INDEPENDENT NEWS

Rankin Won’t Apologise

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2000 11:34 AM
Beleaguered Work And Income New Zealand boss Christine Rankin said she would not resign, despite mounting pressure to do so over problems the department is experiencing with processing student loans.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, at her first press conference for many months – prompted it seems by statements from her Minister - Ms Rankin told the media “very clearly” that resigning was not on her agenda.
While Ms Rankin said she was accountable and responsible for what happened in the organisation, she said some of the problems with the student loans “stood outside us”. She also would not be drawn into making an apology to students.
Ms Rankin said the department could not have anticipated many of the problems they had experienced taking on the student loans management from universities, including the record amount of phone calls made to the call centre.
She said delays getting information from students also contributed to the problems.
Last year WINZ received widespread complaints from students and student bodies over delays in the WINZ phone service offered for the administration of student allowances.
Steve Maharey, Minister for Tertiary Education, hardened his stance against Ms Rankin yesterday voicing concern about her failure to make a public statement about problems.
He had previously blamed the previous government for the problems WINZ was currently having, saying the Department was under-funded and under-skilled.
His line is now closer to that of State Services And Education Minister Trevor Mallard and Prime Minister Helen Clark, who have made strong comments about the student loans situation.
With many University’s enrolment weeks beginning this week thousands of students have been unable to enrol because WINZ had not processed their student loan applications in time. Auckland University has announced an interim measure through which students will be allowed to enrol if they sign a letter declaring that they will pay later for their tuition, once the loans come through.
Universitiy student unions are setting up foodbanks in preparation for student hardship caused by the delays.

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