Part 3: Responding to issues for Māori

The Treasury: Capability to recognise and respond to issues for Māori.

In this Part, we describe:

  • how the Treasury’s Māori Responsiveness Plan has made its response to issues for Māori more effective;
  • how the Māori Responsiveness Group has addressed the risk of the Treasury losing knowledge when staff leave the organisation; and
  • how the Treasury works with public service departments to address issues for Māori.

Māori Responsiveness Plan

In August 2000, the Treasury prepared a Māori Responsiveness Policy Statement in response to a State Services Commission expectation of all public service departments. This is no longer a requirement. The Māori Responsiveness Policy Statement provides the context for the design of the Treasury’s strategies such as research, communication, external relationships, and training and development needs.

A Māori Responsiveness Plan (2000) was approved to give effect to the Māori Responsiveness Policy Statement. The plan set out initiatives for the first 2 years, allocated responsibilities and set dates for completion. An assessment in 2002 showed that satisfactory progress had been made in implementing the plan. The assessment recommended that:

  • the recruitment and retention of Māori staff be dealt with separately from the Māori Responsiveness Plan, which should continue to address policy objectives;
  • one person be made accountable for leading the preparation and achievement of a revised Māori Responsiveness Plan; and
  • a Māori Responsiveness Group be established as a cross-Treasury team providing specialist support to sections on Māori issues.

The recommendations were accepted and are being progressively implemented.

The Māori Responsiveness Group

It was intended that the Māori Responsiveness Group would ensure that Māori perspectives were widely understood, and ensure that the Treasury would not be overly exposed to “key-person” risk.5 We agree with the Treasury’s view that this has been achieved. Improving the Treasury’s capability to respond to issues for Māori was identified as a suitable focus for a knowledge management approach. The Māori Responsiveness Group uses knowledge management tools (such as meetings, fortnightly newsletters, and provision of training and other resources) to implement the Māori Responsiveness Plan and to ensure that staff have access to advice on issues for Māori.

The Māori Responsiveness Group prepares, monitors, and revises an annual plan in conjunction with the Treasury’s EEO Consultative Committee. The Group ensures that responses to issues for Māori are co-ordinated, and is a source of expertise for all staff. The Treasury’s capability to address issues for Māori has improved to the point where the group’s advice is issue-specific rather than broad-based.

We agree with the Treasury’s assessment that the Māori Responsiveness Group is a successful network. The Group’s meetings, held every 5 weeks, are well attended. In the Treasury this is a highly valued indicator of success – staff tend not to attend network meetings unless there are clear benefits for their work or professional development. Simple techniques, such as relating agenda items to the group’s objectives, ensure that meetings stay focused on core issues. The number of items put forward for discussion is such that a sub-network has been formed to address issues related to natural resources in a separate forum, to avoid dominating the Group’s agenda and to ensure that proper attention is given to natural resources concerns. The sub-network regularly reports back to the Māori Responsiveness Group to ensure that information is shared.

Another factor in the Group’s success is the commitment made by senior staff – a Deputy Secretary provides leadership for the group from a governance perspective, and the Director, Social Policy Branch provides leadership on Māori issues.

Although staff we interviewed partly attribute the Māori Responsiveness Group’s success to the leadership demonstrated by its key members, the wider group is seen as having addressed the risk of knowledge loss by disseminating information and increasing capability. The Treasury’s preference is to address capability gaps by educating its own staff rather than bringing in external expertise. The Treasury reports that, as its own capability has increased, there is less need for consultants and contractors to provide expertise on issues for Māori.

The Māori Responsiveness Group does not have formal authority to authorise the release of policy advice, but it does contribute to the quality and consistency of advice. The Treasury’s quality control processes involve a review of the processes used to draft advice, as well as an assessment of the advice.

A section is expected to consult with the Māori Responsiveness Group where it lacks expertise to deal with an issue in drafting advice. The group’s advice may also be sought to review advice before authority is given to release the advice. On occasion, external expertise may be obtained to peer review draft advice.

The Māori Responsiveness Group also works with human resources staff to design and monitor the delivery of training courses. A course was introduced to improve the ability of analysts to understand and respond to issues for Māori. The course, called “Wetahi Whakaaro Maori” is, in part, an opportunity for staff to create and enhance more standardised frameworks for the analysis of Maori policy issues. This is an ongoing and iterative process. We note that these frameworks may incorporate or implement the Māori Potential Approach and Māori Potential Framework, when they become available.

In 2004, for the first time, the Treasury asked staff as part of a regular organisational climate survey whether they considered when solving problems the perspectives of, and implications for, different ethnic groups. The initial response to this question sets a benchmark for the Treasury to monitor responses in future years.

The Māori Responsiveness Group has also advised on the purchase of resources for staff (see paragraph 4.8 for a list of resources).

Working with public service departments

The Treasury works with public service departments in a variety of ways to address issues for Māori, but the main mechanism is through second-opinion advice. The Treasury relies on departments to be aware of any relevant issues for Māori within their Vote(s) and for those to be addressed in the draft advice the Treasury is asked to consider. The Treasury may comment on any gaps it identifies relating to issues for Māori, but its comments are generally from the perspective of fiscal and economic advice (see paragraph 1.8). The Treasury may also ask departments whether they have sought appropriate advice on issues for Māori, and whether a policy to address disadvantage has considered all relevant population groups.

On other occasions, departments may involve the Treasury staff more closely in work involving issues for Māori. Such involvement may include:

  • seconding the Treasury staff to departments to work on specific projects;
  • inviting the Treasury to lead or participate in multi-department projects;
  • informal liaison; and
  • the Treasury providing information, advice, or analysis in Background Papers, Perspectives Papers, and Working Papers.

The Treasury also identifies opportunities to respond to issues as they arise. One such opportunity was the Ministerial Review of Targeted Policies and Programmes, which was announced in March 2004. From the Treasury’s perspective, the Ministerial Review included ensuring that the public was receiving value for money, within a managing for outcomes framework, from publicly funded activities – a core aspect of the Treasury’s work. The Treasury’s contribution included seconding one of its staff to the Ministerial Review Unit (a unit within the State Services Commission responsible for co-ordinating the review) and, in July 2004, publishing a background paper for departments (entitled The use of ethnicity in targeting).

The public service departments we spoke to do not expect the Treasury to provide expert advice on issues for Māori, but do expect it to have an understanding of issues for Māori.

Some public service departments we spoke to noted that, at times, the Treasury has needed more assistance than expected to undertake consultation with Māori. Others did not expect it to have in-depth knowledge on such matters because the Treasury does not deliver services directly to Māori and usually engages with Māori stakeholders jointly with departments. The frequency of visits with stakeholders varies and visits involving Māori stakeholders may be infrequent, depending upon the significance of issues for Māori within particular Votes.

We asked departments whether they considered that the Treasury should have direct relationships with Māori stakeholders. We were told that it was important for departments to lead relationships with Māori in order to implement the Government’s goals. Departments are reluctant for the Treasury to form closer links with Māori stakeholders without departments’ knowledge or direct involvement.

5: “Key-person risk” is the risk that that an organisation’s capability to continue its business will be impaired when the knowledge held by a “key person” is no longer available to the organisation – either because the person leaves the organisation or is allocated to tasks that leave them unable to share their expertise with others within the organisation.

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