Part 3: Outline of performance audits and studies we propose to start in 2014/15

Annual Plan 2014/15.

Figure 4 provides a brief description of the performance audits and studies we will start in 2014/15.

Figure 4
Performance audits and studies we propose to start in 2014/15

Governance and accountability
1. Education for Māori – Performance information and accountability

Many Māori students do not take part in education as well as they might; nor do some achieve as highly as they could. In 2012, our report Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017 set out the Auditor-General's intention to carry out a five-year programme of work to examine how well the education system is serving Māori students.

In 2014/15, we will explore another aspect of education for Māori. The main issues set out in our 2012 context report that we have yet to focus on are:
  • use of information for achievement monitoring and decision-making;
  • effective and efficient use of resources; and
  • the effect of specific Ka Hikitia initiatives.
2. Public accountability system – How people can hold public entities to account

Accountability mechanisms in the public sector are complex, with accountability functions being spread among many different agencies, including the Auditor-General. Anecdotal information suggests that there might be a growing mismatch between public expectations and what these mechanisms are able to provide. Many agencies are finding it challenging to keep up with the demand for their services, and citizens can find the accountability mechanisms frustrating.

This project will take an overall system view and assess the combined effect of the various public sector accountability mechanisms as a whole, to provide information on the strengths and challenges of the overall system. The project will have three main components:
  • producing an overall "map" of the various functions and mechanisms that make up the public sector accountability system, showing who does what and providing costs where possible;
  • some more in-depth information gathering – including survey work involving members of the public, public entities, and accountability agencies themselves – to explore:
    • what works well and what does not;
    • whether there are barriers to access;
    • whether there are barriers to effectiveness; and
    • whether there are gaps or overlaps; and
  • analysis and reflection on the health and effectiveness of the overall system of public sector accountability in New Zealand.
3. Auckland Transport – Governance and accountability of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative

The Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) is a group of projects in Auckland's eastern suburbs that aim to improve access, increase transport choices, reduce congestion, and unlock economic potential by improving strategic transport links.

The Auckland Plan (a 30-year vision published in 2010) proposes substantial expenditure on transport-related projects in the next 30 years. We expect that looking at the AMETI project at this time will provide valuable insights that will help to inform the governance and management practices around large transport projects in the future. We are interested in looking at the relationships between parts of the Auckland Council group and central government agencies and private service-providers, the quality of decision-making processes, interactions with the community, and value for money of the project.

We will carry out this work as part of our duty to review service performance under section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009.
4. Governance and accountability in the arts, culture, and heritage sector

Agencies in the arts, culture, and heritage sector need to have good governance and accountability arrangements that maintain the freedom of artistic expression and ensure that the preservation of heritage is not unduly influenced by personal interests. We will examine the governance and accountability policies and practices of a selection of local and central government agencies in the arts, culture, and heritage sector. Specifically, we will look at the policies they have to manage personal interests and examine how these are put into effect. We will also assess and report on how agencies in the sector are accountable to the public, and will compare arrangements in New Zealand with those in other jurisdictions.
5. Effectiveness of governance models in the environment sector

There is an increasing variety of governance models in the environment sector. They have a range of purposes and include arrangements between central government, local government, iwi, and local groups. These arrangements have a variety of legal forms and include statutory bodies, trusts, and contractual relationships.

We want to examine the governance and accountability of a selection of these arrangements to identify what works well and what does not. Our intention is to identify principles that would be useful to those establishing and operating these arrangements in the future.
6. Canterbury rebuild – Follow-up of Earthquake Commission: Managing the Canterbury Home Repair Programme

In October 2013, we published a performance audit on the Earthquake Commission's management of the Canterbury Home Repair Programme. We will carry out follow-up work to track the progress the Earthquake Commission has made with our recommendations and to review the final total cost after the programme's expected completion by the end of 2014.
7. Canterbury rebuild – Governance arrangements for community projects in Christchurch

We will take a case-study approach to examine the overall governance, risk management, and programme and project management of publicly funded community projects that are part of the earthquake recovery work in Christchurch. We will compare and contrast the governance arrangements for a number of selected projects. We propose to examine:
  • the Health Precinct (including the hospital rebuild);
  • the Bus Interchange; and
  • the Central Library.
Depending on the timing of construction and changes that might arise in these projects, our case studies might change. Other case studies could include the governance arrangements for the Metro Sports Facility, the Performing Arts Precinct, and the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.

