25 Jun 2016

Cunliffe slams TEC over whistleblower protections

5:43 pm on 25 June 2016

The Labour Party says the Tertiary Education Commission is not doing enough to protect whistleblowers' rights and identities.

David Cunliffe

David Cunliffe Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Employment Relations Authority recently ruled against Western Institute of Technology, which tried to force a whistleblower to reveal details of the disclosure she made about it under the Protected Disclosures Act.

Labour's tertiary education spokesperson David Cunliffe said the commission should be doing more to protect the rights of people like Dr Fenton.

"I've sought from from the Tertiary Education Commission an assurance that it will treat whistleblowers as effectively using that act," he said.

"They have not given that assurance, and I don't believe that's approp. They have relied upon whistleblowers for a number of the cases that they have eventually called, and we need to encourage people to come forward without fear of retribution."

WITT had discovered the identity of the whistleblower, former employee Christine Fenton, and had sought to be allowed to see the disclosure she made to the Qualifications Authority and the TEC.

The Institute claimed she had used material in the disclosure that should have been returned to it when she left its employment.

The ERA found that the Institute should not have known Dr Fenton was the author of the disclosure and ruled the polytech could not see it.

Following a lengthy investigation, in 2014 WITT was forced to withdraw hundreds of Māori Performing Arts qualifications and repay more than $4 million in government funding.

Students had allegedly graduated without completing the required coursework.

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