Schools are forking out tens of thousands of dollars on overseas school trips despite the Office of the Auditor-General warning they breached Ministry of Education guidelines.

The OAG has released the results of the 2017 school audits highlighting significant overseas spending and warning that more than a quarter of kuras' financial practices are not as good as they should be.

Blockhouse Bay Intermediate shelled out $23,000 towards a trip for 21 students and three teachers to South Korea despite being warned the year earlier about the excursion and that the ministry guidelines at the time stipulated schools should fund raise for overseas trips.

The students paid for $56,000 towards the cultural exchange with the school funding the shortfall.


The West Auckland school came under fire in its 2016 audits for spending $7000 on a farewell party and $3000 on a leaving gift for the principal, which was 10 times more than what the board had approved.

During that same period, the school also held on to $3700 that had been collected specifically for Fiji flood victims and spend it on school purposes instead.

Te Whata Tau o Putauaki in Kawerau spent $47,639 to send five students, four teachers and a caregiver to the World Indigenous Peoples Education Conference in Canada. The remaining $53,219 of the $100,858 was fundraised.

Gisborne's Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Uri a Maui paid $32,410 for a six-day trip to the Gold Coast where it held a four-day school planning event. The spend included food, accommodation, venue and car hire. The teachers paid for their own flights, but $1737 is still outstanding.

This year the ministry changed its guidelines on funding overseas trips. Schools are now allowed to fund them provided the board has completed a checklist before the funding is approved, the trip has an educational purpose and the spending is appropriate and consistent with ministry policies.

Meanwhile Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kura Kokiri's 2013 audit report has only recently been completed and showed an "unusually high" amount of money was spent on fuel, food, groceries and koha.

The Papamoa kura also shelled out for repairs and maintenance to cars it does not own and paid for a trip to Hawaii.

The 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 audit reports for the Papamoa school are still outstanding and there is a lack of documentation supporting the "unusual expenses".

The OAG has reiterated concerns to the Education Ministry about whether kuras were spending their money appropriately and has once again recommended it monitor how effectively the schools follow the ministry's best-practice guidelines.

"As we have seen little improvement in the performance of a number kura, we repeat our recommendation."

Other financial irregularities were also highlighted.

Mana Tamariki in Palmerston North overpaid an employee by $21,000 and despite being in financial strife never chased them for it.

Tahatai Coast School made a trading loss of $71,438 during 2017, which included writing off more than $26,000 of uniform inventory, the report said.

"The school bought uniform in bulk for several years without considering low-selling items. The school's decision to change the school uniform from 2020 meant it was necessary to write off certain uniform items because it cannot sell them."

In response, a school spokeswoman told the Herald Tahatai Coast School was committed to the process of moving to a new uniform by 2020.

"In 2017 stock levels of the old uniform were at $71,438 but this figure continues to reduce as the school sells the old stock as it transitions to the new uniform over the next two years. The actual figure written off for the 2017 financial year was $26,200."

And a long-standing potential conflict of interest between Sacred Heart College in Auckland, the Sacred Heart Development Foundation and its proprietor was identified for the sixth year because the entities all have trustees in common.

Tauranga Boys College entered an unusual arrangement where it borrowed $10,000 from the Titan Trust at an excessively high interest rate of 20 per cent a year and then made no repayments before repaying it in full in March.

A lack of information about the payments made by Flag Swamp School in Otago and Mountainview High School in Timaru resulted in their being issued modified opinions for their 2017 financial statements.

And a lack of control and scrutiny over payments at Mangere's Al-Madinah School meant there was not enough information for the auditor to give an opinion on its financial statements.

There were also 44 schools facing financial difficulties and the OAG required the ministry to provide a letter confirming they were still an ongoing concern.

Sixty-nine schools breached the laws and regulations, including 49 which borrowed more than they were allowed to, four who lent money to staff and four which invested in organisations without the ministry's approval.

The increase of schools breaching the borrowing limit was a result of schools entering into more equipment leases to meet the demand for digital devices, the OAG said.

Some gifts and hospitality could still be considered "excessive" but were not significant enough to be mentioned. In the 2016 audits, a ride-on lawn mower and gift vouchers worth $10,000 were given to principals for farewell gifts.

The same information has been provided to the Secretary for Education.