Millions of taxpayers’ dollars are at stake with tertiary providers having to rely on an honesty box system when accepting enrolments from people wanting to take up the Government’s fees-free policy, National’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“This poorly designed and rushed policy is producing a bureaucratic nightmare which will lead to plenty of waste.

“About half of the 74,000 applicants, including the many new New Zealanders who have come here after some studies overseas, would simply have to sign a statutory declaration to say they have done less than half a fulltime year of tertiary education or training to qualify for the fees-free policy.

“It will take a university degree in itself to work out what courses taken overseas might tip an applicant over the threshold.

“In the meantime, there’s no simple way of checking the veracity of claims. The Government doesn’t hold any records of tertiary study in New Zealand prior to 2003 and has no way at all of checking international studies.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins said himself that the Government will have to rely on people being honest. And while most people are honest, there will always be those who will take advantage of such yawning gaps in the system.

“It’s simply not good enough that the Government has left this $2.8 billion policy wide open to this kind of abuse.

“With so much investment required to keep our tertiary sector internationally competitive, it’s very frustrating to see such waste and poorly targeted spending.

“The Government rushed the policy through with little thought for the details. It will be on them to clean up the inevitable mess."

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