Part 3: Management and planning

Sustainable development: Implementing the Programme of Action.

In this Part, we discuss the framework that Cabinet agreed for the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams and for the co-ordination of the Programme of Action as a whole, and outline our expectations and findings relating to:

  • project management and planning; and
  • budget planning.

We also identify implications for cross-agency work.

Management and planning for the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams

The Programme of Action had components of a high-level strategy (setting out principles and desired outcomes) and was an action plan with a list of projects for each of the workstreams. The Cabinet paper for adopting the Programme of Action in December 2002 listed some projects for each workstream that were already under way, while other projects were subject to funding approval. Three year planning for each workstream was further refined by staff after the launch of the Programme of Action in January 2003. Subsequent Cabinet papers sought approval for more detailed projects within each workstream.

Our expectations

We expected to find effective management of, planning for, and implementation of, the Programme of Action. We looked for:

  • programme planning for the Programme of Action as a whole and project plans for each of the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams; and
  • cross-agency planning and consideration of the resources required to implement the Programme of Action.

What we found – the Programme of Action as a whole

In approving the Programme of Action and associated projects, Cabinet agreed that departmental chief executives would be responsible for the work programme and that DPMC would oversee the Programme of Action as a whole, lead the process for publication of the Programme of Action document, and convene the Chief Executives Group.

The Chief Executives Group set up:

  • a Senior Officials Co-ordinating Group led by DPMC; and
  • four co-ordinating groups and structures to carry out the four workstreams (see Figure 1).

In late 2004, DPMC reduced the size of the Senior Officials Co-ordination Group. It became the Project Leaders Group and continued under DPMC’s leadership.

DPMC led a cross-agency approach. It kept oversight of the Programme of Action through the Senior Officials Co-ordinating Group/Project Leaders Group and by participating in the co-ordinating groups for each workstream in a manner consistent with its usual way of working. However, given the complexity of the Programme of Action, we expected the overview to include formal programme planning.

What we found – the Sustainable Cities workstream

In August 2003, Cabinet was provided with a progress report on the Sustainable Cities workstream. The progress report paper provided details on the work under way for the National and Auckland Programmes.

Resources were allocated to the Sustainable Cities workstream in the 2003/04 and 2004/05 Budgets.

The Ministry for the Environment undertook project planning for projects within the National Programme such as for the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol. Most of the activities planned for the National Programme, such as setting environmental standards, were under way at the start of the Programme of Action.

The National Programme included work on research and policy development, a statement of strategic direction, urban environmental indicators, and an urban design protocol, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4
New Zealand Urban Design Protocol project management

The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol was launched in March 2005. It is a voluntary commitment by central and local government, property developers and investors, design professionals, educational institutes, and other groups to carry out specific urban design initiatives. By November 2006, the Protocol had 120 signatories.

The Protocol was prepared using an advisory panel. It is promoted through champions within signatory organisations and the Ministry for the Environment, which gives continuing support with, for example, newsletters and online toolkits.

The Auckland Programme had six local projects and two regional projects (see Figure 5). Each project had various sub-projects, some of which are continuing.

Figure 5
The organisations, committees, and groups involved in implementation of the Sustainable Cities workstream

Figure 5.

There was considerable central government engagement in the Auckland Programme’s Combined Steering Group, which was co-led by DPMC and an Auckland local government chief executive, and each project group. The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development had staff working on both the Combined Steering Group and project groups.

The Auckland Programme’s Combined Steering Group established its own terms of reference and protocols for collaboration between central and local government.

The local authorities participating in the Auckland Programme employed a project manager to manage and give support to the partnership with central government and to co-ordinate the projects.

One challenge of working collaboratively is to manage the flow of information between partners. The Auckland Programme established protocols to facilitate the exchange of project information, and even so, some difficulties still arose, as indicated in Figure 6.

