The Daily Bork

February 22, 2005

The bucked stopped over there after all.

Well, it didn't take too long for the PM in NZ to finger who is really to blame for the education mess. Of course it isn't anything to do with the minister involved, oh no, it is a step or two down among the ranks. At what point is the minister responsible? If he is (supposedly) not getting this information then why is he not considered negligent? Nowhere else could you get away with claiming that you, as the final authority, have no responsibility in ensuring that these things work. Why on earth HAVE a minister of education if he is not going to be responsible?

PM points finger at NZQA

Prime Minister Helen Clark has backed Education Minister Trevor Mallard's handling of the scholarship fiasco, blasting cavalier officials and making it clear she expects resignations.
"Of course I have full confidence in him," she said yesterday. "He's a very long-standing colleague and a particularly able one."
Miss Clark increased the heat on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to admit full responsibility for the problems with the examination. She sought to exonerate Mr Mallard from any blame.
Three inquiries are under way into how only a handful of top scholars passed the NZQA's scholarship examination and why exam marks varied widely between subjects. The authority has admitted not alerting Mr Mallard to the problems tilltill well after the event.
"What we have in NZQA is an agency which has been well out at arm's length from the Government and its own board responsible for implementing the examinations system," Miss Clark said. "I don't think Mr Mallard can be expected to take responsibility for officials acting in a cavalier fashion."
Miss Clark said it appeared middle managers at NZQA had erred by not using inter-subject moderation in the scholarship exam and had not cared about the range of pass rates. Neither Mr Mallard, nor chief executive Karen Van Rooyen or the NZQA board had known about the problems till well after the event. But someone at NZQA had to take responsibility for flawed systems, she said.
Asked if she was looking for resignations, Miss Clark said it appeared no one at NZQA was rushing to take the blame.
"I think the fundamental difference of opinion between myself, the minister, and the qualifications authority is that we think there is a problem. I don't know that they do."
Miss Clark included the government-appointed NZQA board in her broadside, saying the problems could stem from governance issues.
Asked if she expected board resignations, she said the Government wanted to await the outcome of the inquiry by consultant Doug Martin: "I would be very surprised if it doesn't point to systems failure."
Meanwhile, Miss Clark signalled that the Government might act against Te Wananga o Aotearoa even before the auditor-general concludes his report into allegations of misappropriation at New Zealand's biggest tertiary education provider.
Mr Mallard and the wananga have been under fire from ACT over claims it has squandered $239 million it receives annually from taxpayers.
Miss Clark said the Government was considering putting a Crown observer on the board, changing the wananga's charter, and replacing its board members with a commissioner.
"Clearly there are governance issues at the wananga. It has had very rapid growth, as anyone can see. It may be that the rate of growth has outgrown the capacity to have proper governance. So that needs to be addressed very, very urgently."
ACT MP Ken Shirley said Mr Mallard was the one who had been cavalier.
Labour is keen to be seen talking tough but all it has done so far is chatted at the Cabinet. ACT wants a High Court judge appointed to hold a public inquiry into the wananga.

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