Part 5: How the agencies work together to protect our border

Border security: Using information to process passengers.

In this Part, we discuss whether:

Summary of our findings

The relationships between frontline staff are generally good.

Each agency has its own priorities at the border and that there are instances where it is more pragmatic for them to work individually. However, we consider that there are some areas where an improved collaborative approach could lead to efficiencies, such as better information sharing. This is particularly important in ensuring a seamless service where multiple agencies are working together at the border.

Border sector governance has strengthened in recent years, which has resulted in increased collaboration in some aspects of their work. The Border Sector Governance Group needs to prepare and communicate effectively a longer-term vision for how the agencies will continue to operate at the border to meet future demands.

Frontline staff generally work together well

Relationships between frontline staff from different agencies are generally good, particularly between staff in smaller ports, and staff from different agencies who have worked together for a long time.

However, management staff in non-frontline roles had more variable relationships. Some management staff did not have close working relationships with staff from the other agencies because they had competing priorities and were based in separate locations.

The agencies are increasingly collaborating on projects

Increasingly, the agencies are working more collaboratively on certain projects. There are initiatives to increase collaboration, such as the Border Sector Governance Group. However, in our view, collaboration between the agencies could be improved in some areas, particularly regarding the use of systems, tools, and the deployment of resources.

In early 2016/17, the agencies, building on an earlier project, formed a joint border analytics team. This initiative has seen the agencies collaborate on data analytics to search for, and use, trends and anomalies, and build predictive models. The joint border analytics team is still in its infancy and so benefits are yet to be realised. However, this is a good example of the agencies working together.

Other examples of the agencies working together include:

  • The Continuous Improvement Project (between Customs and Immigration New Zealand), which focuses on how the agencies use information to target passengers. The aim of this project is to improve targeting by ensuring that information is used once and the outcomes are shared between the agencies.
  • The Air Passenger Project (between Customs, MPI, and Immigration New Zealand) will combine data sets from all agencies and generate relative risk profiles and a joint non-compliant list. The results of this project will support integrated border agency efforts to manage the increasing number of passengers crossing the border.

The agencies' different priorities mean that, in some cases, it will be more pragmatic to keep their work separate. The Border Sector Governance Group provides the opportunity for the agencies to discuss possible areas for collaboration at a senior level. In our view, working more collaboratively in this way should lead to efficiencies in the border sector.

The Border Sector Governance Group supports effective collaboration

The Border Sector Governance Group, established in October 2007, includes chief executives from Customs, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (for Immigration New Zealand), MPI, and the Ministry of Transport. Its purpose is to oversee and work towards a stronger sectorial and systems approach to border management. The Group has a vision to "deliver excellent border management outcomes for New Zealand by thinking and acting as one". This includes ensuring a more collaborative and integrated approach to information systems to support a stronger and more responsive approach to border management.

As part of this approach, the Border Sector Governance Group prepared Border Sector Strategy 2008–2013: A Framework for Collaboration for Border Sector Agencies. The strategy outlines important points of focus that the agencies can collaborate on.

In 2012, a paper on the future direction of the border sector was agreed by Cabinet and the agencies. This outlined a shared view that shared processes, common infrastructure, and technology investments were needed to improve services at the border. A work programme to support this shared view was prepared and work is under way to identify areas where improvements can be made and shared processes can be developed.

These initiatives show that a stronger collaborative approach is evolving. However, many staff we interviewed as part of our audit were not aware of the shared strategic approach and the work programme supporting it. Communicating the border sector strategy more effectively would help create a culture of collaboration for staff.

A review of ITOC, in October 2016, stated that the border sector strategy needed to be updated. It was recommended that, although the current strategy was fit for purpose, there was an opportunity to prepare a more ambitious strategy to 2030. We support this view, as this would support a more collaborative and integrated approach to information sharing.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that, as suggested by the Integrated Targeting and Operations Centre Review in 2016, the Border Sector Governance Group develop a long-term vision and strategy to 2030. This long-term strategy should include how information-sharing barriers can be reduced, and which systems, tools, and processes border agencies should work together on more collaboratively to ensure efficiencies.
Recommendation 3
We recommend that the Border Sector Governance Group communicate the long-term vision and strategy to 2030 to all staff, to ensure a stronger understanding and create a culture of collaboration between the agencies