Second inquiry into Infratrain

PHIL KITCHIN
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2012

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A second inquiry has begun into the taxpayer-funded training organisation involved in forging signatures to pass multiple bogus assessments.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has announced an “independent investigation” into InfraTrain after an unsatisfactory investigation by InfraTrain itself.

The Dominion Post revealed this month that InfraTrain trainees sitting tests for taxpayer-funded qualifications were given pass marks by someone using a forged assessor's signature.

InfraTrain assessors also passed trainees for potentially dangerous work when they had given obviously wrong answers.

The Wellington-based organisation trains people for the infrastructure and construction industries, including civil engineering, demolition and rural contracting. Last year InfraTrain had at least 4000 trainees on courses and received $3.3 million of TEC funding to ensure they met certain standards for qualifications.

The more trainees who get qualifications, the more taxpayer funding InfraTrain earns. The system includes completion bonuses being paid to assessors.

Analysis of some assessments involved in the scam showed one assessor would have had to have been working 16-hour days to pass all the assessments he passed.

InfraTrain chief executive Philip Aldridge said its investigation had been unable to pinpoint who forged the signatures, and assessment processes had since been tightened.

Former InfraTrain assessor Kevin Sanson told The Dominion Post he was baffled at how his signature ended up on assessments for at least four trainees of whom he had never heard.

He wondered who might have made money on the bogus assessments, but Mr Aldridge said there had been no misuse of funds.

After the revelations, a spokeswoman for TEC said the commission was told of complaints about assessment practices at InfraTrain's Nelson-Marlborough regional office in November.

TEC said it was not aware of any InfraTrain manager or assessor being identified or found wanting as a result of the first investigation. It was “taking the matter seriously” and was “not yet satisfied with all aspects of the investigations or with the followup actions taken by InfraTrain".

On Friday TEC chief executive Belinda Clark confirmed an independent investigation had begun after fresh allegations of document fraud. “A further and more detailed complaint alleging document fraud was received by the TEC this week.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers had been commissioned to investigate and any allegations of fraud were taken “very seriously”.

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Mr Aldridge said that he did not know what the new allegations were but he welcomed an independent inquiry into them.

The inquiry is expected to take several weeks.

- The Dominion Post

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