Part 4: Departmental Capability Assurance

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


In respect of “Māori capability assurance”, the Commission’s role is to provide assurance to the Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department‘s capability to address issues that have an impact on Māori – first as treaty partners and citizens, and secondly as Public Service employees who identify as Māori.

In giving effect to the Commissioner’s departmental and chief executive performance review functions, the role includes the Commission providing assurance to the Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department’s capability on Māori responsiveness – and use it to good effect.

The Commission does not tell departments how they should formulate their approach to responsiveness to Māori – this is the responsibility of the departments themselves. Rather, the Commission’s capability should be sufficient to allow it to make judgements (and inform Ministers) about how well departments are doing, and how they could do better. When discussing the Commission’s capability assurance role throughout this Part, we do so in the context of the Commission’s management and review of chief executive and departmental performance.

Therefore, in this Part we consider:

  • the role of the Commission in providing assurance on departments’ capability to respond to Māori; and
  • how well the Deputy Commissioner Teams (DC Teams) carry out that role.

What We Did

We examined:

  • how the DC Teams were set up to perform the role of providing assurance on departmental Māori capability; and
  • what chief executives thought of the way DC Teams carried out that role.

The first part of our examination involved asking the DC Teams how they:

  • identified departments in their sector that have at present, or may have in future, significant issues that have an impact on Māori;
  • considered departmental capability to respond to Māori (where appropriate); and
  • assessed departments’ Māori capability using internal and external resources.

To establish how the Commission’s Māori capability assurance role worked in practice, we also asked the DC Teams how they provided capability assurance for six departments:

  • Department of Child, Youth and Family Services;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Conservation;
  • Ministry of Education;
  • Ministry of Health; and
  • Te Puni Kōkiri.

We selected the departments on the basis that:

  • Māori are significant stakeholders;
  • all except for the Department of Conservation form part of a group of 13 departments that are required to include a section in their annual reports on their department’s contribution to reducing inequalities for disadvantaged groups; and
  • the approach enabled us to look at the activity of each team in detail, because each of the four teams dealt with one or more of the departments.

To complement this approach, we sought information about the systems, policies and procedures relating to the DC Teams’ capability assurance role. We also considered the core competencies expected of DC Team members, and how the Commission addressed those expectations through its employment and human resources management practices.

The second part of our examination involved asking the chief executives of the six departments for their views on the DC Teams’ Māori capability assurance services. Our discussions enabled us to compare the ways in which different DC Teams interacted with departments, and to assess how each approach was perceived.

We asked the six chief executives whether they:

  • understood clearly the Commission’s capability assurance role, and were comfortable with the engagement of DC Teams;
  • considered that Deputy Commissioners and the teams understood their department’s business, including the impacts of third-party activities and other factors on the capability and performance of their departments;
  • received useful feedback from the Commission on Māori capability issues, and considered that interactions with the DC Teams added value; and
  • knew what criteria the Commission used to assess capability for Māori in relation to their own and their department’s performance.

Throughout the audit, we sought and considered relevant documentation that demonstrated the nature of the interaction between the DC Teams and departments.

The Deputy Commissioner Approach

The Deputy Commissioner approach was introduced in June 2000. At that time, the Commissioner was concerned that he was personally responsible for a disproportionate number of the Commission’s external relationships. Because of the associated workload, the Commission could not take advantage of opportunities presenting themselves for an integrated, system-wide approach.

The Deputy Commissioner approach was introduced as a means of addressing this issue. Following an independent review of the approach in 2001, the concept was expanded. There are now four Deputy Commissioners in all, each leading a team of 3-4 staff.

What is the Role of the Deputy Commissioner Teams?

The four Deputy Commissioners and their Teams lead, on behalf of the Commissioner, the performance assessments of chief executives and their departments. The role of DC Teams is to help improve Public Service management through a focus on the outcomes desired by the Government.

The focus of the teams is on:

  • Strategy – improving the quality of strategic thinking and planning in the Public Service so that it responds well to the Government’s longer-term priorities.
  • Results – shifting the emphasis from producing outputs to ensuring that the things the Public Service does produce the end results that the Government is seeking, in a way that balances innovation and risk management.
  • Capability – ensuring that the Public Service can plan, manage, and deliver policy, services, and regulatory activities to standards expected by the Government and citizens. The management of departments must identify the capability they need, establish it, apply it effectively, and ensure that it is maintained over time.