As well as comparing and contrasting the case studies, we intend to compare the governance arrangements of major publicly funded capital projects overseas to develop recommendations and lessons for the future.
8. Audit committees in the public sector

Recent inquiry work we have carried out has reinforced how important it is for members of a governing body to have the confidence and ability to test and challenge the advice they receive and to maintain an overall view of the entity's direction and risks.

Audit committees are one aspect of possible governance arrangements that can provide this test and challenge. We intend to review our audit committee guidance, update it to reflect current best practice, and consider the implications for committee effectiveness.

To support our Governance and accountability theme, our auditors have been asked to consider governance and accountability within entities and to comment as appropriate on the effectiveness of, and strengths in, their management reporting to entities. In doing so, auditors will focus on aspects that, in their judgement, are critical to the performance of the entity or present the greatest risk to not functioning effectively. Auditors are also gathering information about the use of, and arrangements for, audit committees to support our intended review of audit committees in the public sector.
9. Inland Revenue Department business transformation – Governance and foundations for success

The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) is in the initial stages of its business transformation programme. This programme is significant both because of the public funds committed and because it is critical to IRD's core function to collect Crown revenue. We intend to report on aspects of the programme during the next three years. In 2014/15, the focus of our interest in the programme is on the appropriateness, execution, and effectiveness of the governance arrangements for the programme.
Investment and asset management
10. Asset management by district health boards

We have noted concerns about aspects of asset management in several reports since 2011:
  • In our 2013 report, Managing public assets, we noted that health assets had some of the lowest condition ratings.
  • In a high-level 2011 review, we reported that, since 2009 – when the Ministry of Health required district health boards (DHBs) to record their approach to asset management in asset management plans – most DHBs had not improved how they plan to manage assets.
  • In our performance audit about regional service planning by DHBs, we noted that there are big demands on capital for major repairs to buildings that are beyond their economic life, to meet seismic standards, and to upgrade them to support modern standards of care. We found that capital investment in buildings based on regional services planning is at an early stage. Regional capital committees set up to guide regional capital investment were beginning to understand the full range of assets held throughout their region, but the links to capital planning were not clear.
During 2013/14, we piloted a common approach to auditing asset management information and systems that are critical to the delivery of public services in the local government sector. We will report the results of this approach in a report on local government asset and service-level management. Auditors have told us that they find the questions and areas of focus in the modules relevant for gaining a more in-depth understanding of an entity's asset management practices, and for supporting the annual audit.

We have asked DHB auditors to apply the asset management methodology to building and clinical assets in the 2013/14 annual audits. We expect to prepare a report to Parliament during 2014/15 that draws on this underlying audit work.
Service delivery
11. Suicide prevention

Suicide is a serious health and social issue. The emotional and economic costs to individuals, families, and society are very high. The rate of suicide is an indicator of mental health and the social wellbeing of the population. The latest statistics available show that 478 people died by suicide in New Zealand in 2011. This equates to 10.6 deaths per 100,000 population. From 1985 to 2011, the lowest rate of suicide was 10 deaths per 100,000 population (in 1985) and the highest rate was 15.1 (in 1998). There are many more attempted suicides and hospitalisations.

We propose to examine how well activities to prevent suicide are carried out. We aim to establish what is being done to prevent suicide, and how activities are evaluated to assess what is being achieved. We will seek to answer some of the following questions:
  • What are the trends in suicide rates and what factors are influencing them?
  • How are the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy and associated actions assisting with suicide prevention?
  • How are suicide prevention activities funded?
  • How well are organisations joining together and co-ordinating activities?
  • How well are activities targeted and delivered?
  • What is working and what is not working at a community level?
  • Are suicide prevention services accessible and meeting needs?
  • How well do the organisations evaluate their activities?
Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct
12. Response of the New Zealand Police to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct: Fourth monitoring report

We have committed to monitoring, over a 10-year period, the New Zealand Police's implementation of recommendations arising from the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct.

This will be our fourth monitoring report. We signalled in our third report (published in October 2012) that, given the mixed progress by the Police in improving services for adult sexual assault complainants and dealing with complaints against the Police, we would carry out some targeted review work focused on those aspects before our final report (planned for 2017).

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