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"At last the truth about staff payouts is being squeezed out of Winz," says Labour social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey.

The department today admitted paying $326,500 to settle nine personal grievances in the past year. Only last month it told The Dominion it had paid out only $41,000. National commissioner Ray Smith says that was "a genuine error" and the figure did not include settlements with confidentiality provisions.

"I released details of a $100,000 settlement today because I was told there had been several such payouts hushed up by Winz," Mr Maharey said. "That is now proven."

"Mr Smith's statement that the answer to the Dominion was 'within the spirit and intent of the Official Information Act' reflects a peculiar interpretation of the law. If that is Winz's attitude to disclosure there is clearly plenty of scope for an inquiry into the department's practices.

"The Government and State Services Commission must inquire further into these payouts. In the case of the $100,000 payout revealed today, Ray Smith told me personally that the executive concerned was 'on sabbatical'. It turned out that he was full pay, not working for Winz and not due to return to the department. Winz and Mr Smith clearly have difficulty with accuracy on these matters.

"It's a pity it takes a leak to start flushing the truth out of Winz. Public trust and confidence in the state sector is at an all-time low and this is why. Labour is committed to rebuilding the public service, including Winz, into something New Zealanders can respect again."

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