DC Teams can facilitate change in two ways:

  • assessing – through the focus of their ongoing and annual review processes; and
  • assisting – providing support and guidance to management (although decision-making remains with departments).

How Do the DC Teams Carry Out their Role?

The DC Teams seek to work closely with chief executives and departments. These relationships with chief executives and individual departments are tailored to fit the departments’ particular characteristics.

Departments are allocated between the four DC Teams broadly along the following lines:

  • DC1 – departments generally associated with the growth part of the economy – such as the Ministry of Economic Development.
  • DC2 – mainly justice sector departments, including the Police. The allocation also includes the Foreign Affairs and Defence sectors, and agencies associated with Parliament.
  • DC3 – mainly social development and population departments – such as the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.
  • DC4 – mainly departments associated with the primary production, transport, border control, and infrastructure sectors.

Within DC Teams, members are responsible for managing the day-to-day interaction with the allocated portfolio of departments. While the above allocation guides the daily work of the DC Teams, there is flexibility in the approach, and reallocation of departments between DC Teams may occur depending on particular needs that arise. Job descriptions for team members are generic – specifying the core competencies required of the DC Team member role – and are not tailored to specific departments.

DC Team members are expected to visit departments to discuss and gather information relating to departmental performance. The style of engagement is more conversational and less reliant on the exchange of documentation.

A DC Team works with a department in several ways:

  • The “assess/assist” aspect of the DC Team’s role may involve –
    • providing guidance in the preparation of Statements of Intent;
    • providing assurance or guidance about strategic planning, the department’s capability or performance; and
    • contributing to or leading a formal review of a department or sector.
  • The Deputy Commissioner meets the chief executive regularly as part of a year-round “performance management” relationship. The frequency of the meetings is dependent on the complexity of the issues facing the chief executive and the department.
  • The DC Team leads the chief executive’s annual performance review (see the Appendix on pages 96-97).
  • The DC Team will also undertake a formal strategic review of the department when a new chief executive is to be appointed.

The DC Teams see their relationship with departments as being based on “demonstrated value and earned respect”, rather than relying on the Commissioner’s mandate under the State Sector Act.

The manner in which a DC Team member will work with a department is sometimes described in an engagement plan put together in consultation with the department concerned. This may specify expectations of each agency and areas of common interest. The nature of any such plan differs according to the department.

How Were the Deputy Commissioner Teams Set Up?

In paragraphs 4.26-4.49 we outline what we found from the first part of our examination. It includes material arising from our discussions with the DC Teams, and is grouped into the following areas:

  • getting the right people for the job;
  • identifying which departments may have significant Māori interests;
  • working with departments regarding their capability to respond to Māori;
  • the chief executive performance review process and Māori capability; and
  • sharing skills and obtaining external assistance.

Getting the Right People for the Job

In the position description for DC Team members, the Commission places a premium on, among other things, understanding of cultural diversity. In addition, knowledge and understanding of the Māori culture and the Treaty, including its historical, legal, social and economic significance to the work of the Commission and the State sector, is an area of core technical knowledge and skill that is a minimum requirement for all positions in the Commission.

In 2000, the Deputy Commissioner setting up the first DC Team had discussions with the Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri, and formed the view that the Commission needed to build an ability to lead a response to the growing diversity of New Zealand society. In recruiting staff for the first DC Team, the Deputy Commissioner ran two concurrent recruitment searches – one of which had specific access to Māori networks so as to identify appropriate candidates. To this end, the Commission contracted a consultancy firm for 8-10 weeks, that specialised in Public Service issues for Māori.

This process was repeated when appointing members for the other three DC Teams. Team members with links into Māori Public Service networks also assisted with this process. As part of the appointment process, the Commission had a Māori interviewer on appointment panels as appropriate.

Identifying Departments With Significant Māori Interests

When identifying departments with significant Māori interests, the Commission is able to refer to those areas listed in the Ministry of Māori Development Act (see paragraph 2.23 and footnote 3 on page 28 ), those with a very high Māori “client population”, and those whose legislation specifically refers to the Treaty of Waitangi.

