TEC cover-up raises serious questions
Hon Bill English
National Education Spokesman
1 July 2004
TEC cover-up raises serious questions
A Tertiary Education Commission report on community education at Gisborne's Tairawhiti Polytechnic covered up serious failings in its community education courses, says National's Education spokesman, Bill English.
The TEC investigated Tairawhiti Polytechnic earlier this year following allegations that students enrolled in $16 million worth of community education courses did not receive learning materials.
Answers to parliamentary questions show that immediately before the audit the polytech admitted to 2000 invalid enrolments and effectively repaid the money.
The TEC report makes no mention of these invalid enrolments, but claims that 'No evidence was found of any invalid enrolments being recorded and claimed by Tairawhiti Polytechnic'.
"The Minister and TEC deliberately misled Parliament and the public because they are more worried about covering up the community education mess than fixing it," says Mr English.
"This raises serious questions about the integrity of the TEC's report into multi-million dollar problems with community education courses at Christchurch Polytech Institute of Technology."
CPIT is under investigation for 96,000 enrolments in office studies courses, the payment of potentially illegal inducements for enrolments, and alleged conflict of interest involving senior staff.
"The Tairawhiti cover-up is just another example of the Government's dismissive attitude towards the serious misuse of taxpayer dollars," says Mr English.
"It's time the Minister realised that this is a $200 million mess and got serious about cleaning it up".
Answer to written questions attached 5479 (2004). Hon Bill English to the Minister responsible for the Transition Tertiary Education Commission (22 April 2004):
Has the audit of Tairawhiti Polytechnic been completed? Hon Steve Maharey (Minister responsible for the Transition Tertiary Education Commission) replied: I am awaiting advice on the details and outcome of the audit.
Question: Further to his reply to written question No 5479 (2004), what were the findings of the audit of Tairawhiti Polytechnic?
Portfolio: Education (Associate Minister - Tertiary)
Minister: Hon Steve Maharey
Answer Text: The findings of the audit were as follows:
1. No evidence was found of any invalid enrolments being recorded and claimed by Tairawhiti Polytechnic.
(Note: prior to the audit, Tairawhiti Polytechnic had identified slightly more than 2000 students who had not received the learning materials for their programmes. Tairawhiti Polytechnic amended its 31 December 2003 SDR to remove the funding claimed in respect of those students so they were not included in the sample used for the audit).
2. During the early part of 2003 the procedures employed to check the attendance of enrolees at courses conducted by private training establishments (PTEs) under a subcontracting arrangement were unsystematic and variable in the level of assurance they provided. However, as far as it goes, the information provided gave reasonable assurance that courses, as approved, actually took place and students, as notified, actually participated. Procedures recently put into place provide for a much more robust system of reporting and will ensure that in the future better evidence of participation is available.
3. The following changes to Tairawhiti Polytechnic's procedure will be particularly significant in improving the robustness of the reporting system in relation to 5.1 enrolments:
- The course detail form submitted to Tairawhiti Polytechnic's database now provides a more specific description of wananga established under the Takirau initiative and the reference number will contain more information. - Information on enrolments forms generated by PTEs must now by verified by a Tairawhiti Polytechnic officer by personal ID; - PTEs are now required to complete and submit attendance registers; and - A representative of Tairawhiti Polytechnic now attends all wananga to confirm records.
4. Some of the workshop series established by Tairawhiti Polytechnic, or sponsored through PTEs, involved students who enrolled for all the component courses in an unusually high level of learning activity. The polytechnic could resolve this problem by establishing guidelines for the approval of workshop series related to more realistic study patterns for the series as a whole and the appropriate EFTS value to be used in cases where students enrol for the whole series.
5. An anomaly exists where students undertake a major programme that is made up of several separate components. In such cases, the Polytechnic needs to develop a procedure to ensure that funding claims are made on the basis of a weekly rate rather than the rate for a collection of smaller time periods.
The Tertiary Education Commission has followed up those findings with the Chair and Chief Executive of Tairawhiti Polytechnic at a recent meeting, and will continue to follow these issues up.