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Fact Sheet: Central Agencies (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, State Services Commission and Treasury) ReviewEXG Reviews Information Release

Published 20 Dec 2006

Summary of key facts relating to the Central Agencies EXG review released in December 2006.

What was the main purpose of the review?

To identify practical ways in which the central agencies can better support performance in the State sector by investigating:

  • what is meant by good performance - at the system, sector and agency level; what drives or detracts from performance; and how it can be encouraged and better supported; and
  • what the central agencies, collectively and individually, do now to promote good performance, and what they can do better in the future.

What were the main findings of the review?

The review team found overall that New Zealand has a well-performing State sector, with some areas of real excellence. The legislative framework and basic structures are ‘fit for purpose’ and capable of responding to the challenges that lie ahead with continued adaptation and improvement. They also found that performance is uneven, and that the central agencies are not contributing to a high level of State sector performance as well as they might. Specifically, central agencies need to:

  • develop an agreed definition of high performance in the State sector and what drives or constrains it, to be as effective as possible in monitoring and supporting high performance
  • be clearer around their respective roles and responsibilities for improving performance
  • be involved in performance matters before they manifest as significant problems in departments
  • monitor departmental performance better, providing ministers better evidence regarding the desired improvements in high priority areas
  • focus more on performance at the sector or government-wide levels, not just individual agencies and programmes
  • better integrate and/or coordinate their performance related work to ensure they are adding as much value collectively as they can
  • take more of a client perspective and focus more on the outcomes and results being achieved than the processes agencies use to achieve them.

What changes will be made as a result? What will be the benefits?

The chief executives of the central agencies have accepted the findings of the report, and are already taking action on it, including:

  • agreeing on a joint central agency definition of high performance which will be used to gauge performance across the state sector
  • creating a strong focus on the "vital few" areas of performance that really matter - government's strategic priorities, major investments and emerging and long-term issues that will impact on performance in the future
  • organising strong, coordinated leadership to promote performance improvements in these "vital few" performance areas
  • coordinating their collective and respective performance efforts, including more systematic, structured and joint follow-through on performance issues and joint reporting to ministers in the ‘vital few’ performance areas
  • prioritising the identification and usage of performance information to inform ministers regarding state sector performance
  • joining up central agency work to support crown entities, sector leaders and agencies monitoring crown entities; and
  • improving reporting to ministers on the performance of the state sector, in particular with regard to progress on issues that Ministers have signalled as high priorities.

These initiatives are set out in the letter to ministers from central agencies Chief Executives dated 14 September 2006 (and included in today’s release).

In what areas did the review confirm that current practice is appropriate and providing value-for-money?

The review recognised that much of what central agencies currently do in their separate roles is highly effective and well-regarded. Its focus is on working better together to extract the best possible value from these specialist insights and expertise.

What are the next steps? (And when will they happen?)

The first actions to give effect to the review's findings are set out in the chief executives' letter to ministers, and work to achieve these targets and milestones is well in hand.

The newly appointed Deputy State Services Commissioner will lead this work, with the support of the Deputy Secretary, Central Agencies at the Treasury and the Deputy Secretary, Policy Advisory Group in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.


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