October 22, 2021

NZQA loses court case against PTE for ‘falsifying’ results

By: Gurbir Singh

An Auckland court has dismissed NZQA’s criminal charges against a deregistered private training provider and its director for allegedly falsifying results.

NZQA had filed criminal prosecution proceedings against International College of New Zealand Limited (ICNZ), and its director, Chirag Solanki in February 2018.

Those allegations were reportedly denied by ICNZ and Solanki from the onset.

In the decision delivered on 27 October 2020, Auckland District Court Judge Henwood remarked “…the case is that the tutors entered the results having the requisite mens rea, but the evidence is very unclear on that point and the prosecution must fail. Charges are dismissed.”

The 21 charges under the Education Act 1989 were for “entering results on multiple Records of Achievement, either knowing or being reckless as to whether the results had the effect of falsifying those records.”

NZQA has expressed ‘disappointment’ at the unsuccessful outcome in court, but was pleased that court acknowledged that the acts constituting the offences did occur.

In an exclusive statement to NewsViews, NZQA Chief Executive, Dr Grant Klinkum said “While this prosecution was unsuccessful, NZQA considers it put forward a strong case. We will continue to do what is required to raise quality standards across the tertiary education sector.”

NZQA CEO, Dr Grant Klinkum

The charges were dismissed, according to NZQA, on the basis that “the Court could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that knowledge or recklessness could be attributed to the individual who entered the student results on to Records of Achievement.”

Despite the unsuccessful outcome, NZQA was, however, pleased the court accepted the impartiality of NZQA’s moderators and acknowledged that the “acts constituting the offences did occur and that ICNZ was in disarray.

“In one example, the Court accepted that of a sample of 59 student assessments awarded ‘Achieved’ grades by ICNZ, 56 should have been awarded ‘Not Achieved’, a failure rate of 95%.”

During the trial, the court accepted ICNZ director, Chirag Solanki was not the one who had ‘entered the actual records’.

”… while he (Solanki) tried hard to distance himself from the academic side of the business and it is true that he was not the one that entered the actual records, he may have been able to shed some light as to who in the company would have done that. But he was not questioned closely about that matter…”Judge Henwood said.

ICNZ & it’s director, Chirag Solanki against whom case has been dismissed

Meanwhile, on behalf of the accused, barrister Shane Elliott has welcomed Solanki’s “vindication”.

In a statement to NewsViews, Elliott says “This prosecution have taken an enormous toll on Solanki and his family…(and) destroyed Solanki’s business and tarnished his professional reputation beyond a point that may ever be able to be remedied.  

“He and his family have been forced to carry this millstone around their necks for almost three years at great financial and social cost before only finally, now, being vindicated.  With this decision they can now try to begin putting their life back together.”

NZQA withdrew ICNZ’s accreditation to deliver these programmes in mid-2017.