In August 2002, the Deputy Commissioners assessed the impact of Public Service departments failing to perform their role, and how likely performance issues were to arise. While this assessment was not based on departments’ capability to achieve results for Māori, several departments with responsibilities for reducing inequalities were recognised as facing challenges. A further assessment of this nature was carried out in October 2003.

The Commission also undertook an analysis of issues arising from chief executive performance reviews in April 2003. Māori responsiveness was consistently seen as a challenge for departments.

The trial analytical tool (see paragraphs 3.38-3.39 on page 40) is being tested by the Commission in its work with some departments. The Commission intends to analyse the results of this trial to establish the tool’s effectiveness.

Working With Departments Regarding Their Capability to Respond to Māori

Working with departments on Māori capability can occur within the context of the ongoing performance management relationship between the DC Teams and departments:

  • Deputy Commissioners raise issues about a department’s capability for Māori, should this be required, in their general relationship management meetings with chief executives. It is not a set agenda item, and may be raised in the context of wider discussion of capability issues.
  • In the context of “Managing for Outcomes”, it is likely that issues of Māori capability will be raised. The extent of engagement varies according to the department and its relationship with Māori, and tends to involve discussion rather than the exchange of documentation.
  • The DC Team members we spoke to also worked with departments on other strategic and management issues relating to Māori. This could involve, for example –
    • raising issues of concern to stakeholders; or
    • reviewing regular reports from a department, and providing written advice on issues arising in those reports (including issues relating to Māori).

An informal approach may be taken to raising issues with departments in the first instance. The Commission says that this is to support a quality and sustainable relationship, without threat.

The Chief Executive Performance Review Process and Māori Capability

A second opportunity for DC Teams to engage with departments on Māori capability matters occurs during the annual, formal chief executive performance review (the CE review). The CE review requires a large amount of effort on the part of the Deputy Commissioner and the DC Team members. The review process, and the involvement of DC Team members in it, is well documented.

As part of the CE review outlined in the Appendix on pages 96-97, DC Teams may:

  • Identify whether the department faces significant issues in respect of Māori by, for example, using information from –
    • the relationship between the DC Team, the chief executive and the department over the previous year (through the performance management relationship);
    • the previous performance review;
    • the department’s Statement of Intent and Annual Report; and
    • key reports such as the New Zealand Census, the Ministry of Social Development social indicators report, and relevant audit or agency review reports by Te Puni Kōkiri.
  • Consider whether the views of Māori stakeholders are being sought, or should be sought, as part of the review process. For example, the DC Team could identify further Māori stakeholders to consult.
  • Prepare briefing papers for the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner for their discussions with Ministers on the performance of the chief executive. Where raised in earlier discussion, issues in relation to Māori capability could be addressed in these briefings.
  • Prepare any other supporting briefing papers or documentation for discussions between the Commissioner and the chief executive on their performance – which could include consideration of the department’s strategy, capability and performance in respect of Māori.
  • Prepare the draft performance review document, which could include reference to the department’s strategy, capability and performance in respect of Māori specifically or reducing inequalities generally.

In addition, CE reviews contain a forward-looking component, which outlines areas of interest for the Commission in respect of the performance of the chief executive and their department over the coming year. The forward-looking component of the performance reviews will include reference to issues in respect of departments’ strategy, capability or performance in relation to Māori where this has been identified by DC Teams as a significant issue.

Where issues for Māori are recognised in the forward-looking component of a particular chief executive’s review, the issues could be considered in the review of the chief executive’s performance the following year.

As part of the review process, the Commission seeks input from Te Puni Kōkiri. A formal role in the review was first assigned to Te Puni Kōkiri in April 2000. This involved Te Puni Kōkiri undertaking an assessment of which departments had achieved certain key priorities contributing to the Government’s goals for Māori, based on information provided by departments to the Commission.

In the 2000-01 reviews (before the advent of the DC Team approach), representatives of Te Puni Kōkiri and the Commission visited certain chief executives, and Te Puni Kōkiri provided comments to the Commission for its consideration.

