Audit report finds tens of thousands of dollars go to overseas travel and questions decisions on gifts for staff.

Suspect spending by schools has been uncovered - including one that gave thousands of dollars in gift vouchers to staff, bought from a company owned by the principal.

The Auditor-General has criticised some schools for wasteful spending and flagged others in financial strife.

Three schools were singled out after spending tens of thousands of dollars on overseas trips, including an intermediate that spent more than $50,000 on travel and koha for funerals - despite being singled out before.

In a report on audits of 2012 accounts, Auditor-General Lyn Provost said fewer schools had broken the rules than in previous years.


However, auditors found a number of schools breached rules. One unnamed school made payments of $140,000 for building works to a company where a board member was a director and shareholder.

The report also highlighted four audit reports with items including probity, prudence or waste.

Otara's Ferguson Intermediate School spent around $52,000 to send teachers to Samoa and Tonga, on conferences in Melbourne and Prague, and koha for funerals, despite being marked for similar spending before. The Ministry of Education said it was in ongoing contact with the school and financial practices looked to have improved significantly.

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Whakawatea spent $5120 on Christmas gifts, bought from a business co-owned by principal Susanne Simmons-Kopa.

Ms Simmons-Kopa yesterday told the Herald they would complain about the report, as the decision on the vouchers was made by the board in her absence, and with her ownership of the business declared.

Te Kura Toitu O Te Whaiti-nui-a-toi put forward $38,000 for a trip to Hawaii for 13 children and six adults.

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22 May, 2014 11:15am
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And nine staff from Manukau's Viscount School went to a professional development seminar in San Diego, at a cost of $43,000.

Principal Keith Gayford, who went on the July 2012 trip, said staff from other schools were also at the conference, which was hugely beneficial.

"It's interesting that the auditors thought that our spending was imprudent but theirs wasn't.

"I think it's got something to do with the fact that we are a poor old decile one school, and we should know our place."

Ministry guidelines are that government money should not be used for overseas trips for students and only in rare circumstances for senior staff.

19 charter school hopefuls

Alwyn Poole, of Villa Education Trust, wants to run another charter school. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Alwyn Poole, of Villa Education Trust, wants to run another charter school. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The groups that have applied to run the next lot of charter schools in New Zealand have been revealed.

Late yesterday, the Ministry of Education named the 19 organisations that have applied to open a new charter or "partnership" school from the start of next year. Five partnership schools are up and running, and the Government is choosing who can open the next round of schools from term 1 next year.

The publicly-funded but privately-run schools are opposed by education unions and opposition parties.

Some organisations that were rejected in the first round of selection have put their hat back in the ring, and the Villa Education Trust, founded by Alwyn Poole, which is currently running the South Auckland Middle School partnership school, wants to establish another.

Groups that have applied to open a partnership school next year: Algoritmi Educational Trust, Auckland City Training School, City Impact Education Trust, Creators Collaborative Trust, Davidic Centre Trust, He Puna Marama Trust, Manukau Christian Charitable Trust, Manukau Urban Maori Authority Inc and Nga Kakano o te Kaihanga Trust, Pathways in Education: NZ Charitable Trust, Pearl of the Islands Foundation Inc (PIF), Rocket Community School Trust, Te Kohao Health Ltd, Corelli National School of the Arts, Niu Pacific Information Trust Board, Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust, Upper Valley Education Trust, Villa Education Trust and Whakawatea Kaporeihana.

Read the full report here: