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Breach means training provider must repay $7.5 million

Breach means training provider must repay $7.5 million

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre (Taratahi) is to repay $7.5 million (GST-exclusive) to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) after an independent investigation showed it had not delivered several vocational education programmes in accordance with their funding agreement with TEC.

The Taratahi Board is working with the TEC on a suitable approach to full repayment, including repaying at least $1.13 million (GST-exclusive) in 2015. Taratahi has agreed that the TEC will appoint a financial advisor to support this process, while ensuring that Taratahi can continue to deliver training.

“The funding rules are very clear, and tertiary education providers know them well. If providers are delivering less education than they are being funded for, as Taratahi has done, we will seek repayment,” TEC Chief Executive Tim Fowler said today.

The TEC engaged Deloitte to investigate in October 2014 following receipt of an anonymous complaint that tutors at Taratahi had been enrolled in a course to make up for a shortfall in student numbers. The tutors were over-qualified for the course, which some of them were also teaching.

After being alerted to the complaint Taratahi conducted its own internal review, which it then shared with the TEC.

The Deloitte investigation, which focused on the TEC’s funding agreements, showed several instances of non-compliance. Taratahi:

o enrolled 67 staff in an entry-level programme and claimed funding when little or no teaching took place

o significantly under-delivered teaching hours for four programmes

o claimed funding for students enrolled in the Certificate in General Farm Skills in excess of the teaching hours provided

“As a tertiary education provider Taratahi is obliged to deliver to its students what it has agreed with the TEC and with NZQA. While NZQA is confident that Taratahi has met NZQA’s assessment requirements, the TEC has found in some cases Taratahi has not provided the teaching it was funded to deliver,” Mr Fowler said.

“This effectively means that between 2009-2014 Taratahi received $7,549,000 (GST exclusive) to which it was not entitled.”

Mr Fowler said the TEC will continue to work closely with Taratahi to ensure it continues to provide relevant vocational training for the primary sector. Taratahi, a statutory body, was originally gifted to the Crown by Wairarapa man Sir William Perry in 1919 as a training farm for men returning from WW1. While still based in the Wairarapa it has programmes in several other centres.

“Taratahi is an agricultural college with a long history in providing training which is valued by the primary sector,” Mr Fowler said.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) also investigated whether students’ qualifications were compromised, and found that they were sound said Deputy Chief Executive Jane von Dadelszen.

“The NZQA review identified no significant issues or concerns with the assessment that has been taking place at Taratahi, or with the validity of qualifications that students have received. Taratahi can continue to enrol students in their approved programmes,” Ms van Dadelzen said.

“It is important all tertiary providers meet the terms of their funding arrangements,” Mr Fowler said.

“If any other tertiary providers have concerns, they should contact TEC immediately.”


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