21 Mar 2014

PM stands by Education Minister

6:26 am on 21 March 2014

Prime Minister John Key is backing the Education Minister in the face of calls for her to step down over her handling of the Kohanga Reo Trust Board controversy.

Opposition parties say Hekia Parata did not move quickly enough to address allegations of mis-spending by the trust's commercial arm.

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Photo: RNZ

Ms Parata has called in the Serious Fraud Office to investigate allegations regarding the board's commercial arm, Te Pataka Ohanga, after she said fresh allegations were made.

An Ernst & Young review ordered last year has found the trust itself did not mis-use any public money. But as the money handled by Te Pataka Ohanga, its wholly owned subsidiary, is not deemed public money the review did not look into the allegations that business credit cards were mis-used.

The Labour Party says right from the start the minister did not pay enough attention to the severity of the allegations and she should be stood down.

Mr Key said Ms Parata had done everything she should have and he continues to have full confidence in her as a minister.

New Zealand First education spokesperson Tracey Martin said she undertands the board asked for help last year, and in her view it is being made a scapegoat by the minister.

"If the board didn't have the skills, then the minister sees the board on a regular basis, why weren't they better supported to deliver on this? It's too late now to blame the board when they asked for help."

Mr Key said trust representatives gave Ms Parata an assurance they would follow up matters in relation to the subsidary, Te Pataka Ohanga.

"They actually failed, from what I can see, in following up on their commitments. There was also other information that came to light and on that basis (Hekia Parata) referred it to the SFO. That's exactly the right thing to do."