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State sector overhaul a huge opportunity

The Government’s proposal to unify the entire state sector could deliver enormous economic and social benefits – if done properly.

Accenture New Zealand managing director Justin Gray says the overhaul, which would see agencies move away from working as single departments, will be a big task but well worth the effort.

“There’s scope for the delivery of enormous cost efficiencies and, even more importantly, the delivery of ‘joined-up’ services that better meet the needs of New Zealand citizens which are agile enough to quickly meet shifting priorities.

“It’s a very bold plan which, if implemented well, would put New Zealand at the forefront of global efforts to streamline state services. There is a global trend towards integrated and citizen-centric digital government models and New Zealand’s plan to take this collaborative approach even further is really exciting.”

The proposal would see the State Sector Act repealed and replaced with a new Public Service Act. While ministries would still undertake routine activities, a series of boards made up of agency heads would be set up. These would be accountable to a single minister and receive direct budget allocations for specific efforts, such as reducing child poverty, improving mental health services and undertaking initiatives to support New Zealand’s climate change efforts.

“Breaking down the silos inherent in our current system is vital if we’re to develop and deliver public services that are designed to meet the needs of a modern New Zealand,” says Gray.

“Our various public sector organisations have challenging responsibilities but the current structure doesn’t easily allow for greater collaboration and efficiency between them. In some instances it’s impossible. Any new structure must easily allow agencies working on inter-connected initiatives to collaborate to get better results faster.”

Establishing enhanced governance at the highest level is an important component of the proposal but Gray says the real test will be incorporating frontline agency staff.

“That’s where the implementation of the initiative will ultimately succeed or fail. While the plan is to deploy public servants as required across the system, it will be the ability of frontline staff to actually deliver services to citizens that it will be judged on.

“As well as making sure the right infrastructure is in place, addressing agency culture and ways of working will be the foundation for success. There’s also a major requirement to have robust data security and transparency processes in place. Ease of storing, accessing and sharing citizens’ personal data is what will make this plan possible, so people will need to have absolute confidence in the system.”

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