Labour calls for Rankin to be suspended
The Labour spokesperson on employment Steve Maharey says the chief executive of Work and Income should be suspended until an Audit Office investigation is completed.
"I have been raising concerns about Christine Rankin's suitability to head New Zealand's largest government department since it was set up in October last year.
"There is a sorry trail of inappropriate spending decisions over the past ten months. The $165,000 spent flying 140 staff to a training course at the Wairakei Resort Hotel is the latest of these and may prove the most damning.
"Christine Rankin initially condemned this spending and then admitted she signed off the majority of the expenditure. She insists she was misled.
"My office continues to receive correspondence from senior WINZ staff members. This paints a somewhat different version of events than that offered by the chief executive.
"The whole affair has got very murky and the Government must act immediately. Christine Rankin must be stood down during the audit process.
"Today in Parliament, Peter McCardle the Minister responsible for WINZ continued to defend the performance of the department and its chief executive.
"That's not surprising, as his office has been involved in damage control since Labour began putting the heat on. On the 6th July I lodged a written parliamentary question, asking if WINZ had chartered a plane and what was the cost. Last Wednesday the Minister replied that the information was not available. That clearly was a delaying tactic. Two days later, the scandal was revealed in the media.
"Christine Rankin has been a disaster. But the new department of Work and Income was set up at Peter McCardle's insistence, and he must share responsibility for its failings.
"Millions of dollars have been spent inappropriately. When it's not shelling out for chartered jets and booze-ups, WINZ has gone for glitz over substance, vainly trying to defend its failure to get New Zealanders into real jobs. Currently $1.3 million is being spent on print and television advertisements boosting the corporate profile of WINZ.
"Under National over the past nine years, we've seen some appalling cases of senior public sector managers treating public money as if they work for some private company.
"Mr McCardle and Roger Sowry have written to the State Services Commissioner. That's not good enough. Christine Rankin must be suspended immediately."