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Ministers cooperate in cover-up

Hon Bill English
National Party Education Spokesman

17 February 2005

Ministers cooperate in cover-up

National's Education spokesman, Bill English, says it was confirmed in the House today that Education Ministers Trevor Mallard and David Benson-Pope worked together to keep shonky scholarship results from the public.

"The Ministers' revelations confirm that Labour has focussed its entire effort on minimising political damage rather than providing clear and honest information to distressed students, parents and teachers.

"It also emerged in Parliament that David Benson-Pope was aware of the scholarship shambles as early as January 25, when he advised Trevor Mallard. But for more than two weeks following that date he continued to deny any knowledge other than what was in the media and said he could not do anything about the situation.

"Labour has shown no interest in the impact this debacle has had on thousands of students.

"There is no accountability. No Minister or bureaucrat is facing consequences for this shambles but thousands of students are. Because of this attitude, the public frustration and anger towards those administering the NCEA is continuing to grow," says Mr English.

Ends

Attached: Timeline of events

New Zealand Scholarship:
Timeline of Deception

LABOUR’S VERSION OF EVENTS:

Friday 14 January: Mallard: “On 14 January my office requested information and was sent provisional scholarship results data”

Clark: “The Minister was advised that there were fewer scholarships awarded overall than expected. That is why he asked to bring a paper to Cabinet.”

Weekend 15/16 January: Clark: “I was first alerted by the Minister of Education to concerns about the overall pass rates for scholarship on the weekend of 15/16 January.”

Monday 17 January: Mallard: "My office was sent an email on January 17 with a table of the results attached. It was not accompanied by any advice, analysis or warning.”

Clark: “I am absolutely satisfied, from the investigation I have made, that the Minister of Education and the Associate Minister did not have their attention drawn to the email until late on 25 January.”

Tuesday 18 January – Tuesday 25 January: Officials develop Cabinet paper on scholarship results for the Minister of Education. NZQA CEO is made aware of variability.

Tuesday 25 January: Paper on scholarship results goes to Cabinet. Benson Pope’s office advises Mallard’s office about subject variation.

Mallard: "On the evening of January 25 I was shown the table that reveals the variability between subjects for the first time.

Clark: “I was first alerted to the likelihood of the variability of results across subjects, on the evening of 25 January by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with further information arriving the following evening.”

Wednesday 26 January: Mallard:"On January 26 I met with officials to discuss the variability and I asked them to go away and do some more analysis to explain what had occurred. I then went ahead with the announcement which Cabinet had signed off the previous day”

Mallard Press Release: “Scholarship awards to be extended”

Tuesday 1 February: David Benson-Pope News release “Minister calls for report into Scholarship concerns”

Tuesday 8 February: Hon. David Benson-Pope admits to unacceptable variability in New Zealand scholarship results:

24 days after NZQA knew
21 days after Trevor Mallard’s office was informed
20 days after officials started looking for a solution
14 days after Helen Clark, Trevor Mallard and himself, by their own admission, knew the full extent of the debacle.
8 days after Bill English raised the alarm and
7 days after extensive media speculation forced David Benson-Pope to call for a report

ENDS

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