In 2001-02, the Commission wrote to the Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri seeking his Ministry’s input to the performance reviews for those Public Service chief executives whose departments had responsibility for acting on the Government’s objectives for Māori. The Commission specifically sought the Ministry’s views on:

  • the departments’ performance in contributing to achievement of the Government’s objectives and the delivery of services to Māori; and
  • the chief executives’ and their departments’ responsiveness to Māori.

Te Puni Kōkiri provided written comment to the Commission on 13 departments.

For the 2002-03 reviews, a DC Team member was designated to co-ordinate Te Puni Kōkiri’s input to the review process. A protocol has been agreed between Te Puni Kōkiri and the Commission, which outlines how the respective departments will interact. The process includes actions such as:

  • confirming which departments Te Puni Kōkiri will provide its views on;
  • the Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri discussing the review round, objectives and improvements to the review process, and timescale for Te Puni Kōkiri input;
  • clarifying the type of input sought by the Commission – where appropriate, Te Puni Kōkiri will give written views on each of the chief executives and departments (incorporating both a Wellington and regional view), and provide nominations of referees that the Commission might consider visiting;
  • establishing a process for advisers from Te Puni Kōkiri and the Commission to meet to discuss chief executives’ performance for the year; and
  • the Commission offering to brief the Senior Management Team of Te Puni Kōkiri on themes emerging from the performance reviews for 2004.

Sharing Skills And Obtaining External Assistance

The Commission expects all DC Team members to have the core competencies required for their positions, while some will have specialist additional skills. There is also an expectation that DC Team members will work together (within and between teams). The Commission actively supports this approach.

For example, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs referred to the Commission a draft framework on the Treaty of Waitangi to be used in preparing policy advice. Team members from two different DC Teams with skills in Treaty matters and issues for Māori considered the draft framework, and oral feedback was provided to the Ministry.

The Commission is developing a “knowledge management approach” to deepen its understanding in key areas of its business (including Responsiveness to Māori). In relation to the DC Teams, the purpose of the knowledge management approach is to add value to DC Team activity. The approach could therefore include:

  • Identifying relevant and manageable areas of capability-related knowledge.
  • DC Team members volunteering to take responsibility for knowledge leadership in areas where they have a particular interest as well as identifying their areas of current knowledge and experience. This could involve –
    • Being an access point to information and resources in the knowledge area for DC Teams and the wider Commission. Knowledge leaders would keep abreast of trends and developments in the subject area and gather and maintain relevant information on the Commission’s internal knowledge management systems.
    • Ensuring that DC Teams and the rest of the Commission are aware of important emerging issues in the knowledge area.
    • Establishing contacts with academics, subject matter experts (internal and external), practitioners and relevant international administrations, and planning and facilitating meetings and forums on the knowledge area for DC Teams and the wider Commission.
    • Reviewing and maintaining relevance, usefulness and quality of information, tools, methodologies and techniques.

As we discuss later in paragraph 4.64, DC Teams have been re-organised, and one Deputy Commissioner now has leadership on issues relating to Māori responsiveness.

DC Team members can also identify areas of interest where they can participate, providing support to the knowledge leader.

To date, the Commission has not sought external assistance to support its Māori capability assurance role. However, external expertise has been obtained to advise the Commissioner on matters of Māori cultural procedure, and guidance and tuition has been obtained to improve Deputy Commissioners’ capability in Te Reo Māori. External expertise has also been sought in establishing the Commission’s new role of increasing public knowledge about the Treaty of Waitangi.

What Did Chief Executives Think of the Commission’s Approach To Assessing Māori Capability?

In paragraphs 4.51-4.60 we outline what we found through our discussions with the six chief executives. We draw out the key themes and insights into the services that the DC Teams provide in respect of Māori capability assurance.

The Commission’s Role in Monitoring and Assessing Capability and its Engagement with Departments

Four of the six chief executives we spoke to confirmed that they understood the Commission’s role in relation to departmental capability. However, they noted that the Commission had not formally outlined its role to them in relation to Māori. The chief executives consulted or informed DC Teams where they considered the Commission was likely to have an interest by virtue of the Commissioner’s statutory mandate or in relation to Government goals – especially on strategic matters with implications for departmental capability and accountabilities.

