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

Public service departments need to be able to respond effectively to the Government’s social and economic goals for Māori, which are encompassed within its goals to improve social and economic outcomes for all New Zealanders. The Treasury (Kaitohutohu Kaupapa Rawa) has significant influence on Ministers’ and Cabinet’s consideration of public service departments’ activities and plans to address issues for Māori, where these have fiscal and economic implications. The extent of the Treasury’s advice on any matter varies considerably depending upon a number of factors.

We wanted to know how well the Treasury is able to recognise and respond to issues for Māori within the context of its role to improve living standards for New Zealanders. We audited the Treasury against our expectations of the processes that public service departments should follow to be effective for Māori. Those expectations are set out in our Third Report for 1998, in the Part entitled “Delivering Effective Outputs for Māori”. We excluded the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit, a stand-alone unit within the Treasury, from our audit.

Recognising issues for Māori

The Treasury does not have formal and ongoing relationships with Māori organisations, and recognises that it has limited expertise to build links directly with Māori. This is because the Treasury does not deliver operational services. It has appointed a senior public servant to advise the Secretary to the Treasury on engaging with Māori, and provide leadership to improve the Treasury’s capability to recognise and respond to issues for Māori.

The Treasury has formal plans in place to achieve its strategic outcomes and relies on aggregated information in using resources and describing, forecasting or evaluating economic performance. The plans incorporate but do not specifically document issues for Māori – nor do we expect that they would. The organisation-wide Communications Plan, which supports the outcome plans, identifies Māori as key stakeholders.

The Treasury is now taking a more structured approach to engaging with Māori. This has made it receptive to, and better prepared to take advantage of, opportunities that arise to communicate with Māori, such as participation in Hui Taumata in 2005. We encourage the Treasury to continue with its openness to building links with Māori.

The Treasury’s medium- to long-term plan and annual planning processes are appropriate for identifying significant issues for Māori, and to a large extent rely, appropriately, on public service departments to identify emerging issues for Māori. Te Puni Kōkiri is preparing a framework, focusing on fostering Māori success, to help public service departments prioritise and address issues for Māori. The Treasury expects that the framework, and the empirical data supporting it, will help the Treasury to focus on areas of greatest importance in achieving its outcomes.

Responding to issues for Māori

The Treasury approved a Māori Responsiveness Policy Statement and Plan in 2000, which has been implemented and subsequently revised. The current plan addresses policy objectives, and recruitment and retention issues are dealt with separately. A cross-Treasury team (the Māori Responsiveness Group) provides specialist support to the rest of the organisation and provides leadership on Māori issues. The Treasury has used knowledge management techniques to improve staff capability to respond to, and provide a co-ordinated and consistent approach to, issues for Māori.

The Treasury has introduced a course to help analysts understand and respond to issues for Māori and, using this training, hopes to create a standardised framework for analysing issues for Māori.

The Treasury works with public service departments to address issues for Māori, mainly through the provision of second-opinion fiscal and economic advice. The Treasury expects departments to be knowledgeable about issues for Māori within their Vote(s). Departments do not look to the Treasury for expert advice on Māori issues, although the Treasury may ask departments to confirm that they have taken appropriate expert advice and used empirical support in drafting advice. As needed, the Treasury may provide departments with background papers to help them draft advice.

Public service departments, as Vote leaders, expect to be informed about or directly involved in any direct contact that the Treasury has with Māori stakeholders.

Preparing staff to recognise and respond to issues for Māori

The Treasury manages its people strategically, and regularly seeks ways to improve its human resource management to deliver on its outcomes. Initiatives to improve the Treasury’s responsiveness to Māori have continued to mature because of the continued commitment and leadership of the Senior Management Group and chief executive officers since the late 1990s.

The Treasury has the essential systems, structures, and processes to be a flexible and capable organisation that responds to the needs of Māori staff. It has the usual range of human resources and equal employment opportunity policies and practices expected of a public service department.

Staff have access to a number of in-house resources to improve their knowledge and experience of Māori culture and perspectives, which means that Māori staff are less often relied upon to explain cultural issues to non-Māori staff. Additional resources are made available as needed.

As the Treasury uses various means to improve its capability to recognise and respond to issues for Māori, it does not have to rely on increasing its proportion of Māori staff. The recruitment of Māori staff is in line with projections for 2005.

The Treasury’s written human resources policies and processes are free of unfair bias and support its commitment to building and maintaining an ethnically diverse workforce. However, an external review in 2004 found that there was unintended bias in the implementation and operation of the policies and procedures.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that the Treasury ensure that new employees, including managers, are provided with information about the activities and resources available within the Treasury to recognise and respond to issues for Māori.


Recommendation 2
We recommend that, when its standardised frameworks for analysing Māori policy issues are sufficiently reliable, the Treasury draw up a set of competencies to ensure that there is a common body of knowledge and skills among staff to respond to Treaty of Waitangi and Māori issues.

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