Figure 6
Managing the flow of information between partners

Ideally, partners in any collaborative venture will enjoy equal access to information they need to perform their respective roles. Important components of any project – such as when decisions are made, how budgets are prepared, when formal approval is sought from governing bodies, and how resources are allocated – all rely on relevant information being available to all parties.

Different protocols and decision-making processes can create barriers to effective collaboration. As one example, papers presented to Ministers and local authority councillors are made public at different times and through different channels. In local authorities, reports to councillors are made available to the public before council meetings. By contrast, papers to Cabinet normally become available to the public only after consideration by Ministers.

There were one or two instances where the preparation of joint reports presented difficulties for the participants. These experiences, as noted in the Auckland Programme evaluation and commented on by those we talked to, reinforced the need for increased understanding of each other’s processes, effective management, and the value of shared protocols. Despite the difficulties, the participants highlighted to us the value gained from such interaction between central and local government.

What we found – the Energy workstream

As set out in the Energy workstream programme provided to the Minister of Energy in July 2003, the Ministry of Economic Development was to play a coordinating role for its own projects and for others led by the Ministry for the Environment and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency. The Ministry of Economic Development initially had a dedicated staff member assigned to this work, but responsibility was later transferred to another manager who had other responsibilities. This had implications for the time available to manage the projects for which the Ministry was responsible.

Cabinet agreed to the discussion document Sustainable Energy: Creating a Sustainable Energy System, which was released in October 2004. The Ministry departed from its usual practice of circulating a draft document for comment by first preparing the draft document using small cross-agency teams. This was consistent with the Programme of Action aim of seeking to work in more innovative and inclusive ways.

The discussion document was the basis for consultation up to March 2005, including five workshops with stakeholder groups in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch early in 2005.

The next Cabinet paper to approve specific projects for the Energy workstream was submitted in July 2005. After the general election later in 2005, the Government announced its intention to prepare a national energy strategy. The Government released the Terms of Reference for the National Energy Strategy in July 2006, and this work incorporated the goals of the Energy workstream.

What we found – common issues for the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams

Central government departments worked together and established protocols and terms of reference for project teams that supported the delivery of the projects. Central and local government staff commented to us about the value of relationships with other agencies and across sectors, as well as the amount of effort and time required to manage the relationships.

Comments in the self-evaluations produced for each workstream at the conclusion of the Programme of Action suggest that both central and local government participants were, to some extent, unprepared for the amount of resources required. Staff told us that it took time for project plans to be prepared. Factors that delayed their preparation included understanding the intent of the Programme of Action, identifying and agreeing on new and existing projects, and finding the resources. Resources for the workstreams were mainly reallocated from existing budget provisions.

We found little project planning that explicitly included planning for both the short-term and long-term aims of the Programme of Action. Lead agencies told us that they considered short- and long-term effects when selecting projects to include in the work programme for each workstream, but also looked for projects that would provide tangible benefits within the three-year life of the Programme of Action.

Many of the Programme of Action workstream objectives were based on previously prepared strategies. For example, the Energy workstream objectives were based on the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and the Electricity Policy Statement. We did not audit the implementation or planning for these.

The two objectives of the Sustainable Cities workstream – that is, cities as centres of innovation and economic growth, and liveable cities that support social wellbeing, quality of life and cultural identities – would be achievable only in the longer term. The three-year programme for this workstream was based on a number of existing work plans (such as the regional migrant strategy and the economic development strategy), although new initiatives were also included.

The Auckland Programme was highly complex in governance and project management terms, and included extensive project planning on the part of the participants. However, we found limited evidence of project planning for the National Programme components, apart from that undertaken for the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol.

As both the Auckland and National Programmes had common objectives as part of the Sustainable Cities workstream, we expected to find some formal integrated planning that indicated how these two programmes fitted together, but we found no evidence that this was done.

We did find that central government Budget preparation material for some Sustainable Cities workstream projects included consideration of common project planning components, such as risk identification, resource implications, and planning for three to four years.

