Auditor-General's introduction

Reflections from our audits: Service delivery.

My Office's vision is that our work improves the performance of, and the public's trust in, the public sector. We report independently on how taxes and rates are spent and how public entities perform. Our work on auditing all of New Zealand's public entities gives us broad knowledge of changes happening throughout the public sector.

Through this report, we hope to use that knowledge to encourage discussion and debate about how the public sector can rise to the challenges and opportunities to deliver better services.

Being in the public service is about serving New Zealanders. Good people and good service delivery go together. Good services that deliver the best results for people and provide value for money come from entities that:

  • connect with people and connect services with people;
  • listen to and understand people's needs and learn from feedback;
  • respond to changing and different needs, and put ideas into action; and
  • allow people to use services to help themselves.

The staff providing services are the most important resource in delivering public services. These people deliver the services, and these people can also deliver improvements. Public entities need committed and capable people with the right skills, information, and tools to deliver quality services that adapt and continuously improve to meet changing needs. This requires astute planning for capacity and capability and leaders who inspire quality service delivery through their values, actions, behaviours, and empowerment of people.

In this report, we explore the dynamic context of change in which services are delivered (Part 1). We discuss how to provide high-quality, cost-effective services that meet New Zealanders' needs better, using examples from our audits (Parts 2 to 5). We then present our conclusions and pose some questions (Part 6). The Appendix lists the work we have drawn on. We cannot practically assess the quality of service delivery for all public services, so we have extrapolated findings from the services we looked at.

This report is the second we have produced by applying a thematic approach to offer reflections from our work on matters of importance to New Zealanders. In May 2014, I published the first report Reflections from our audits: Our future needs – is the public sector ready? The feedback I received indicated that this was useful, and we have explored the observations in that report in discussions and presentations with people throughout New Zealand.

I am keen to continue to explore the observations on Service delivery in this report. I invite your comments online at or in writing to or PO Box 3928, Wellington 6140. If you would like me or one of my staff to visit your organisation or group to talk about this work, please email or telephone 04-917 1500.

Our theme for 2015/16 is Governance and accountability, and I will report next year on our reflections about what enables effective governance and proper accountability in the public sector.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

8 June 2015

Photo acknowledgement: Te Papa © Richard Killeen

page top