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Dept for Courts and Ministry of Justice to merge

Dept for Courts and Ministry of Justice to merge

The Department for Courts and the Ministry of Justice will be merged to form an expanded Ministry of Justice, State Services Minister Trevor Mallard announced today.

“The merger between the policy and operations functions of the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Courts will strengthen the overall justice sector,” Trevor Mallard said.

“It is an important step in this government’s drive to improve the delivery of government services for New Zealanders.

“The new ministry will be the lead agency for the sector on criminal and public law policy and will identify ways to improve coordination between the agencies that make up the justice sector. “The decision follows a recent justice sector review process. It means that the Ministry of Justice will be the government’s primary adviser on justice policy and criminal and public law. It will also continue to deliver quality services to the courts, and be responsible for collecting and enforcing fines.

“We do not wish to undertake wholesale reform of the public service. But we are always looking for improvements and will take opportunities to make changes when we believe it is timely and appropriate to do so. The justice sector review is part of this ongoing process,” Trevor Mallard said.

The additional merger of the Department of Corrections was considered during the review process. “However, the functions and culture of the Department of Corrections is very different to that of Courts and the Ministry of Justice,” Trevor Mallard said. “Merging the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Courts provides a low risk opportunity to reduce the number of justice agencies, to bring together public law policy and operations and create a single point of contact between the Executive and the Judiciary. “The new ministry will formally take over the functions of the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Courts from 1 October 2003.

“Staff will be retained under their current terms and conditions when the two organisations are merged. The position of chief executive of the expanded Ministry of Justice will be advertised shortly,” Trevor Mallard said.

Sector reviews were suggested in the government’s 2001 evaluation of New Zealand’s public management system, the Review of the Centre. This report’s recommendations included a series of initiatives to address fragmentation and improve alignment of state sector agencies with government objectives.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

How many staff will be in the new ministry? There are about 1890 staff in the Department for Courts, and 180 in the Ministry of Justice. So the new ministry will have close to 2000 staff.

How does that size compare with other departments? Inland Revenue Department approx 4,600 Ministry of Social Development approx 5,200 Child, Youth and Family approx 2,300 Department of Corrections approx 4,300 Ministry of Education approx 1900

Weren’t justice and courts a single entity a few years ago? In about 1995/96 the former Department of Justice was restructured into the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Courts, and Department of Corrections.

How will the merger affect staff at the two departments? Current employees of the Department for Courts will be offered their existing jobs at the same terms and conditions of employment. Courts staff will be asked to formally accept this offer. Collective agreement coverage is also protected. If staff are covered by a collective agreement in the Department for Courts, then they will still be covered after the department is merged into the Ministry of Justice.

Ministry of Justice staff will not need to go through the process of being offered employment. That is because, legally, their employing department is not changing, i.e., the Ministry of Justice will continue in existence, with the Department for Courts being merged with it.

The PSA has been consulted on the merger and will be involved in the merger process.

What is the background to the justice sector review? Sector reviews were suggested in the Government’s 2001 appraisal of New Zealand’s public management system, the Review of the Centre. The Review of the Centre identified four areas for improvement: focus more on results/outcomes; becoming more citizen and community centred; building the culture, people and leadership; and better integration of structures and processes. This Review recommended a series of initiatives to address fragmentation and improve alignment of state sector agencies with government objectives. The full Review report can be found at: www.ssc.govt.nz.

How did the justice review come about? Earlier this year, the government asked the State Services Commission to review the 1995/96 restructuring of the former Department of Justice, into the Ministry of Justice, Department for Courts and Department of Corrections - in light of the current operating environment and the Review recommendations.

The government believed that there were areas in which opportunities for improved justice sector performance should be sought.

As a result of the advice received from this review, the government decided to merge the Department for Courts with the Ministry of Justice.

What other sectors are being reviewed? Other agencies being reviewed are the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ministry of Youth Affairs. These reviews were announced in March.

What is the purpose of the reviews? The government is always seeking ways to improve the performance of the state sector. This work programme follows on from the government decision in its last term to improve the performance of the social sector by merging the Department of Work and Income with the Ministry for Social Policy.

The purpose of the sector reviews is to consider ways to improve whole-of-government effectiveness to achieve results for New Zealanders. The reviews are intended to increase alignment between government agencies and reduce fragmentation where this is a barrier to improving performance.

How are ministers involved? The sector reviews work programme requires close liaison between groups of ministers.

A ministerial team, comprising the Minister of Finance, Minister of State Services and Minister of Labour, supports the programme as a whole, and also consults with individuals or groups of ministers as required on specific initiatives.

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