In general, we had difficulty finding complete records of departments’ work on parts of the Programme of Action. We needed files from several agencies to understand the sequence of events in any one workstream.

There was a high level of staff turnover in each of the areas we looked at. Of the 27 people we interviewed, 22 were not part of the Programme of Action at either the beginning or the end. Only one person had been in the same role from 2003 to 2006.

Our views

The Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams engaged with stakeholders to prepare material such as the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol and Sustainable Energy: Creating a Sustainable Energy System.

Our view is that working in collaborative ways cannot be an “add-on” to usual ways of working although including existing projects in planning would clearly assist in early implementation of objectives. However, cross-agency working and new initiatives need resources and time to set up. Planning for these resources is part of project management.

While accepting that sustainable development is, to a large degree, about looking for synergies between existing projects, working differently, and fostering constructive relationships, we consider that the short- and long-term implementation of the Programme of Action would have been assisted by early planning for some specific items, such as:

  • allowing for co-ordination costs;
  • improving skills in sustainable development concepts and decision-making processes; and
  • including travel and meeting time in budgets.

In our view, long-term outcomes in the Programme of Action would have been better supported by programme planning that included:

  • stronger links between the Programme of Action and other whole-ofgovernment initiatives;
  • planning for long-term synergies between workstreams and the objectives of the Programme of Action as a whole;
  • ensuring that adequate resources were made available to implement the Programme of Action; and
  • evaluating whether short-term, mid-term, and long-term objectives were achieved.

The lead agencies did not agree with us about the extent of the need for this kind of programme planning to ensure co-ordination and effective delivery of the Programme of Action or, if it was necessary, whose role this might be. We were told that DPMC’s leadership and co-ordination role did not include this kind of programme planning, and the Ministry for the Environment’s role of co-ordinating the workstreams did not include programme planning for the Programme of Action.

Careful record-keeping is important for maintaining continuity and supporting the co-ordination of long-term cross-agency work. The Government has addressed the problem of record-keeping with the Public Records Act 2005, which requires every public office and local authority to maintain full, accurate, and accessible records.

It is not possible to quantify the effect of staff turnover on project planning and co-ordination. Some turnover in a three-year programme is unavoidable, but high turnover needs effective transition management. Staffchanges affect project continuity, with a loss of accumulated knowledge and familiarity with working processes and disruption to established working relationships.

Budget planning for the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams

At the time the Programme of Action was launched, some funding was assigned to the workstreams from existing programmes.

Our expectations

We expected to find cross-agency budgets for the workstreams that specified the resources needed to carry out the defined projects.

What we found

The Government’s total financial commitment to the implementation of the Programme of Action was unclear, as there was no dedicated funding for the Programme of Action and existing projects were redefined as Programme of Action projects to deliver tangible outcomes within the three years.

However, we estimate that about $23 million was allocated to the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Cities and Energy workstreams from July 2003 to July 2006 (inclusive). Appendix 2 has more detail on the funding for the Programme of Action workstreams.

Preparing budgets with stakeholder or partner organisations was not always easy.

The Programme of Action was launched in January 2003 when central and local government budgets for 2003/04 were in the final stages of preparation.

For the Sustainable Cities workstream, the January launch date put pressure on central and local government budgets in the first year. It also put pressure on selecting projects that could be delivered within the three years, even if those projects were foreseen to have long-term effects. In 2004, the process of coordinating the preparation of budgets between central and local government created difficulties for some agencies with their own budget preparation and governance processes.

The Ministry of Economic Development used a budget template to prepare its 2004/05 and 2005/06 budgets, which required an explanation of how the Budget bid supported sustainable development. This placed an obligation on staff, in forecasting resourcing needs, to consider all environmental, social, economic, and cultural implications, medium- and long-term effects, and links with other programmes.

