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Review of Centre: One Year On

Review of Centre: One Year On

The establishment of ‘circuit breaker’ multi-agency teams to attack intractable problems such as truancy marks one development in the Government’s review of the state sector, one year on from the release of the report Review of the Centre, State Services Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

“The teams are trialling a different work approach as a way of getting action on some long-standing and often complex problem areas,” Trevor Mallard said.

“One major aim of the Review of the Centre work is finding new approaches to make sure the public service responds well to people’s needs, and actually achieves results that work in local communities, on the ground.

“One agency cannot do it alone, agencies will have to work together and with communities outside Wellington, to address complex and ever-changing issues.”

Trevor Mallard released a report today to mark the one-year anniversary of the Review of the Centre. The Review of the Centre: One Year On summarises the wide range of work now underway to reshape the state sector to get better results for the public.

Another aspect of the work that is coming on stream will be the establishment of regional networks of related agencies to better integrate policy and service delivery in communities, starting with the first pilot regional network next year.

Trevor Mallard says the Government commissioned the initial review because it wanted to maintain and strengthen the public service and the wider state sector.

“This Government is committed to rebuilding a strong public service and encouraging a more cohesive state sector. The review is not about radical change. Rather we are seeking a plan for significant improvement that can be developed and put in place over a number of years.

“The Review of the Centre: One Year On details this considered and long-term approach to improving New Zealand’s public service.

” The work now underway across the whole of government addresses the review’s key recommendations – achieving better integrated, citizen-focused service delivery, addressing fragmentation and improving alignment across the public service, and enhancing the people and culture of the state sector. The work programme includes: the establishment of the ‘Executive Leadership Programme’ – a new senior leadership and management development programme for senior managers in the public service; strengthening core public service capability, notably through a whole-of-government human resource framework based on good practice and policies, and broadening the State Services Commissioner’s mandate to lead on values and standards; research work on innovation, which will help the public service be more conducive to new ideas and solutions, through finding out “what works”; a focus on finding solutions collaboratively and locally, through the new circuit breaker teams and proposed regional networks; changes to agency accountability and reporting systems to put more emphasis on achieving high level objectives and priorities; and improvements to the governance of Crown entities to improve the clarity of relationships between Ministers, departments and Crown entities which will assist whole-of-government action.

“There will be no one transformational change as a result of this work, but the end result will be that government agencies of the future will have an increased focus on flexibility and working together – and be more in touch with the needs of the public,” Trevor Mallard said.


The latest report “ Review of the Centre: One Year On” is available on www.ssc.govt.nz

Questions and Answers

What was the ‘Review of the Centre’?

This is the title of a report that was published January 2002. The report presents the findings and recommendations of a review of the New Zealand state sector conducted over a four-month period in 2001 by a Ministerial Advisory Group including Public Service chief executives, external commentators and a representative of the Public Service Association. In conducting its review, the Advisory Group considered previous research studies and texts, ran focus groups with frontline staff, commissioned case studies, held hui with Maori staff and consultants, interviewed a range of stakeholders, analysed available statistics, and submitted its work to peer review by commentators in New Zealand and abroad.

Who instigated the Review? The review was established by the Prime Minister, the Minister of State Services and the Minister of Finance in July 2001. The terms of reference for the Review suggested that the Government was looking for improvements that can be implemented over a period of years, The review was not intended to be a complete redesign of the public management system, but it was also required not to shrink from some radical adjustments if they were necessary. The terms of reference make it clear that the Advisory group was to look at the public management system as a whole. They were also clearly intended to be a guide to matters of concern rather than to constrain the Group to just those issues mentioned.

Who was on the Advisory Group? Alan Bollard, (then) Secretary to the Treasury, Paul Cochrane, National Secretary, PSA, Angela Foulkes, independent consultant, Mark Prebble, Chief Executive, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Brenda Tahi, independent consultant and Michael Wintringham, State Services Commissioner (Convenor).

What was the scope of the Review?

The review considered both government departments and Crown entities, given the role that Crown Entities play in service delivery. It did not look in depth at SOEs because issues relating to commercial organisations are quite distinct from those relating to the rest of the sector.

The review suggested a direction for change, rather than specifying all the details or costings of the change.

What was the report’s conclusions? In brief, the Advisory Group concluded that, although the New Zealand public management system provides a sound platform on which to build, it needs to meet more effectively the needs of Ministers and citizens. It proposed improvements in three areas: integrating service delivery across multiple agencies; addressing fragmentation of the State sector and improving its alignment; and improving the systems by which State servants are trained and developed.

