19 Dec 2017

Ministry demands explainer over school spending

5:19 pm on 19 December 2017

The Ministry of Education is seeking a 'please explain' from schools who have been flagged in an audit for unusual or high spending.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Auditor-General's annual summary of schools' annual reports was released yesterday.

It highlights concerns about school spending, including an $8000 dollar gift for a principal and another school that kept and spent money it had raised for overseas disatser relief.

The issues raised related to a very small number of the 2500 schools audited, ministry spokesperson Katrina Casey said.

But it was "disappointing" that concerns had arisen, she said.

The ministry would seek explanations from the schools and, if they were not satisfactory, would refer them to the appropriate authority.

"How long the process takes will depend on what we find," Ms Casey said.

A headshot of the Ministry of Education's head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey taken in an office in Wellington

Ministry spokesperson Katrina Casey. Photo: SUPPLIED

"As we have not yet had the opportunity to have those conversations, no matters raised by the [auditor-general] have yet been referred to police or other authorities."

The ministry had also committed to working closely with the schools to make sure "they understand their responsibilities and make decisions accordingly".

'It's based on euro-centric views on what is valid'

The report found Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae spent $249,632 of school funding on a trip for 251 students, staff, and caregivers to Rarotonga.

"The purpose of this trip was to achieve educational outcomes connected with the founding principles of 'Te Aho Matua,'" the report said.

To meet the $399,104 cost of the trip, the kura fundraised $50,455, received $82,066 from whanau contributions, and used $21,466 from the transport allowance, it said.

However, school board member Mera Lee-Penehira defended the spending, saying the trip was planned over three years and the money came from school savings reserved for curriculum spending.

Dr Lee-Penehira said the monitoring of school spending needed to change.

"It's based on Euro-centric views on what is valid in terms of education in this country," she said.

She wanted the auditor-general and ministry to find better ways of educating indigenous children.

"We see the trip to Rarotonga as a valid part of our curriculum," she said.

"Cultural exchanges are not unusual for us, they are a really important part of the way we convey the whakapapa - genealogical ties - we hold with places such as Rarotonga."

The school was in the top five percent for NCEA levels and was not in deficit, she said.