Parata's high staff turnover queried

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2013

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Taxpayers could face yet another bill from Hekia Parata after the $425,000 cost of letting Education Secretary Lesley Longstone go.

Ministerial Services confirmed it is dealing with a personal grievance claim from one of Ms Parata's Beehive staffers.

The information was obtained by Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, but Ministerial Services refused to give any details about the nature of the claim, despite acknowledging there was a public interest.

It said the need to protect the privacy of the individual concerned outweighed that.

Ms Parata has come under scrutiny over movements in her office after losing several staff around the time that Ms Longstone was forced to resign.

Ms Longstone quit in December over a relationship breakdown with Ms Parata. Under an exit package thrashed out with the State Services Commission, revealed this month, she received a before-tax payout of more than $425,000: $267,952 severance pay and $157,523 in outstanding holiday pay and a payment in lieu of notice.

It worked out at almost $1000 for every day she was in the job.

But Ms Parata's relationship with Ms Longstone is not the only one under scrutiny.

Ms Parata has lost several private secretaries and a senior adviser just two months into a two-year secondment.

She also let go her senior private secretary just before Christmas.

Ministerial Services confirmed there had been no other employee disputes or employee exit arrangements from the office.

Ms Turei said she had lodged an Official Information Act request over potential staff exit arrangements in the office because of a worrying number of reports about internal office tensions.

She was concerned at the cost of the minister's mounting tally of relationship problems.

"There have been lots of reports of conflict and problems and a very high turnover. This personal grievance just goes to show how serious it has been beyond even the Lesley Longstone debacle."

Ms Parata's office referred inquiries to Ministerial Services.

Ministerial Services said it had no further comment.

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