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Slash and burn at NZQA

Hon Bill English - National Party Education Spokesman

21 June 2006

Slash and burn at NZQA

NZQA is slashing $9 million from its $79 million budget so it can recover from a large budget blowout in the past financial year, says National's Education spokesman, Bill English.

According to internal documents, acting CEO Karen Sewell told staff earlier this year that 'In the next financial year (06/07), NZQA needs to save about an additional $9 million (11 per cent of our total spending) to balance the books, and this saving needs to be permanent.'

NZQA is seeking immediate savings by:
· Not replacing staff who have resigned, except where appointments are essential to maintain revenue streams.
· Terminating fixed-term arrangements for salaried employees when contracts finish, or sooner if possible.
· Retaining contractors for the duration of their contracts, but not renewing them.
· Not authorising secondments.
· Phasing-out temporary and casual workers.

Karen Sewell also told staff that 'long-term savings are going to require more fundamental work', and that NZQA will do a review of its core functions. Mr English says this signals substantial restructuring and redundancies.

"Two months ago the acting CEO said NZQA could fix its finances without any impact on service," says Mr English.

"That shows just how much fat there is in education agencies. If NZQA can cut its budget by 11% and no one notices, then the same savings could be made in the Ministry of Education and TEC without anyone noticing.

"However, the revelations of large and unprecedented budget cuts will be a disappointment to the education sector which has been looking for stability and better service from NZQA.

"The papers also reveal that NZQA neglected to mention in its public statements when the blowout was first revealed that $3.3 million of the deficit is due to costs incurred from dealing with inquiries into its incompetence, and bringing in a new scholarship regime after the debacle in 2004.

"NZQA will lose more credibility if it continues with misleading public statements and if Minister Steve Maharey is not open with the education sector about what is going on," says Mr English.


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