By Sean Martin
The board of trustees at a Bay of Plenty school has been criticised for approving the use of school funds to pay traffic fines, a Sky television subscription and a trip to the Cook Islands.
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Kura Kokiri's board also paid for shipping clothing and household items overseas and repairs and new tyres for vehicles not owned by the school, according to an audit in 2009.
"This spending shows a lack of probity on the part of the board," said the report from the Auditor-General's office looking at audits of almost 2500 schools.
The Maori immersion school at Papamoa was one of eight schools highlighted in the report over concerns with probity, prudence or waste.
The board at Ferguson Intermediate in Otara, criticised over a lack of probity in 2009, again attracted the report's ire for spending $68,000 on overseas trips, domestic travel, accommodation, hospitality and gifts which contributed to the school posting an operating deficit.
Two other school boards approved payments of $350,000 and $100,000 towards the cost of a new sports centre and a hall without the approval of the Ministry of Education.
While the vast majority of schools were financially sound, around 45 had a deficit which the report says is large enough to be serious and could affect the school's ability to pay its bills.
"These schools are aware of their financial position and are taking action to resolve their difficulties," it says, adding that some may now be no longer in serious financial strife.
Presented to parliament on Wednesday, the report found multiple breaches of the Education Act including schools borrowing more than they were legally permitted, giving loans to staff, conflicts of interest, paying staff directly and investing money in non-approved organisations.
Among them was the financially troubled Northland College which borrowed $273,750 more than is permitted and bought $436,000 worth of shares, both without ministry approval.