Part 1: Introduction

Auckland Council: Working to provide customer-centred services online.

In this Part, we discuss:

The role of Auckland Council

Auckland Council (the Council) delivers a wide range of services to about 1.6 million people. Those services include, for example, issuing resource and building consents, collecting kerbside rubbish and recycling, managing community and recreation centres and parks, and supporting and funding local events. The Council also provides some services (such as public transport and drinking water) through council-controlled organisations.

The Council was formed in November 2010, when a law change meant that eight separate councils became one council for the whole region.

In 2016/17, the Council spent about $3.8 billion on providing services to Aucklanders.

The Customer-centric Transformation programme

In 2015, the Council began preparing its organisational strategy for 2017-19. Because the Council had previously focused on bringing together the eight councils, this strategy is the first to look at how the Council could make improvements and plan for the future. The organisational strategy sets out four focus areas:

  • engaging and enabling communities;
  • providing customer-friendly services;
  • making its size work; and
  • having a high-performance culture.

Using these focus areas, the Council developed a three-year "roadmap" of 34 initiatives. These initiatives are a range of programmes and projects to improve its performance and help to achieve the goals in its statutory planning documents (such as the Auckland Plan, the Unitary Plan, and the long-term plan). As part of the organisational strategy, the Council also developed various performance measures to monitor its progress. The Council aims to achieve its strategic outcomes by the end of 2019.

The Customer-centric Transformation programme is one of the initiatives in the customer-friendly services focus area. For simplicity, we refer to it as the online services programme. The programme aims to deliver better services to the Council's customers, communities, and citizens, with a focus on "digital solutions" and improved processes. To do this, it aims to deliver a set of projects by 2019. Much of the online services programme is about putting services online (including setting up the back-end systems and processes to support those services).

The online services programme's business case sets out the following reasons for the programme:

  • Customers need easy, simple, and fast interactions with the Council.
  • Customers expect to be able to access and use services online.
  • Putting services online can create a better experience for staff and customers.
  • The Council has significant fiscal pressures, but taking a customer-centred approach can help meet these pressures and the expectations of customers.

We reviewed the online services programme because it:

  • affects how the Council delivers its services and its interactions with Aucklanders; and
  • provided insight into the Council's implementation of the organisational strategy.

What we reviewed

Section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 requires the Auditor-General to review the service performance of the Council and its council-controlled organisations from time to time. We have completed four reviews so far.1

In this review, we looked at how effectively and efficiently the Council managed the online services programme. We looked at the:

  • outcomes sought from the online services programme and how these align with the Council's organisational strategy;
  • delivery of two projects within the online services programme; and
  • benefits achieved from the online services programme.

We did not review:

  • how the Council prepared or implemented the organisational strategy; or
  • any online initiatives in the Council's council-controlled organisations.

How we carried out our review

We assessed the Council's effectiveness and efficiency in managing the online services programme by looking at:

  • the overall online services programme; and
  • two projects within the online services programme in more detail – the Identity Management project (including phases 1 and 2 of the project) and the Licensing and Compliance Services Smart Forms project (the Smart Forms project). See Figure 1.

Figure 1
What we looked at, in the context of Auckland Council's wider organisational strategy and projects

Figure 1 - What we looked at, in the context of Auckland Council’s wider organisational
strategy and projects.

Source: Office of the Auditor-General, using information from Auckland Council.

The purpose of the Identity Management project was to make it possible for Aucklanders to sign in to all Council services using a single log-in account (a combination of username and password). Historically, each service was set up so that customers had different accounts to carry out different tasks. The Identity Management project provides a person with access to all of the Council's services through a single log-in account. People can set up a Council account or use their RealMe, Facebook, or Google accounts.

The aim of the Smart Forms project was to put 21 of the Council's Licensing and Compliance Services forms and payment options online, including dog, alcohol, food, and street-trading licenses, and health and hygiene certificates. The project also aimed to make the forms easier to understand and use.

We chose these projects because of their size, when they were launched, and their potential to improve how people access the Council's services.

To carry out our review, we:

  • interviewed staff from the Council;
  • reviewed Council documents, including management and governance reports, customer research, and project documents; and
  • analysed information on the benefits achieved from the online services programme.

We carried out our fieldwork and analysis from February to July 2017.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we examine Council staff's understanding of the online services programme. We discuss the purpose and scope of the online services programme and the programme's alignment with the Council's overall strategy.

In Part 3, we discuss how the Council chose and approved the Identity Management and Smart Forms projects, the delivery of the projects, and how it moved the projects from the online services programme to the business units that became responsible for them once they were complete.

In Part 4, we discuss:

  • what the online services programme and projects have achieved so far;
  • how the Council monitors benefits; and
  • the lessons from the online services programme.

1: A list of all of our Auckland-related work, including the previous four reviews, is on our website ( We have also completed a follow-up audit on the progress of Watercare Services Limited in addressing the recommendations in our report Watercare Services Limited: Review of service performance.