The chief executives felt that the establishment of the Deputy Commissioner positions had produced positive and close relationships with the Commission, involving regular interaction and building up a better understanding of their department’s business.

Two chief executives would have preferred the Commission to have specified its role clearly and formally, observing that it was not always clear why Deputy Commissioners or their teams were pursuing particular issues. They felt that the rationale and focus of some inquiries or concerns were not understood, and were not seen to be based on a considered strategic framework. Both chief executives sought a more focused, structured and transparent engagement approach on the part of the DC Teams.

An Understanding of the Department’s Business

The chief executives were consistent in their view that all DC Teams sought to understand their department’s business. The chief executives acknowledged, in particular, the time and effort committed by each Deputy Commissioner in maintaining regular contact and building up their knowledge of the complex issues facing the department.

They considered that the Deputy Commissioners appreciated the constraints facing chief executives, such as the impact of third parties and other influences beyond their control. In particular, the Commission was aware of the challenges facing chief executives in developing and maintaining relationships with a wide range of Māori stakeholders. Deputy Commissioners were approachable, and available to discuss a wide range of departmental issues as they arose.

Did Chief Executives Expect the Commission to Provide Advice on Māori Capability?

The chief executives did not view the Commission as a source of expert advice on issues of Māori capability, and did not think the Commission had made a significant contribution to the debate on Māori issues facing their department. This was not necessarily seen as a concern, given that departments were tackling Māori issues themselves, or sought advice from Te Puni Kōkiri or other bodies.

The chief executives believed that the Commission had the potential to add value through its capability assurance role by taking opportunities to:

  • act as a broker and facilitator through promoting the sharing of ideas and initiatives among departments; and
  • promote collaboration and sector-wide advice and guidance.

The view was expressed that the Commission needed a stronger policy analysis capability to design appropriate solutions to difficult problems facing the Public Service (such as providing leadership and incentives for Māori responsiveness). It was felt that the Commission needed a greater depth to its advice.

The Commission’s Assessment of Capability for Māori

The chief executives were largely clear about the criteria against which the Commission assessed capability in general – although it was noted that none of the central agencies8 had yet developed an objective methodology for assessing capability.

All chief executives observed that the CE review worked well, and that the Commission successfully balanced varied views and perspectives from stakeholders. The chief executives all saw the opportunity of evaluating their performance against their own expectations as a vital part of the CE review.

Our Views

Skills and Expertise

Given the nature of the DC Team function, it is important for the Commission to:

  • know the skill mix required to undertake Māori capability assurance and how it would obtain such skills; and
  • have the means for sharing appropriate skills and aligning skill demand to business need.

The Commission has recognised the value of skills and experience in relation to Māori culture and the Treaty in the competencies required of DC Team members. We also commend the Commission in seeking potential candidates for DC Team positions who displayed such competencies (through use of a specialised people search consultant).

In a small organisation with mixed levels of specialist skills, the manner in which skills are shared becomes important. We found positive examples of skill sharing between staff with specialised skills in relation to issues for Māori. Such skill sharing should be encouraged.

The Commission should consider how skills and competencies in relation to Māori can best be utilised within and between teams through more closely matching its capability to departmental assessments. DC Teams have recently re-organised work arrangements so that one Deputy Commissioner has responsibility for Māori responsiveness. This will help the teams make best use of their collective skills.

The Commission has also introduced a knowledge leadership initiative, to complement current informal collaborative arrangements. This is a positive step and could provide more depth to the DC Team members’ analysis.

Nature of Engagement with Departments

Where departments work together, having a clear understanding of respective roles and responsibilities is crucial. It is, therefore, important for the Commission’s engagement with departments to be based on a mutual understanding of the roles and expectations of the parties and the nature of the interaction required. Of course, it is natural that the extent of the engagement should differ depending upon the particular characteristics of a department.

Overall, chief executives endorsed the Commission’s adoption of a performance management process using the Deputy Commissioners. Chief executives generally felt comfortable with their engagement with Deputy Commissioners, and the nature of this engagement appeared to be fairly consistent across the sample departments.

However, the manner in which individual DC Team members interacted with departments differed, as did the formality surrounding the relationship they had with the departments. While most chief executives did not see this of concern, others desired a more organised, managed and transparent engagement between the Commission, the department, and its stakeholders in relation to departmental performance.

