Observations From Our Central Government Work In 2022/23
Our report Observations from our central government work in 2022/23 was presented to the House of Representatives today.
The Government’s financial statements remain world-leading in many respects. They are prepared on a timely basis, to appropriate accounting standards, and present the information in a manner that is fair and materially correct. This is no small achievement, especially when major reforms and severe weather events made their preparation more complex.
If good financial reporting was all that was required, we would have few concerns about public trust in the public sector.
The public and Parliament can be more interested in the outcomes public organisations seek to achieve, the initiatives that will deliver those outcomes, the public money spent on them, what has been achieved, value for money, and the work done to sustain and protect the resources that organisations are the stewards of. But these questions are rarely answered in the public reporting provided by public organisations. There are few other areas of our lives where we would accept paying for services with no comprehensive understanding of what we received for the money we spent.
Recent changes to parliamentary processes will, however, strengthen the ability of Parliament to review public sector performance and undertake more effective scrutiny of the Government. We welcome these changes and look forward to supporting select committees with insights and observations from our audits and other work.
Given recent weather events, the public and Parliament may well want to know whether the public sector is adequately prepared to manage future emergencies. Our work on Covid-19 reiterated a message from the World Health Organisation that government responses to crises are often characterised by “panic then forget”. There are many lessons from Covid-19 that the public sector needs to learn from and embed in how it operates. The public rightfully expects the public sector to be prepared for the next crisis.
The report also highlights other issues affecting public trust, some of which we have raised often in recent years. These include the management of conflicts of interest, lower trust in the public sector from Māori, and the unpaid liability for incorrectly calculated holiday pay. For the health sector, the holiday pay liability was more than $2 billion at 30 June 2023. Although some payments to staff have begun to be made, this has taken many years. More attention and urgency should have been given to correctly paying staff their legal entitlements.
A media kit is also available with this report.
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