Tonight Native Affairs broadcasts a special investigation into allegations involving an academic programme offered by indigenous university, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and administered by well-known kapa haka identity, Donna Grant.
Based in Whakatāne, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi was established in 1991 by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa. Awanuiārangi is one of only three institutions designated as Wānanga under the Education Act 1989.
Awanuiārangi provides educational opportunities to all Māori, New Zealanders and indigenous students throughout Aotearoa and aims to be a quality provider of Māori programmes within the tertiary education sector.
Its CE is Distinguished Professor Graham Smith, who is also a Principal International Research Fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia, and the former Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori of Auckland University.
Its 17-member governing council is headed by his father-in-law, Distinguished Professor Sir Sidney Moko Mead, alongside esteemed Ngāti Awa figures such as Sir Wira Gardiner and Judge Layne Harvey.
In the last three years, Awanuiārangi has awarded more than 660 degrees, 42 masters and 9 PhDs.
Last year, Awanuiārangi accounted for 7%of all Māori Bachelor Degrees, and 11% of all Masters and PhD graduates in the country.
Last week, news broke that Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi has agreed to repay $4.6 million in funding to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), a joint investigation by the TEC and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) revealed serious concerns about funding and the delivery of its Hei Manaaki Māori Tourism Certificate.
Native Affairs asked both Donna and Anaru Grant for an interview, however both declined, the show also asked Awanuiārangi CEO Distinguished Professor Graham Smith for an interview but he too declined citing ongoing employment issues and the potential involvement of the Police and Serious Fraud Office.
However in a written statement last week he said:
"Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi has agreed to pay $5.9m settlement with the Tertiary Education Commission concerning funding overpayments for the Hei Manaaki - Māori Tourism Certificate.
The reasons for this under-delivery are complex and it is a combination of inadequate academic management and monitoring, and serious underperformance and misconduct of a small number of staff.
I am devastated that this has occurred and we as an institution have paid a major price for the failings of our internal processes and the actions of a small number of those that we trusted. What I would like to make clear is that TWWOA has zero tolerance for actions which bring into question the integrity of the work we do in providing opportunities for the many thousands of students and communities we serve who have enrolled with us over our almost 25 years of operation.
We acted as soon as we were made aware of the discrepancies identified as a result of these investigations, and we will act swiftly and appropriately if we identify activities that breach our very clear policies and procedures."
Awanuiārangi initiated an investigation after receiving two complaints last December. Native Affairs can confirm it is also investigating its Bachelor of Māori Performing Arts degree.