Part 1: Introduction

Co-ordination and Collaboration in the Criminal Justice Sector.

Why Are Co-ordination and Collaboration Important?

As in most countries, New Zealand’s public sector is made up of a large number of different agencies, many with their own empowering legislation, and all with their own mandates. Each is assigned responsibility for delivering specific products or services. Their defined roles and responsibilities help to promote clear accountability for different tasks within the machinery of government.

However, no government agency operates in isolation. The activities of one agency can affect others in a number of ways. Even so, there is a risk that individual agencies have little incentive to work together. There are strong incentives for them to focus on activities within the boundaries of their specific legislation, and on the objectives agreed with their Ministers.

Nevertheless, for the Government to achieve its outcomes, government departments, Crown entities and other public bodies need to work together. Effective public management relies on the willingness of the many arms of government to co-operate in the interests of the Government and the public.

Where agencies do not co-operate and collaborate, there can be a number of consequences:

  • They may duplicate their efforts, wasting scarce public resources.
  • Where one agency develops a policy without consulting another agency that has a legitimate interest, the Government may make decisions without taking full account of the impacts of all policy options, and the decisions may have unanticipated consequences.
  • Where agencies apply policies without considering impacts on other agencies, the policies may prove unworkable, because they can create conflicts between different sets of objectives.
  • Services to the public may be delivered in a fragmented way, creating unnecessary costs, confusion and inconvenience.

Collaboration brings benefits including:

  • opportunities for agencies to work together on a given project at an early stage, avoiding duplication and potentially saving costs and time;
  • the ability to approach issues from a broad, sector-wide perspective; and
  • the potential to develop innovative, cross-agency solutions to shared problems.

Both overseas and in New Zealand, governments have increasingly recognised the need for public agencies to work together. For example, the UK Government has promoted collaboration between the different arms of government as part of its Modernising Government1 initiative. In November 2001, the Report of the Advisory Group on the Review of the Centre2 identified fragmentation as one of the most important issues facing the public management system. It cited consequences of fragmentation, including:

  • more complicated service delivery;
  • higher costs of doing business;
  • blurred accountability;
  • difficulties in aligning agency positions and priorities; and
  • under-utilisation of skills.

Why Did We Decide to Study the Criminal Justice Sector?

There are a number of sectors in which it is especially important that government agencies work together. We chose to study the criminal justice sector because:

  • the sector is relatively well defined and self-contained;
  • there is a large amount of information available about the sector; and
  • functional relationships between the sector agencies are generally well understood.

In addition, agencies within the criminal justice sector often share the same clients. Offenders who are arrested and charged by the Police may pass through the other two operational agencies – the Department for Courts and the Department of Corrections. Social service agencies are also likely to become involved in managing some offender groups.

Other countries have recognised poor collaboration and inadequate consultation as barriers to the effective operation of their criminal justice agencies. In some cases, they have put in place institutional arrangements to facilitate and oversee the activities of the sector. For example, in the United States, some States have established co-ordinating councils to promote collaboration and consultation among agencies with criminal justice responsibilities. The UK Government established a Criminal Justice Integration Unit in July 1998, to “ensure better integration of information systems, IT and related business processes across the criminal justice system”. This Unit was given the responsibility for co-ordinating specific activities across the criminal justice sector, including strategic planning and reporting performance.

The Ministry of Justice drew attention to issues of sectoral leadership and co-ordination in its 2002 Briefing to Incoming Ministers3, identifying barriers to effective co-ordination and the achievement of outcomes, and noting the importance of maintaining constructive relationships between agencies.

We considered that all these factors made the criminal justice sector a suitable system for examination.

What Is the Criminal Justice Sector?

The criminal justice sector is a complex network of discrete but procedurally connected agencies. The current structure is partly the product of the Government’s decision in 1995 to disestablish the then Department of Justice and create a number of separate agencies, each with its own focus and responsibilities for different aspects of the criminal justice system. The Police have always been a separate agency.

The four core criminal justice agencies are the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry), the Police, the Department for Courts, and the Department of Corrections.4 The last three are referred to in this report as “the operational agencies”. The four core agencies are currently the responsibility of seven Ministers or Associate Ministers, and the agency roles are described in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1
Roles of the Core Criminal Justice Agencies

Ministry of Justice
Primarily a policy agency that provides strategic and policy advice for the sector.

