Part 1: Introduction

The State Services Commission: Capability to Recognise and Address Issues for Māori.

What Is “Capability”?

The term “capability” is much used in the Public Service, but open to interpretation. For the purposes of this audit, we have taken the term to refer to the ability of a government department to obtain the combinations of people, resources, systems and structures necessary to provide goods and services efficiently now and in the future, in accordance with the Government’s functions.1

Of more specific concern in this report is what we generally refer to as “Māori capability” – the capability that a department requires in order to effectively provide goods and services (including policy advice) in relation to Māori.

What Was the Objective of Our Audit?

In carrying out this audit, our objective was to assess the capability of the State Services Commission (the Commission) to recognise and address issues for Māori in the advice it provides to other departments and Ministers.

The role of the Commission in giving effect to the Commissioner’s departmental and chief executive performance review functions, as set out in section 6(b) of the State Sector Act 1988, is to provide assurance to the Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department’s capability on Māori responsiveness.

Why Is Capability Important?

Policy Goals Are Set …

Capability is central to results. The Government has clear expectations of the Public Service in relation to the results it wants to achieve for Māori. The Government influences Māori outcomes through its policies and funding, and the way that public sector entities purchase and deliver services.

In October 2002, the Government published a set of high-level goals to help public sector entities focus their efforts in accordance with its overall policy intentions. These goals include –

  • Reduce Inequalities in Health, Education, Employment and Housing.
    Reduce the inequalities that currently divide our society … by supporting and strengthening the capacity of Māori and Pacific Island communities.
  • Strengthen National Identity and Uphold the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
    Celebrate our identity in the world as people … who value our diverse cultural heritage; and resolve at all times to endeavour to uphold the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.2

… and Departments Work Towards Those Policy Goals

Each departmental chief executive is responsible for their department’s achievement of results. This responsibility includes ensuring that their organisation addresses issues for Māori in the course of its day-to-day activities. Building organisational capability – including capability to be effective for Māori – is a key dimension of departmental performance.

Departments have varying degrees of capability to have a positive impact on outcomes for Māori – as clients or stakeholders. Meeting the Government’s goals for Māori is a significant challenge for many departments.

How Does the Commission Fit In?

Under the State Sector Act 1988, the State Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) is a statutory office. The person holding the office of Commissioner has two sets of responsibilities under the State Sector Act:

  • first, in relation to the Public Service, as Commissioner; and
  • secondly, as Chief Executive of the Public Service department that helps the Commissioner carry out his functions – the Commission.

The Responsibilities of the Commissioner in Relation to the Public Service

Under section 6 of the State Sector Act, the functions of the Commissioner in relation to the Public Service include:

  • reviewing the machinery of government – including the allocation of functions between government departments, whether new departments need to be created and the amalgamation and abolition of existing departments, and co-ordinating the activities of departments;
  • reviewing the performance of each department and its chief executive;
  • appointing chief executives and negotiating their conditions of employment;
  • negotiating conditions of employment of employees in the Public Service;
  • promoting and developing personnel policies and standards of personnel administration for the Public Service;
  • promoting, developing and monitoring equal employment opportunities policies and programmes for the Public Service;
  • providing advice on the training and career development of staff; and
  • providing advice on management systems, structures, and organisations.

The Commission exists to support the Commissioner in discharging the statutory functions and responsibilities outlined above. A part of this role involves the Commission providing assurance to the Government on the strategy, capability and performance of Government departments – including in relation to departments’ Māori capability.

The assurance role provides an opportunity for the Commission to promote better practice, thereby providing chief executives and their departments with the opportunity to enhance their Māori capability. The capability of the Commission to perform both its overall role, and its role in relation to Māori is vital to the Government’s achievement of its strategic goals.

The Responsibilities of the Commissioner as Chief Executive of the Commission

Section 32 of the State Sector Act sets out the principal responsibilities of Public Service chief executives. As a chief executive, the Commissioner is responsible to the Minister of State Services for:

  • carrying out the functions and duties of the Commission (including those imposed by Act or by the policies of the Government);
  • tendering advice to the Minister of State Services and other Ministers of the Crown;
  • the general conduct of the Commission; and
  • the efficient, effective, and economical management of the activities of the Commission.

In this regard, the Commissioner is responsible for ensuring that the Commission has the means to deliver on its role of supporting the Commissioner.

How Did We Carry Out the Audit?

We were interested in the Commission’s Māori capability in relation to the following specific activities:

  • strategic planning and human resources management processes;
  • advising departments on strategy, capability, and performance;
  • providing assurance to the Government on departmental Māori capability; and
  • developing policy advice – using the Senior Leadership and Management Development strategy project as an example.

We also considered how the Commission was placed to fulfil the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) responsibilities in respect of the Public Service under the State Sector Act, and, in particular, those responsibilities that relate to Māori.

The first step in the audit was to reach an understanding of the Commission’s role as it related to Māori. This understanding formed the basis for an examination of the different functions and activities through:

  • interviews with Deputy Commissioners, Branch Managers and their staff; and
  • reviews of accountability and other relevant documents.

We also asked the chief executives of six government departments for their views on their relationship with the Commission, and about aspects of the Commission’s assessment of departmental capability, with particular reference to the management of issues for Māori.

We summarised our findings in a series of papers that we discussed with the Commission and used as the basis for this report.

We did not examine the processes followed by the State Services Commissioner in the appointment and re-appointment of departmental chief executives, although we did consider how the Commission might reflect any advice regarding departments’ performance for Māori in chief executives’ performance reviews.

Neither did we examine the capability of the Commission’s Treaty Information Unit – this unit was in the process of being established when we undertook the audit.

1: This definition has been adapted from that promulgated by the State Services Commission to departments as part of the Managing for Outcomes initiative, and applied to the introduction of Statements of Intent.

2: Key Goals To Guide The Public Sector In Achieving Sustainable Development, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, October 2002.

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