Haemata Limited (2022), Māori perspectives on public accountability.
  1. Public accountability is a cornerstone of our system of government. It is about how public organisations demonstrate to Parliament and the public their competence, reliability, and honesty in their use of public money and other public resources. It is fundamental to the role of the Office of the Auditor-General (the Office).1
  2. This research looks specifically at Māori perspectives on public accountability and asks, “What views do Māori have about effective public accountability?” Through this study, the Office is seeking to understand:
    1. What good public accountability means and looks like to Māori.
    2. The implications these views might have for the future of public accountability.
  3. The report shares the voices and views of 35 Māori participants who engaged in wānanga and interviews during January – April 2022. Semi-structured discussions explored notions of trust and confidence as the foundation for accountability, and the implications for public accountability.
  4. Participants represented a range of Māori voices, including iwi, hapū, whānau, public servants, professionals, academics and recipients of public services. All views were shaped strongly by cultural identity and participants’ experiences as Māori in, and with, the public sector.
  5. Four key ideas emerged from the discussions with participants about trust and confidence:
    1. Trust is relational.
    2. Trust is reciprocal.
    3. Tikanga builds trust and confidence.
    4. The power imbalance thwarts trust.
  6. Participants’ perspectives on public accountability are discussed through four themes:
    1. Multiple lines of accountability.
    2. Accountability and money.
    3. Māori voice in the monitoring system.
    4. Consequences and accountability.
  7. These themes and key ideas are the foundation for a discussion towards the end of the report on what the study may mean for the public sector and the Office of the Auditor-General. The discussion on implications is framed around issues of: power and equity; auditing for Māori outcomes; increasing capacity and capability to monitor Māori outcomes; and building connections with Māori.


The Office of the Auditor-General (the Office) has committed to a programme of research focused on the future of public accountability in New Zealand. As a cornerstone of our system of government, public accountability is foundational to building and maintaining public trust and confidence in public services. The Office’s research programme aims to identify areas for improvement in the current system of public accountability in order to support public organisations to better demonstrate to Parliament and the public their competence, reliability and honesty in the use of public funds and resources.2

The Office is concerned that previous research suggests that Māori have low levels of trust in the public sector.3 The current study explores this issue and looks specifically at Māori perspectives on trust and confidence in relation to public accountability.


In 1998, the Office published a report on how public sector organisations could deliver effective outputs for Māori4. The report set expectations for public organisations to involve Māori and Māori perspectives in strategic planning, policy advice, service delivery, human resource management, organisational structure, and the working environment. The intention was to improve public sector accountability for Māori and, ultimately, outcomes for Māori.

More than 20 years later, the extent to which the public sector has met these expectations is still unclear. A 2018 report by Te Arawhiti | Office for Māori Crown Relations indicated that many Māori feel that the public sector is failing them and that the Crown has not fulfilled its obligation under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to meaningfully partner with Māori.5

The Public Service Act (2020) recognises that the public service has a significant role to play in improving outcomes for Māori and supporting the Crown to meet its responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Act expects that the Public Service will develop and maintain its own capability to engage with Māori and understand Māori perspectives and actively seek greater involvement of Māori in the Public Sector. The Act also makes explicit that Public Service leaders and the Public Service Commissioner are accountable for these responsibilities.6

The 2019 Waitangi Tribunal report into the WAI 2575 claim on health services recommended that the Crown commit to reviewing and strengthening accountability mechanisms and processes in the primary health care sector that impact upon Māori. The report signals a wider issue in the public sector, “that public information on the effectiveness of Government policies and programmes is insufficient, denying Māori communities any real opportunity to monitor the Crown’s performance”.7

The Office is looking to consider the public sector’s settlement obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi more specifically, in the context of public sector performance and accountability. To do this, the Office has prioritised the development of a Māori strategy aimed at building internal capability and improving the relevance of its discretionary work to Māori. Also, as part of this preparatory work, the Office has identified a need to understand what effective accountability looks like to Māori, and how the public sector can better demonstrate its competence, reliability, and honesty to Māori communities.


This study seeks to gather views of Māori regarding how the public sector can be more accountable. This extends to identifying expectations Māori have in engaging in relationships with the public sector and the information that Māori seek about accountability. The study does not seek to define a single authoritative “Māori” view on public accountability – we should expect that Māori hold as many diverse views as any other group.

In essence, the study is intended to help the Auditor-General to understand the full range of views that Māori hold on accountability as it applies to public organisations, and what this might mean for the work of the Office. Accountability as it applies to non-public organisations (e.g., iwi, public and private companies) is beyond the scope of this study.


The primary research question for this project was: “What views do Māori have about effective public accountability?

At the heart of public accountability is trust and confidence in the public sector. Therefore, in seeking to respond to this research question, participants were specifically asked about their views on trust and confidence – what trust means, how trust and confidence is increased or undermined, and the implications for public accountability.

These views have been analysed to understand what good public accountability looks like to Māori, what implications these views may have on the future of accountability and what this could mean for the public sector and the work of the Office of the Auditor-General.

1: Office of the Auditor-General. Request for Proposal to Undertake Research on Māori Perspectives on Public Accountability. Issued 13/07/2021. P 3.

2: Office of the Auditor-General, op. cit.

3: Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission. 26 January 2022. Kiwis Count https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/our-work/kiwis-count/

4: Office of the Auditor-General New Zealand. Third report for 1998. Part 4: Delivering effective outputs for Māori. www.oag.parliament.nz/1998/3rd-report-1998/part4.htm

5: Ministry of Justice. 2018. Crown/Māori Relations Summary of Submissions. www.tearawhiti.govt.nz/assets/Maori-Crown-Relations-Roopu/3ca45b2b2b/Final-Submissions-Summary-Report.pdf

6: Public Service Commission. (2021). Te Whakapakari i te Hononga i Waenga i te Māori me te Karauna | Strengthening the Māori Crown relationship. https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/assets/SSC-Site-Assets/SAPG/Public-Service-Reform/Factsheet-3.pdf

7: Waitangi Tribunal. 2019. Hauora: Report on Stage One of the Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry. Legislation Direct. P 64.