Our recommendations

How the Department of Internal Affairs manages spending that could give personal benefit to Ministers.

Part 8 sets out the directions for change that we consider are needed. It also gives more background information to explain why we have made these recommendations.

Formally confirm the Department's responsibility for administering the system

  1. We recommend that the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services formally confirm the role that the Department of Internal Affairs is expected to play in the system for providing support to Ministers, including its role in:
    • developing and enforcing procedural requirements to support proper financial accountability for all spending under Vote Ministerial Services;
    • monitoring developing practice and emerging issues, both in New Zealand and internationally, and regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the system; and
    • providing timely and informed advice to the responsible Minister on steps that can be taken to improve the system it administers.

Completely review the underlying rules

  1. We recommend that the Department of Internal Affairs carry out a "first principles" review of the legislation underpinning the system it administers, including the relevant provisions of the Civil List Act 1979, the Executive Determination, and the appropriations in Vote Ministerial Services.

What this means in practice

In our view, the review needs to produce a clear and coherent legal framework to support the provision of services to Ministers that:

  • integrates the legislation, Executive Determination, and appropriations;
  • minimises overlap between the remuneration, parliamentary, and ministerial support systems; and
  • creates rules and processes that are practical and capable of being effectively managed and monitored.

Rewrite the policies, procedures, and guidance

  1. We recommend that Ministerial Services revise its administrative policies, procedures, and guidance on financial management to:
    • clarify the status of the various requirements, and in particular clarify which requirements are essential for financial accountability purposes and which can be waived if the circumstances require;
    • clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the financial management processes;
    • provide staff with clear and accessible information on legal and administrative requirements, including regular information on changes, guidance, and precedents;
    • respond consistently when questions arise or documentation is inadequate, set out clear consequences when claims are not adequately supported, and have a standard and accepted process for resolving any disputes or questions; and
    • provide staff with guidance and feedback to inform their judgements about what spending is reasonable in the ministerial context.

Strengthen the checking, approval, and monitoring functions

  1. We recommend that the Department of Internal Affairs strengthen its checking, approval, and monitoring functions, and its documentation processes so that it is able to properly discharge its responsibility for demonstrating that all spending in Vote Ministerial Services is reasonable and appropriate.
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