have made this call it has been prompted by one of the numerous examples of extravagance, mismanagement, failure to meet targets or attempts to circumvent policy.

I believe the current grounds for challenging her continued employment are significantly stronger than previous instances. The unfolding chaos over student loan processing was preceded by a commitment from the chief executive that it would go smoothly. The report on the enquiry into the processing of student allowances last year states that "WINZ remains adamant that it will deliver student loans successfully." WINZ goes on to say "it submits it has gained knowledge and experience and there are efficiencies in the loan process that were not available in the allowance process. In particular, it identified stronger foundations and infrastructure; better understanding of the student loans customer; an awareness of potential complexity; better procedures with institutions; and increased communication efforts."

Based on the information to hand this week it would appear that the chief executive has not delivered on the undertakings she made to the select committee and probably also directly to the minister. This amounts to a serious management failure.

While I am aware that a wide ranging enquiry into WINZ is already underway I believe steps need to be taken now on the matter of the chief executive's performance and suitability.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you for your prompt initiatives on the mess with student loans. I fully accept that this is not a problem of your making and hope for the sake of students you can get things sorted quickly as well as hold accountable those who are responsible.

Yours sincerely

Rod Donald MP Green Party Co-Leader

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