The Commission should take steps to provide more clarity, formality, and certainty to its relationships with Chief Executives and their departments. One step could involve providing chief executives with a written explanation of the roles of Deputy Commissioners and DC Team members in relation to capability assurance generally (and Māori capability, in particular). This explanation would also record an agreed understanding of the nature of the interaction between the Commission and the department, and how that will take place. Such an approach would increase understanding while maintaining the necessary flexibility in approach.

Identifying Departments with Significant Māori Interests

Knowledge of the operating environment is important to any department providing services. It assists the department to understand current workload requirements, appropriately target its resources, and recognise areas of future need – both internally and externally. The ability of the Commission to consistently and accurately identify departments that are experiencing, or may experience in future, significant issues in respect of Māori, is important to how it shapes and directs its Māori capability assurance activity.

The Commission can identify which departments might experience issues for Māori, but it does not have a consistent, systematic and forward-looking approach to assessing the significance of those issues. Nor does the Commission have in place strong processes within DC Teams to enable significant issues for Māori across sectors to be identified and assessed.

The Commission has undertaken major reviews of some sectors from a generic capability perspective, and sectoral issues for Māori might have been recognised in those reviews. However, sector reviews from a Māori capability perspective do not happen as part of the regular planning that informs the work of the DC Teams.

The Commission’s trial analytical tool has the potential to inform such analysis, but is not itself a solution. In paragraphs 4.74-4.92 we suggest some systems improvements that the Commission can make which will assist in addressing these matters.

Assessing Māori Capability through the Performance Management Process

A department’s capability to respond to Māori is likely to affect its performance for Māori. The way in which the Commission engages with departments about Māori capability, and the expertise and objectivity that the Commission brings to the engagement, will affect how the department considers its Māori capability.

We approached this aspect of the Commission’s operations thinking that the Commission would, as part of the ongoing performance management relationship, assess capability issues and risks in departments and across sectors through periodic reviews. These reviews would be comprehensive, forward-looking analyses that would underpin the ongoing “assess and assist” role and complement the CE review (see paragraphs 4.83-4.89).

DC Team members draw on a variety of information sources to identify departments’ current Māori capability needs (particularly through the CE reviews). We sighted some examples where questions regarding departments’ capability for Māori were raised in the context of the preparation of their Statements of Intent (SOIs). We were also told that the DC Teams took such information into account as they assessed departmental capability.

However, we did not find any discrete strategic assessments of potential Māori capability stress points in departments and within sectors. It was, therefore, difficult for us to draw firm conclusions about how the Commission formed a view on a department’s Māori capability throughout the year. Such assessments could form an important part of annual chief executive performance reviews. The absence of a strategic and risk-based approach to capability assessment could expose the objectivity and accuracy of DC Team assessments to challenge.

We also found that the nature and extent of the departmental capability assurance provided by DC Team members varied considerably. Part of this variability stems from the nature of the departments in question – because, clearly, there are individual departmental requirements that are different. But this difference does not completely account for the variation in approach.

It is desirable for DC Team members to have leeway in their relationships with departments to address issues differently, should the need arise. Nevertheless, consistency and quality are important, both for the departments that will seek to rely on consistent high-quality assurance from the Commission, and for DC Team members whose reputation with departments relies on the quality of that assurance.

To strengthen the departmental capability assurance role, and the provision of Māori capability assurance, the Commission could consider instituting an annual strategic capability assessment. This could involve DC Teams:

  • undertaking risk-based assessments of capability and performance challenges for each sector and department, including Māori capability challenges; and
  • identifying potential approaches on the part of the Commission or other agencies to manage, mitigate, or address identified challenges.

The proposed planning approach could be co-ordinated with and informed by available information about departments – SOI preparation, statistical data (such as demographic projections), information about Treaty issues that departments might face, and significant reports on departmental programmes or activities.

Such an approach would:

  • have benefits from bringing more depth, breadth and consistency in quality to the capability assurance that the DC Teams provide to the Government;
  • make the capability assurance more forward-looking;
  • increase objectivity; and
  • contribute to the CE reviews.

