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Education ministry ceo Lesley Longstone has resigned from her role with a golden handshake, amid the Novopay staff payment debacle.
Education Minister Hekia Parata today acknowledged the resignation Ms Longstone, and thanked her for her efforts leading the Ministry.
Ms Longstone’s resignation was announced this afternoon by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.
“I acknowledge Ms Longstone’s efforts during her time at the Ministry,” Ms Parata says in a brief statement.
“It has been a difficult period and there have been a series of tough issues to deal with.
“I will be making no further comment on the departure of Ms Longstone.
Mr Rennie says with two years left to run on the contract, Ms Longstone will be receiving some form of compensation.
“Consideration will be made for the fact she has finished her contract early.”
Her role finishes on February 8 and former social development ministry ceo Peter Hughes will step in the following day as acting ceo until a permanent replacement is found.
Since Australian company Talent2 (formerly Morgan & Banks) was paid $30 million to develop Novopay four months ago, thousands of teachers have been incorrectly paid or not paid at all.
Earlier last month another hole in the Novopay payroll system emerged when it was discovered a school could see the pay, and edit details, of a teacher who worked for another school.
Mr Rennie says he and Ms Longstone came to the view a change in leadership was required, in the best interests of the ministry.
“Lesley is a highly capable and dedicated professional who has been strongly committed to achieving better education outcomes for all New Zealanders”
He has not ruled out reappointing Ms Longstone in the future “for the right role.”
“There‘s clearly been a strained relationship between the minister and chief executive. Clearly there’s now an opportunity for the ministry to go forward.”
Mr Rennie says from time to time chief executives and ministers will have strained relationships, but most of it never becomes public.
“I have a responsibility for thinking about how any ministry goes forward, and this is a critical ministry for New Zealand. It spends over $12 billion of taxpayers’ money, it’s dealing with one of the important issues of our future. Key to any ministry succeeding is an effective relationship between a minister and ceo.”
Mr Rennie says clearly if it is not the case, as in this example, then something needs to change.
Details have not yet been released of Ms Longstone’s payout but Mr Rennie says the package falls within the auditor-general’s guidelines for severance payments in the public sector.