Where can I find a copy of the report? www.ssc.govt.nz

What has happened since the Review?

There is a large amount of work now underway across the State sector related to the Review’s recommendations. A progress report, The Review of the Centre: On Year On, summarises the work underway in the various areas. This can be found at www.ssc.govt.nz.

What are “circuit breaker” teams?

The establishment of ‘circuit breaker’ teams as a new way of getting action on some long-standing problem areas was one of the recommendations of the Review of the Centre.

The report recommended a number of initiatives to improve state sector service delivery including “establishing cross-agency ‘circuit breaker’ teams to solve previously intractable problems in service delivery by drawing on front-line knowledge and creativity together with central technical support”.

The circuit breaker teams are based in the regions and draw members from a range of departments. Three teams have initially been set up.

They are tasked with developing new and different solutions to problems, acting as ‘catalysts’ for strategies already approved by the Government, and complementing existing initiatives underway by departments.

The core idea is to take these problems out of the traditional Wellington-based policy process and hand them over to the teams for some original thinking. Possible solutions are discussed with a chief executive reference group (chaired by Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive, Peter Hughes).

What are the three teams working on?

One of the first circuit breaker teams established has been tasked with seeing if state sector organisations working more closely together can assist in reducing the truancy rate. The other two circuit breaker teams are looking at how to more rapidly settle skilled migrants into New Zealand and how to reduce the fragmentation of funding to community groups helping deal with domestic violence.

When will the results be known for this new approach?

A report back is due in early 2003.

How do the Review of the Centre recommendations affect Crown entities?

The Review of the Centre identified two important themes directly relevant to Crown entities: whole-of-government interests and fragmentation. For Crown entities, these means aligning their performance with whole-of-government interests, and, in particular, better connection with related agencies.

What are Crown entities?

Crown entities have various forms - statutory bodies or corporations (such as the Accident Compensation Corporation and the New Zealand Film Commission), companies (such as Radio New Zealand Limited and the nine Crown Research Institutes) and some are sole member entities (such as the Commissioner for Children). There are approximately 2,780 Crown entities in total - about 2,600 School Boards of Trustees, and about 180 Crown entities of other forms.

What is proposed for Crown entities?

To improve coordination and consistency of objectives across the State sector, a clearer relationship between Ministers and Crown entities would improve accountability and lead to improved performance and achievement of the Government's desired outcomes.

A single statute is proposed, the Crown Entities Act, which will contain standard governance and accountability requirements for Crown entities.

Crown entities' statutes would be amended, in line with the following:

most Crown entities are established under their own statutes, and the provisions of those statutes that cover entity functions and entity-specific requirements will be retained; the governance arrangements in empowering legislation will be repealed, and standard governance requirements in the Crown Entities Act will apply. The legislation will put all Crown entities into classes and governance and accountability requirements are aligned with the classes; and for Crown entities that are Crown-owned companies, the provisions of the Companies Act will continue to apply. Crown-owned companies will also be subject to selected provisions of the Crown Entities Act.

Consultation is planned for 2003 with Crown entities on these proposed legislative changes.

What is the Executive Leadership Programme? The State Sector Act 1988 established a Senior Executive Service (SES). This was intended to be a group of up to 500 senior executives who could manage departments and be a unifying force at the most senior levels of the Public Service. The SES was also to cater for the development of future leaders in the public service. Membership of the SES was based on position not necessarily capability. The SES has not been successful in developing a senior leadership talent pool of sufficient quality, quantity and diversity from which future leaders in the Public Service could be appointed. Replacing the SES in 2003 will be the ‘Executive Leadership Programme’ that establishes new senior leadership and management development arrangements for the Public Service that has the support of all Public Service chief executives.

The Executive Leadership Programme is designed to support individuals who aspire to leadership positions in the Public Service. The programme will establish:

A Leadership Capability Profile (LCP) owned by the State Services Commissioner that sets the Public Service-wide standard for developing future leaders; An upgraded Management Development Centre (MDC) with the capability and capacity to provide the development programmes and resources to people in the Executive Leadership Programme. This includes an information base to track opportunities for experience and development progress of those in the Executive Leadership Programme; Programmes to assess the suitability of candidates for entry into the Executive Leadership Programme; and Centrally funded customised leadership development programmes based on individual development plans for those being developed as part of the Executive Leadership Programme.


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