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Govt announces package of actions

28 February 2005

Govt announces package of actions

Education Minister Trevor Mallard today announced a comprehensive package of actions and interventions in response to concerns and allegations raised about the tertiary education provider Te Wananga O Aotearoa.

"The interventions and actions I am announcing today are aimed at addressing allegations and other concerns that have been raised. The wananga will be required to play by the same rules as everyone else. If there is any impropriety in the use of taxpayers' money, it is not acceptable," Trevor Mallard said.

"We are committed to value for money for students and taxpayers, and equally we are committed to addressing Maori underachievement in education. We also want to make it clear that we intend to follow due process in respect of the wananga and in line with the provisions of the Education Act.

"In terms of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, our government wants a strong and successful institution. The government acknowledges what has been achieved in lifting Maori participation rates in tertiary education, but it wants the future focus of this wananga to be on Maori students and the quality of the programmes offered and outcomes achieved rather than on volume growth. This is consistent with the overall thrust of government tertiary policy.

"The actions I am announcing today fall into three categories and are backward looking and forward looking.

Good management going forward The appointment of Crown Observer Brian Roche to TWOA. A change to TWOA's current borrowing conditions by requiring the council to delegate financial powers to the crown observer, who will then also become the crown manager, when they need to borrow. A renegotiation of the charter of TWOA in order to focus the institution on its core functions as a wananga providing education in a Maori context, and to strengthen governance.

Addressing the allegations Introduction of an in-confidence point of contact for whistleblowers. People who have matters they believe should be investigated under the Protected Disclosures Act or otherwise, should contact Jan Breakwell (ministry legal advisor) on 04 4638189 or email jan.breakwell@minedu.govt.nz. A response to an offer from the auditor general to bring forward some components of his review; specifically the relationship between the wananga and the Aotearoa Institute and other entities.

Value for Money across the tertiary education sector Reviews of pricing, quality and value of courses across the tertiary education sector - including work already underway and additional work programmes. Some of this work programme was announced by TEC today and was triggered by a request to TEC by the government in October.

"I note that TWOA has asked for a judicial or commission of inquiry into the matters raised, to replace the inquiry by the Auditor General. The government agrees with TWOA that two inquiries are undesirable as they would substantially increase the cost to the taxpayer and the wananga itself, in terms of legal fees and other costs.

"However, the government believes that the Auditor General, who is independent, does have the powers and skills necessary in terms of forensic accounting and governance expertise, to address the allegations.

"In terms of the need for urgency, the Office of the Auditor General has already advised it has gathered information, and has commenced work on scoping a review into the allegations received. It has also offered to bring forward aspects of its inquiry. I also note that the wananga itself has said it has "nothing to hide", and presumably this applies to any form of inquiry," Trevor Mallard said.

Details of Package are contained in the attached aide memoire to cabinet.


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