Part 3: The Covid-19 response and recovery

Annual plan 2021/22.

In 2020/21, we started a three-year programme of work to provide independent information to Parliament and the public about the effectiveness of the Government's response to, and New Zealand's recovery from, Covid-19.

Parliament gave the Government considerable flexibility to fund its response to Covid-19 within existing legislative and financial constraints. The Government's emergency response was carried out at pace and under extraordinary conditions. This, combined with the larger than usual level of expenditure tagged to Covid-19 initiatives, meant that sound financial management, governance, and accountability were critical to ensuring that resources were directed to where they were needed most.

We consider it important that Parliament and the public are provided with clear and accessible information about how effectively Covid-19 funding is spent. Parliament and the public will also want to know whether that funding has provided value for money.

Building on the work we started in 2020/21, we will continue work on understanding how well the public sector responded to Covid-19 and how well it is positioned to support New Zealand to recover.

In 2021/22, we will complete our work on understanding the central response to Covid-19, progress work on case studies examining public sector business continuity, and begin the second phase of our work on the vaccine roll-out. Depending on how the Covid-19 situation evolves, we might look at other aspects of the response or look at how the Government is planning for a post-Covid-19 environment.

By 2022/23, we will look at evaluating the overall response to Covid-19 and understand whether the significant areas of expenditure have achieved value for money.

Planned work for 2021/22
Understanding the central response to Covid-19
In 2021/22, we will continue our work to provide an independent picture of the central response during 2020 to Covid-19. Our work is focused on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and its role in co-ordinating the national response.

We will look at the arrangements for responding to a pandemic and how these were implemented or adapted to respond to Covid-19. We also intend to assess how issues and risks were identified, and improvements made, to strengthen the ongoing response to Covid-19.
Case studies on public sector business continuity planning in response to Covid-19
In 2021/22, we plan to carry out case studies on how agencies have adapted and/or modified their business continuity planning in response to their experiences of Covid-19.

We will consider a range of agencies, including local government. Case studies will describe how agencies have learned from their experiences of Covid-19 and what changes they have made to be better prepared for future business disruption. Our work will help to inform our sharing of insights about what "good" looks like (see Part 7).
Further work on the Government's roll-out of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme
In 2020/21, we started a programme of work looking at the national roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine. Phase 1 of our work was a rapid review to provide an independent picture of how well positioned the Covid-19 Immunisation Programme was to meet the Government's objective of vaccinating as many people as possible by the end of 2021.

In 2021/22, we intend to a carry out a second, and possibly third, phase of work. Later in 2021, once the national roll-out is well under way, we will provide an update on progress since our Phase 1 report. This will include documenting any changes to the strategy or programme, assessing how much progress has been made, and how well the programme is being managed. Once the roll-out has been completed, we might look at what has been learned and how those lessons will strengthen the health system's approach to immunisation more generally.
Examining other aspects of the Covid-19 response
Depending on how the Covid-19 situation evolves, we will ensure that we have capacity to complete a further performance audit on an aspect of the response. We want to retain some flexibility to focus on the issues that emerge as most significant to Parliament and the public.

At this stage, topics that we consider might be of interest include how well the Government worked with the most vulnerable during the response, another area of significant expenditure (such as the Small Business Cashflow Scheme), or the post-Covid-19 recovery planning.