A stairwell is a lot cheaper than a lift

February 10th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has spent almost $20 million on a redesign of its new office block, including $2.5m on a 12 floor staircase named “the Stairway to Heaven” by the Opposition. 

The MoE said the revamp of Matauranga House, in Bowen Street just up the road from Treasury, will come in $3m under budget and save $27m on accommodation and running costs over the 15 year term of the lease.

But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the cost was over the top.

“Huge expenditure like this on a gold-plated office will certainly stick in the craw of teachers and student up and down the country. Is this the Stairway to Heaven? It would need to lead to somewhere pretty special for that sort of money,” Hipkins said. 

Gold-plated because it has a stairwell?

An MoE spokeswoman said the staircase was needed because there were only four lifts in the building and eventually it would have 25 per cent more staff than when MBIE occupied it. There would also be an estimated 1000 visitors a month.

It was not “a Stairway to Heaven” but was the cheapest way to handle the extra traffic. The alternative – a fifth lift – would have cost up to $4m.

Choosing a stairwell over a fifth lift is an excellent idea. Not only is it $1.5 million cheaper, but it means staff and visitors can use the stairwell to go between floors, rather than have to use the lifts. So it is good for fitness, and saves money. Plus lifts have notoriously high ongoing maintenance costs.

MoE had been working out of four buildings in Wellington and those leases were due to expire early this year. The revamp had been funded out of existing baselines. The office space was 6000 sq metres less than its previous premises, down from 22,500 square metres to about 16,500.

So what Chris Hipkins is attacking is that the Ministry has reduced the size of its office space by 27% and has a lease and running costs $27 million cheaper over 15 years than previously?

I know the role of the opposition is to attack wasteful spending (as the Taxpayers union does also). But sometimes spending isn’t wasteful, but actually saves money. I think Chris could benefit with better targeting.

Other changes would see phone costs cut by about $330,000 through scrapping traditional desk phones and providing staff with headsets and Skype

Good to see smart use of technology.

Eventually all staff would “hot desk” with only a locker but no desk of their own – a first for a government department or ministry. The design was open plan, and even chief executive Peter Hughes did not have his own office.

Which presumably is how they have managed to reduce their floor size by 6,000 square metres.

Not all of these are the same

September 4th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The ministry’s reputation has been in tatters in recent years after a series of botch ups including problems with Novopay, the implementation of national standards, closure of Christchurch schools and the introduction of charter schools.

That is not a list of botch ups.

Two of them are botch ups – the closure of Christchurch schools and Novopay. They were deservedly black marks on the Ministry of Education.

But the implementation of national standards and introduction of charter schools are not botch ups. They are policy decisions that the unions and Labour don’t like, but there has been no botch ups in their introduction.

Just listing everything that is controversial and labelling it as a botch up, is shabby framing.

Hughes agrees to stay on

June 25th, 2013 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

The top former public servant called in to restore order to the troubled Ministry of Education has been confirmed as its new boss.

Deputy State Services Commissioner Sandi Beatie today confirmed Peter Hughes had been appointed secretary for education and chief executive of the Ministry of Education.

This is very good news for the Government, and for the Ministry. Hughes is a top operator and with a five year appointment, should be able to significantly improve how the Ministry operates. Ministers will be very pleased to have Hughes stay on.

On this I agree with the union

March 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Ministry of Education is bloated, inefficient and making the jobs of principals more difficult by “stealing their precious time” making them fill out paperwork, says the outgoing president of the Secondary Principals’ Association.

In his final comment to members this week, Patrick Walsh wrote that he had met many hardworking and highly skilled Ministry employees.

“It has, however, struck me as odd that in an era of self-managing schools we have a ministry that is so large and yet not able to perform in an effective and efficient manner. …

Mr Walsh, who steps down after three years as Spanz president on Tuesday, told the Herald that despite having about 3000 employees, the Ministry had underperformed for more than a decade.

I agree with Mr Walsh. i think significant structural change is needed for the Ministry.

A smart move

December 1st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Meadows at Stuff reports:

New Zealand banks are wading into the Novopay disaster to offer interest-free overdrafts to teachers and school staff running short on cash.

Problems with the Education Ministry’s new payroll system have led to thousands of teachers paid incorrectly or not at all.

Some have reported being unable to meet mortgage payments or falling behind on hire purchase or credit card debt as a result of the cashflow squeeze.

The banks participating in the interest-free overdraft offer are ANZ New Zealand, ASB Bank, Bank of New Zealand, The Co-operative Bank, Kiwibank, SBS Bank, TSB Bank, and Westpac New Zealand.

They are offering six weeks of interest-free respite –until January 15 – up to the equivalent of any missed payroll payments.

Affected teachers and school staff have to provide evidence to their bank, for example a letter from their school, detailing how much they are owed.

Their bank will then arrange an overdraft facility on the account to which their salary is paid, or to another account by arrangement.

New Zealand Bankers’ Association chief executive Kirk Hope said the banks had offered their support to help tide people over the holiday period.

“I encourage affected school staff to get in touch with their bank so they know they’re covered and can have some peace of mind over the holidays,” he said.

A very smart PR move from the banks.

As I understand it any teacher underpaid can also get reimbursed within 24 hours by their school directly – and the school then gets reimbursement from the Ministry of Education.

However relieving teachers who have no main school, are less able to do this easily, so the move by the banks should be of assistance to them especially.

The Ministry of Education

November 17th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports at the Dom Post:

Associate Education Minister Craig Foss has slated the Education Ministry for plans to sack nine of the staff dealing with the Novopay debacle once the troubled teachers’ payroll system is working well.

“I am utterly flabbergasted by this decision,” Mr Foss said.

“Any plan to cut payroll staff numbers is totally out of sync with what the ministry is trying to achieve with the Novopay rollout. It’s pretty clear that the ministry’s payroll team needs more resources, not fewer.”

It is rare, but sometimes necessary, for a Minister to directly criticise their own Department or Ministry. This is definitely one of those times. Staffing issues are the sole preserve of the CEO, or Secretary of Education in this case. But there is an obligation to have a no surprises policy and it is clear that the decision to reduce the number of payroll staff was not run via the Minister. It is almost incomprehensible that the Ministry did not think to do so, and calls into question their overall level of competence.