Part 6: Keeping New Zealanders informed about public sector performance and accountability

Annual plan 2021/22.

We have an important role to play in supporting New Zealanders' trust and confidence in the public sector. To have trust and confidence, New Zealanders need to be informed about the issues that matter to them in ways that are meaningful.

Our regular reporting is the main way we keep New Zealanders informed about how the public sector is performing. We intend to continue our work on understanding what information about public services New Zealanders consider relevant and important. We will also continue our work in tracking reported performance in health, housing, and education, and publicly report on this data.

The work we will carry out in 2021/22 includes:

  1. a focus on public sector accountability to local and regional communities; and
  2. our regular reporting.

1. Public sector accountability to local and regional communities

Our 2019 report Public accountability: A matter of trust and confidence observed that, although public officials and their agencies are primarily accountable to their Ministers and through them to Parliament, they must also maintain the trust and confidence of the public they serve. The report asked whether public accountability processes are enough to meet the current and future expectations of the public.

In 2020/21, we started a multi-year programme of work focused on what information about public services communities consider relevant and important.

Part of our work involves research into what information the public consider important to understand the performance of public services and community outcomes. We will examine what information communities want about public sector performance, where they get information now, and how they would like to access and receive information.

This research will inform our ongoing work looking at how we can support improved performance reporting in the public sector. Our research will provide useful insight into the way we present information on public sector performance.

In future years, we will consider looking at the progress and effectiveness of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Regional Skills Leadership Groups in building the skills needed for economic well-being and development in the regions. Under this new regional approach, workforce, education, and immigration systems are intended to work together to better meet the differing skills needed throughout the country.

Planned work for 2021/22
Public sector accountability to communities
We plan to carry out a project to determine the information about public sector performance that communities identify as relevant and important to their lives, the extent to which that information is readily available, and the ways in which people would like to receive information.

2. Our regular reporting

Each year, we consolidate the results of our annual audits in central and local government and other sectors. We publish the main findings in sector reports and letters. We use these products to advise select committees, help keep the public informed, and help plan our work programme. We also report on the results of our annual audit of the financial statements of the Government.

In combination with our annual audits, we carry out appropriation audits of government agencies. These are designed to ensure that government expenditure is within the authority provided by Parliament. We also carry out procedures for our Controller function in keeping with a Memorandum of Understanding we have with the Treasury. We report our findings and conclusions to the Treasury throughout the year through monthly Controller reports. Every year, we present a report to Parliament that includes an account of the work carried out under our Controller function for the full financial year, along with our findings and conclusions. We also produce an interim report on our half-year findings (our work from 1 July to 31 December of each year) and various reports on matters of interest.

Other reports that we regularly publish include our follow-up reporting on public organisations' implementation of the recommendations from previous performance audits, and a review of an aspect of Auckland Council's service performance.

We are reviewing the way we follow up with agencies on how they are progressing the recommendations we make in our performance audits. Currently, we carry out about two follow-up audits each year, which we report to Parliament.

We are planning to expand this so that most performance audits are followed up within two years of the audit being completed. To achieve this, we will write to agencies asking for an update on how they are progressing the recommendations from previous performance audits. We intend to publish those responses on our website. As well as this self-reporting by agencies, we will continue our independent assessments of progress on selected performance audit recommendations.

Planned work for 2021/22
Sector reports
We plan to prepare the following sector reports:
  • Central government: Results of the 2020/21 audits.
  • Auditor-General quarterly updates for chief executives.
  • Results of the 2020 school audits.
  • Results of the 2020 audits of tertiary education institutions.
  • Results of the 2020/21 district health board audits.
  • Local government: Results of the 2020/21 audits.
  • Main matters arising from our audits of councils' 2021-31 long-term plan consultation documents.
  • Main matters arising from our audits of councils' 2021-31 long-term plans.
Other reports
Half-year Controller update
Our Controller function is a core part of our role. It provides assurance to Parliament and the public about whether the Government has incurred expenditure in line with Parliament's authority. We report publicly on our work.

In 2021/22, we will report our findings for 2020/21 in our report Central government: Results of the 2020/21 audits. We will also continue our regular half-year Controller update, which provides an account of our work and findings for the first six months of 2021/22.

We will also publish Controller reports on matters of interest.
Auckland landscape scan
About 32% of people in New Zealand live in the Auckland region, and that is expected to increase by 600,000 people by 2043. This will take the total Auckland population to 2.2 million. Auckland is home to people from more than 200 different ethnicities, with 40% of Aucklanders born overseas.

The Crown owns 20% of Auckland's land, and 31% of wider public sector employees are based in Auckland. Public sector spending in Auckland in 2019 was estimated at 36% of the total public sector spending for the country. Nationally significant public sector work programmes have major policy and delivery components in Auckland.

Managing the infrastructure needed for Auckland's growth is increasingly being addressed through jointly funded (Crown and Auckland Council) large scale infrastructure projects. This creates complexity in governance, procurement, and the monitoring of outcomes for these projects.

We intend to prepare an Auckland landscape scan to describe these and other issues of interest.
Auckland Council review of service performance (topic to be confirmed)
Section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 requires the Auditor-General to review the service performance of Auckland Council and each of its council-controlled organisations from time to time. We are still assessing possible topics for this review.