The Budget Strategy 2004 stated that Budget initiatives for 2004/05 would be considered for consistency with sustainable development. We were told that this was the result of work done by the Policy Tools and Processes Group. As a result, the Treasury prepared amendments to the Budget guidance, trained its Vote analysts, and held workshops for staffin other departments. The Treasury has since reviewed this process, and we have been told that parts of this work remain in use. However, not many of the people we spoke to commented on, or were aware of, this process.

Figure 7 provides an example of the preparation of an extensive cross-agency budget.

Figure 7
The Sustainability Package Budget bid for 2005/06

In late 2004, staff from the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Fisheries, Land Information New Zealand, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Economic Development worked together to prepare an inter-departmental Budget package for 2005/06 around the theme of sustainability. In the order of $200 million, the package included funding for environmental projects and some projects in the Energy workstream, such as funding for better energy policy and market information.

Our views

We understand that the intention of the Programme of Action was to improve outcomes by looking for synergies between (mostly) existing initiatives. In other words, the Programme of Action aimed to “do things differently”, such as working in partnerships, rather than “doing different things”. The workstream leaders were successful in identifying and supporting initiatives that became part of the Programme of Action workstreams.

Workstream initiatives have led to improvements in cross-agency planning and budgeting. The development of multi-agency funding bids, such as those for Sustainable Energy in 2004 and the combined Sustainable Cities bid in 2004, point to better collaboration in budget preparation.

The Auckland Programme evaluation report comments that there was funding pressure in the first year, not only for central and local government but also for the not-for-profit sector engaged in the Auckland Programme. The first year for both workstreams and the Quality Practice initiative was mainly spent in planning and identifying budgets. This put pressure to deliver results during the remaining two years of the programme and reduced the available time to address some of the broader goals of the Programme of Action – for example, the objectives for the better management of waste, energy, and pollution in the Sustainable Cities section.

In our view, project planning for the Programme of Action – in particular, with a range of project partners – would have been assisted by:

  • early advice to potential funding providers and partners;
  • funding for resources to implement the projects; and
  • funding for methods to assist the application of the sustainable development principles.

Implications for cross-agency work

The implications for the management of cross-agency work arising out of our findings are:

  • long-term complex projects need integrated management to ensure coordination and collective commitment and resourcing; and
  • project planning needs to take account of the requirements of individual agencies and of all participants.

Long-term initiatives need an integrated management approach

Strong relationships and collaborative processes are important for the success of complex long-term initiatives with multiple projects. These factors need to be supported by programme planning, which would help to ensure integrated decision-making, continuing commitment, and resourcing at an individual agency level and for the partners collectively.

Planning, including budgeting, needs to take account of short-term, mid-term, and long-term programme objectives. In our view, this is particularly important where the Government is seeking to provide better results for citizens by encouraging a more strategic and outcome-based approach to planning and management. A focus on cross-agency, shared outcomes necessarily requires several agencies to be involved and committed to a programme, and demands an emphasis on the management of the programme as well as on individual projects.

In our view, effective programme planning would:

  • provide continuity during the life of the programme in terms of resourcing, roles and responsibilities, and objectives;
  • focus on the systems of government to remove obstacles to improving effectiveness and efficiency;
  • incorporate a planning horizon focused on the delivery of long-term objectives while identifying short-term achievements;
  • foster adaptive and collaborative behaviours and networks;
  • identify common issues and report on those to decision-makers;
  • identify whole-of-government risks and opportunities; and
  • review progress and report on outcomes.

Cross-agency work presents special challenges for project planning

Working collaboratively across government departments and in partnerships takes time – in particular, in the early stages of projects. This needs to be taken into account in project and programme planning. Cross-agency work relies, by its nature, on agencies and departments planning their resource needs, delivering the required outcomes, and meeting the agreed deadlines.

The preparation of resource estimates should include working with the planning and budgeting cycles of partners. This is especially important when working with partners and stakeholders who follow different decision-making and planning processes.

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