Responsible for enforcing criminal law, delivery of road safety services, responding to calls involving safety of persons and property, and keeping the peace.

Department for Courts
Responsible for providing administrative and judicial support services to facilitate public access to the Courts and judicial decision-making.

Department of Corrections
Responsible for the management of custodial (imprisonment) and non-custodial (supervision, community work and parole) sentences.

Other agencies in the criminal justice sector are the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Law Office and two Crown entities – the Legal Services Agency and the Law Commission. Social service agencies, such as the Ministries of Social Development, Māori Development (Te Puni Kōkiri), Health and Education, and the Department of Child, Youth and Family are also heavily involved in the sector.

In May 2003 the Government announced that the Department for Courts and the Ministry of Justice would merge to form an expanded Ministry. The new Ministry formally took over the functions of the current Ministry of Justice and Department for Courts from 1 October 2003.

What Were the Objectives of Our Audit?

We set out to examine the way in which the four core agencies were working together to achieve the Government’s goals for the criminal justice sector. In particular, we sought to examine:

  • how the Ministry was discharging its responsibilities for co-ordinating policy advice and other strategic activities across the sector;
  • how the Ministry and other agencies managed their relationships; and
  • how all agencies were consulting on plans, programme implementation, and the development of shared outcomes.

The performance of the criminal justice sector relies heavily on the willingness and ability of individual sector agencies to co-ordinate their efforts and work together – a shared culture of collaboration. Underpinning any effective system of collaboration are those institutional arrangements that facilitate ongoing relationships between the agencies and the staff who work in them. An important objective of our audit was to identify good practice, as well as areas for improvement in co-ordination and collaboration between agencies in the criminal justice sector, drawing on observed practices in each of the agencies and across the sector.

Many other parts of government face similar challenges in preserving agency accountabilities while working collaboratively. They need to:

  • manage tensions and conflicts;
  • reconcile priorities;
  • balance their own interests and goals with those of other agencies; and
  • maintain open and constructive dialogue.

We sought to use the findings from our examination of relationships and arrangements in the criminal justice sector, and the results of our analysis, to illustrate best practice and develop principles for meeting these requirements that can be used for the benefit of the public sector as a whole.

How Did We Carry Out the Audit?

We examined the policies and processes for sectoral co-ordination between the criminal justice sector agencies, focusing on four key areas:

  • strategic direction;
  • policy development;
  • information systems; and
  • responsiveness to Māori.

Our expectations were that:

  • criminal justice sector agencies would be working together to achieve the Government’s goals;
  • there would be clear co-ordination strategies and mechanisms in place to facilitate the co-ordination of activities within the sector;
  • criminal justice sector agencies would work towards achieving a set of common outcomes; and
  • there would be clear agreement as to leadership in the sector.

We did not examine how criminal justice agencies co-ordinate their efforts and consult on day-to-day operational activities in relation to the management of individual clients and offenders.

We interviewed Chief Executives and senior officials from the Ministry, the Police, the Department of Corrections and the Department for Courts. We also interviewed:

  • members of the judiciary;
  • officials from Te Puni Kōkiri; and
  • officials from the State Services Commission and the Treasury.

For each of the core criminal justice agencies, we examined corporate documentation, including internal policies relevant to strategic planning, policy development, information systems and responsiveness to Māori. To assess the nature of relationships between the agencies, we examined inter-agency agreements, such as protocols and memoranda of understanding, and inter-agency communications.

We undertook a specific review of the development of the legislation that culminated in the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002. Our review involved interviews with staff from the Ministry, the Department for Courts, the Department of Corrections and the Police. We also undertook a comprehensive file review of the relevant files from those four agencies.

Structure of Our Report

The remainder of our report is divided into six parts.

Part Two summarises our key findings and recommendations for the sector.

Parts Three, Four, Five, and Six examine relationships and arrangements between the criminal justice agencies in the four key areas that formed the focus of our examination – strategic direction; policy development; information systems; and responding to Māori.

Part Seven sets out our findings from our review of the development and implementation of the Sentencing and Parole Acts.

1: Modernising Government, Cm 4310, March 1999.

2: Report of the Advisory Group on the Review of the Centre, Presented to the Ministers of State Services and Finance, November 2001.


4: Criminal justice agencies may also interact with other sectors. For example, the Police also operate in the transport, national security, and emergency management sectors.

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