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Awanuiarangi agrees to pay settlement to TEC

Statement from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi CEO Graham Smith

October 1, 2014

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi (Awanuiarangi) has agreed to pay $5.9m settlement with the Tertiary Education Commission concerning funding overpayments for the Hei Manaaki – Māori Tourism Certificate. Awanuiārangi has been in discussions with TEC and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority for several months leading up to the agreement reached this week. Independent reviews, including those that we have initiated, have confirmed that we have not delivered the required number of course hours for this programme.

The reasons for this under-delivery are complex and it is a combination of inadequate academic management and monitoring, and serious underperformance and misconduct of a small number of staff. I am devastated that this has occurred and we as an institution have paid a major price for the failings of our internal processes and the actions of small number of those that we trusted. What I would like to make clear is that TWWOA has zero tolerance for actions which bring into question the integrity of the work we do in providing opportunities for the many thousands of students and communities we serve who have enrolled with us over our almost 25 years of operation. We acted as soon as we were made aware of the discrepancies identified as a result of these investigations, and we will act swiftly and appropriately if we identify activities that breach our very clear policies and procedures.

As a result of the under-delivery, and following a thorough process, we have repaid $4.6 million in funding to TEC. There are approximately 3,000 students who have completed Hei Manaaki and, although the class contact time was below the approved amount, all of these students successfully completed all requirements of the programme, including assessments which were externally moderated. Our investigation did, however, uncover three cohorts of students where the under-delivery was so significant that programme content was not delivered and, as a result, we have cancelled all 217 certificates awarded through these cohorts and have refunded the TEC an additional $1.3m. We have sent letters informing these students explaining what has happened and welcoming the opportunity to restore those qualifications when the programme requirements have been achieved.

Hei Manaaki is a programme designed for the tourism industry. It equips graduates with a wide range of transferable skills in tourism. It is delivered via tutorials, marae-based workshops, one-to-one tutorial support, industry-based workshops and self-directed learning.

In March 2014 an inquiry was commenced by TEC and NZQA into Hei Manaaki. As a result of information identified through this inquiry Awanuiārangi launched its own investigation, with the assistance of Deloitte, into the delivery of the programme at two particular locations, Auckland and Rotorua, by two subcontractors. The outcome of this investigation has resulted in the decision to cancel the certificates and to repay the funding involved.

In a media article published today based on selectively leaked information it has been reported that Awanuiārangi was notified of some issues involving Hei Manaaki through two complaints received in December 2013. What is not reported in this story is that a thorough investigation was engaged as soon as these complaints were received.. This investigation however, reached conclusions that we now know to be wrong following the provision of a range of information that we have since found to be false. It is very disappointing that we were prevented from confirming what was clearly a serious problem that needed to be dealt with.

This situation has also resulted in the decision that we will no longer use subcontractors to deliver Hei Manaaki which will now be delivered by our own staff. We can also confirm that one of our employees has been dismissed for misconduct following an employment disciplinary process and another has resigned. Internal reviews of staff oversight of the programme are also continuing and may result in further disciplinary action.

Risk management processes

In 2013 Awanuiārangi commenced a review to enhance internal audit processes, as part of a revised focus on institutional risk. This resulted in the establishment of a dedicated Risk Management Committee to oversee the Risk Management Framework. A Risk and Monitoring unit was established earlier this year as an additional monitoring function over our programmes. We have also engaged Deloitte as an internal auditor to complete further programme reviews. This is because we are committed to improving our control environment and quality assurance processes. Our recent external audit reports from Audit New Zealand, McHale Group, Deloitte and our external moderators are evidence of this commitment. In addition, the TEC FMF risk rating for Awanuiārangi was reduced to “Low” in 2013 and that is further confirmation of our improving risk management profile.

We are also currently engaged in an organisational review and a redesign process with a focus on capability, accountability and process, along with system improvements to deliver our 2020 strategy.

Conclusion

I reiterate that this situation is unacceptable and it is one that brings immense disappointment to me and my team. Because these issues involve employment matters and because there is the likely involvement of enforcement agencies, at this time it is not appropriate that I engage with media on this matter.

What I would like to say is that we are satisfied that the corrective steps set out above, that have now been implemented, will ensure that this situation does not arise again. It is also important that we emphasise that NZQA has affirmed its support for this course and for the corrective measures that have been undertaken. We also acknowledge the rigour of the external audit process engaged by the TEC.

Awanuiārangi offers a range of domestic and international learning opportunities, from undergraduate courses to post graduate degrees. This year we awarded almost 2,500 diplomas, certificates, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees, of which more than 90 per cent of graduates are Māori. In the last three years Awanuiārangi has awarded more than 660 degrees, 42 masters and 9 PhDs. Last year Awanuiārangi accounted for 7 per cent of all Maori bachelor degrees, and 11 per cent of all masters and PhD graduates in the country.

It is an enviable record of success which has taken almost 25 years of sustained effort and application to achieve. Despite recent events we remain committed as an institution to continue reaching out into our communities to improve educational outcomes for the cultural, social and economic benefit of Māori and the wider community.

Because of ongoing employment issues and because of the potential involvement of the Police and Serious Fraud Office on this matter I am unable to make any further comment at this time.

Noho ora mai

TE WHARE WĀNANGA O AWANUIĀRANGI

Professor G H Smith

CHIEF EXECUTIVE

http://www.wananga.ac.nz/about


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