Part 4: Ensuring improvement

Ministry for Primary Industries: Preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions - follow-up report.

In this Part, we discuss the Ministry's:

Our recommendations about ensuring improvement

In our 2013 report, we made one recommendation about ensuring improvement. We recommended that the Ministry prepare a set of performance measures to:

  • include operational activity, effectiveness and efficiency of response, and individual staff performance;
  • inform continuous improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of its preparedness and response activities; and
  • report publicly on its effectiveness and efficiency.

Summary of our findings

The Ministry has prepared a set of performance measures in four categories. These measures are designed to measure the operational effectiveness and efficiency of responses. Work continues to ensure that the Ministry has a cycle of continuous improvement, based on lessons learned.

The Ministry told us that when the performance measures are up and running, they will allow the Ministry to produce key performance indicators to help improve how it measures performance.

Improving performance measurement

The Ministry has prepared a set of performance measures in four categories: service performance, contract performance, management performance, and system performance. These measures are designed to measure operational activity and the effectiveness and efficiency of responses.

In its four-year plan and annual plan, the Ministry agrees to deliver service performance measures. It reports against them in its annual report.

Contract performance measures relate to expectations of performance that the Ministry has agreed with contractors, such as AsureQuality and the providers to the surveillance programme.

The Ministry has management performance measures for each branch. These are reported in confidence to the Director-General each month. The Operations branch has a business plan that includes overall performance measures.

Each directorate has business plans that contain their own performance measures, which feed in to the service and management measures.

System performance measures are outcome and system measures for each layer in the biosecurity system (see Figure 1). The Biosecurity Board (see paragraph 2.12) is working on a "system scan" approach that will allow the Ministry to measure and test each layer's effectiveness and efficiency. The starting point for this is allocating funding and resources to each layer.

Figure 1
Layers of the biosecurity system

International plant and animal health standards
Developing international standards and rules under the World Trade Organisation's Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreements.
Trade agreement and bilateral arrangements
Negotiation, agreements, and processes for future biosecurity co-operation and trade.
Risk assessment and import health standards
Identification of risk and specification of requirements for people and goods coming into New Zealand.
Border interventions
Educating and auditing to encourage compliance. Inspecting to verify compliance, and taking action to manage non-compliance.
General and targeted programmes to detect harmful pests and diseases.
Readiness and response
Regular testing of the biosecurity system's capability to respond. Responding to detected harmful pests and diseases.
Pest and disease management
National, regional, and industry actions to manage established pests and diseases.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries.

Creating the system performance measures is a positive step, but there has been no public communication about them yet. Their effectiveness will be tested when the Ministry starts reporting publicly against them.

The Ministry has created a tool that can measure the effectiveness and efficiency of small to medium responses. It is designing a tool that can adequately measure large responses. Work continues to prepare specific measures for roles and teams.

Culture of continuous improvement

We observed that the Ministry has a culture of continuous improvement throughout the organisation.

The Ministry has a performance measure called "Demonstrated adoption of previous recommendations leading to faster, more effective responses, with errors previously identified not repeated". This measure refers to recommendations in our 2013 report and recommendations in other high-level reviews, such as the Performance Improvement Framework Review.

The Ministry has created a Readiness Recommendations Spreadsheet to be the "single source of the truth" for actions that have been proposed or taken to address recommendations made. These cover a broad range from minor to more significant, and the Ministry appears to prioritise these according to their importance.

Work is under way to reshape the lessons-learned process into a continuous improvement methodology that will be governed through the National Operations Centre. In the end, this process will operate as a continuous loop of collection and analysis of lessons learned from responses. When set up, this process will produce new key performance indicators to provide better measurement.

Response staff involved in the two case studies were positive about the process for debriefing them and applying the lessons learned in future response planning.

Strengthening public reporting and communication

The Ministry continues to improve its performance measurement framework and is reporting better information about how ready it is to respond. It recognises that it has to improve further. It is working with its communications team and the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee to enable it to report about responses more effectively and efficiently.

The Ministry's website has information about how the Ministry sets its objectives and reports on its performance. The website includes a link to its 2030 strategy, which includes a section on measuring performance. The Ministry's annual report includes performance information on the Ministry's biosecurity services and its intended outcomes.

The Ministry reports on generic performance indicators, such as the number of response plans and exercises it has completed. The Ministry has also created a framework for measuring small and medium responses and is working on a framework for measuring large responses.

The Ministry has told us that it is in discussions with the Ministerial Biosecurity Advisory Committee about marketing and planning how it can better communicate with the public.