The Chief Executive Performance Review and Māori Capability

The CE review allows issues regarding the department’s performance for Māori to be addressed directly with the responsible chief executive. Given the importance of the review, any Commission comments regarding a department’s capability or performance in relation to Māori should:

  • be informed by an analysis of the department’s capability for Māori;
  • draw on Māori stakeholder views; and
  • provide opportunities for performance issues in relation to Māori to be raised with the chief executive.

There should also be a clear process for obtaining (where appropriate) input into the CE review from Te Puni Kōkiri.

Overall, we found that the CE review provided a variety of opportunities for issues about the performance of departments for Māori to be raised and debated with chief executives. On the whole, these opportunities were taken up in respect of the departments we reviewed. Commission briefing papers for the reviews we examined referred to Māori issues in all cases. This was demonstrated by considerable documentation. As noted in paragraph 4.77, however, we were unable to draw firm conclusions about how the Commission had reached a view on departmental capability – which could in turn contribute to the review of chief executive performance.

We found that Māori stakeholder views were sought and considered in the review. All relevant Ministers had the opportunity to raise issues in respect of departmental performance for Māori and these were taken up in some instances. In some cases, the Commission supplemented information by consulting additional stakeholders.

We consider the thematic analysis undertaken in April 2003 of issues arising in CE reviews to be of high value, with potential to inform the work programme of the Commission – especially in relation to policy advice and departmental capability assurance. We consider that this analysis should be undertaken annually.

The nature of the relationship between the Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri in respect of CE reviews lacks definition. While we acknowledge that a basic procedure has been established for such input through an agreed protocol, in practice DC Teams have taken different approaches to seeking commentary from Te Puni Kōkiri on departmental performance.9 As a consequence, expectations have varied, and comments have not been sought – or obtained – in a consistent manner. We do not consider that the existing arrangement provides, in practice, sufficient clarity about the respective roles and responsibilities of the two agencies.

The Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri should review their current protocol in order to clarify the arrangements for consultation on each chief executive’s performance review and, in particular, its purpose, scope, format for consultation, and timescale.


The Commission had few records, outside the chief executive performance review, describing the nature and extent of DC Teams’ interaction with departments. There were also few records of inter-departmental meetings.

We are concerned about this lack of documentation. In their interactions with departments, DC Team members are called on to take a Commission position. Information they gather from discussions with departmental managers feeds into the capability assessment and the annual performance review. Departments and chief executives must be able to rely on the assistance they receive and be satisfied that the Commission’s assessments are soundly based. For these reasons, recording of key exchanges between the Commission and departments is important.

There is a need for a balanced approach to recording interactions with departments. We accept that the Commission is seeking to take a less compliance-based approach to departmental performance assessment. However, the Commission should provide guidance to DC Team members about the level of formality expected in relation to key inter-departmental interactions, and ensure that DC Team members maintain records of all significant exchanges they have with departments.


We recommend that the Commission:

  • Provide more clarity, formality and certainty to its relationships with chief executives and their departments. This could involve providing chief executives with a written explanation of the roles of Deputy Commissioners and DC Team members in relation to capability assurance generally (and Māori capability), and how the interaction between the Commission, the chief executives and their departments will take place.
  • Consider establishing an annual strategic capability assessment to enhance the depth, breadth, and consistency of the capability assurance the DC Teams provide to the Government, and make capability assurance more forward-looking and objective. Māori capability needs of departments would be assessed as part of that capability assurance.
  • Review its current protocol with Te Puni Kōkiri in order to clarify the arrangements for consultation on each chief executive’s performance review – and, in particular, purpose, scope, format for consultation and timescale.
  • Build on the initiative that it undertook in 2003 to analyse annually key themes arising in chief executive reviews in order to better focus on problems and challenges facing departments. This analysis will also provide the opportunity for the Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri to work together, and help Te Puni Kōkiri to target its own monitoring activity.
  • Provide guidance to DC Team members about the level of formality expected in relation to key inter-departmental interactions, and ensure that DC Team members maintain records of all significant exchanges they have with departments.

8: The State Services Commission, the Treasury, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

9: Te Puni Kōkiri provides comments only on a department’s performance, not on the chief executive’s performance.