• Peter McCardle
Social Services, Work and Income


"We welcome the Auditor General's report into the WINZ training course at Wairakei, which was tabled today," Social Services, Work and Income Minister Roger Sowry and Associate Minister Peter McCardle said.

"We note that the report finds the situation surrounding the course was an isolated event but that there is no wider problem of inappropriate spending in similar situations by WINZ.

"As the report states: "The chartering did not take place simply as a result of self-serving extravagance by staff of the Department."

"Unfortunately, this incident was used by critics to try to paint a false picture of supposed widespread inappropriate spending on training by WINZ. The report states clearly that is not true. The conclusion that the inquiry found no other examples of excessive spending on training will no doubt disappoint those critics.

"However due to continuing legal action in the Employment Court, the Crown Law Office has advised that we cannot comment at this time on any element of the circumstances surrounding the course, as those matters remain sub judice.

"The report does identify some areas where the department needed to tighten its systems, and those changes have already been made. There will be a continuing review of those systems in the future, and there is no doubt that as a result WINZ will become a better-run department.

"We have confidence in Chief Executive Christine Rankin who has done a very good job in setting up the largest Government department in the country over a very short period and in delivering on very ambitious goals given to WINZ.

"As the report states: "we consider that the Department has generally managed the change process well."

"Regrettably, the publicity over the plane charter has overshadowed the real achievements of WINZ.

"It has taken a lot of hard work to set up the new department from scratch but the results are coming though. WINZ's achievements include getting record numbers of people off the DPB and into work, and thereby contributing to saving the taxpayer $78 million in the last year. The numbers on the DPB are well down on projections due to the new policy of actively helping these people to find work.

"The department is saving $50 million in its first 5 years alone due to lower overheads, and is making inroads into finding jobs for the long term unemployed. We are certain that the big-picture results and cost savings will continue.

"With required changes in place, the challenge now for WINZ is to move on from this experience and focus firmly on providing first-class service to those New Zealanders who need help most," they concluded.