Increasing our impact with public organisations

The Auditor-General's strategic intentions to 2028.

Image used for Increasing our impactWhat we want to achieve

We want to increase our impact with public organisations by influencing positive change in their performance and accountability practices.

Why this is important

Effective performance and accountability are vital to maintaining the trust and confidence that Parliament and the public have in the public sector. As the auditor of every public organisation, the Auditor-General has a unique position from which to influence improvements in performance and accountability practices across the public sector. This includes our role in promoting examples of good practice in the public sector that other public organisations can learn from.

Influencing positive change in the accountability practices of public organisations will help support Parliament in its scrutiny role.

What we will do

We will increase our impact – and our support for Parliament in its scrutiny role – by increasing our focus on topics that are important to public accountability. We aim to:

  1. influence more meaningful and useful performance reporting to improve the performance and accountability of the public sector;
  2. increase the focus the public sector has on value for money;
  3. promote a long-term view in public organisations' planning and decision-making to strengthen the public sector's response to long-term challenges facing New Zealand; and
  4. support strong organisational integrity practices.

There are key stakeholders in the public accountability system who can influence change. We will consider how we continue to engage with, support, and build relationships with these stakeholders to maximise the impact of our work.

1: Influencing more meaningful and useful performance reporting

What we want to achieve

We want to improve the relevance and transparency of performance information and how public organisations report on their performance.

Why this is important

New Zealanders want to know what has been achieved with the taxes and rates they pay. For reporting to be meaningful, New Zealanders need to be able to understand what services are being delivered at what cost, and the difference that is being made.

The change we want to see after five years

New Zealanders and Parliament will have:

  • a clearer understanding about how the public sector is performing and the value that is being achieved from the spending of public money; and
  • improved assurance and advice from us to effectively hold public organisations to account for their performance.

The public sector will have improved how it reports on its performance by:

  • providing more meaningful, relevant, and balanced accounts of its services and the difference those services are making for New Zealanders; and
  • implementing any changes to system settings (for example, legislative requirements, accounting standards, and guidance).

We will have:

  • improved how we provide assurance and advice to Parliament, New Zealanders, and public organisations on the quality of performance reporting and how to improve it; and
  • improved our own performance reporting.

What we will do

Influence improved performance reporting

Where appropriate, we will influence any proposed legislative amendments or standards to change the system settings for performance reporting.

We will influence improvement in public organisations' performance reporting by providing regular guidance on good practice. This includes modelling good practice in our own performance reporting.

Improve how performance information is audited

We will improve how we audit performance information. We will review and revise the Auditor-General's auditing standards and our guidance, training materials, resources, and tools to ensure that they continue to be fit for purpose.

Improving Parliamentary and public scrutiny

We will support Parliament and the public to hold public organisations to account by improving how we advise select committees about both the performance reporting of significant public organisations and performance reporting at a sector level. To support developing sector-level advice, we will invest in our data analytics capability and develop tools for compiling and aggregating performance information to support analysis across sectors and between different public organisations.

We will publish the performance data of public organisations in sectors undergoing major reform so that Parliament and the public can assess how services are affected by the reforms. We will also comment on this performance information.

2: Increasing the focus on value for money

What we want to achieve

We want to increase the focus the public sector has on the value for money of public spending.

Why this is important

Central and local government spend more than $170 billion of taxpayer and ratepayer money each year. The public expects value for money and needs meaningful information to hold government to account for its spending.

The change we want to see after five years

Parliament and the public will be able to form a view on value for money by having:

  • access to meaningful and transparent information about the total spend across government and what is being achieved with it;
  • access to meaningful information about how the public sector is improving efficiency, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness over time;
  • stronger links between the financial and non-financial performance information that public sector organisations report;
  • more – and more transparent – evaluation of significant investments; and
  • more explicit comment about value for money in our published reports.

The public sector will have improved systems and processes to support decision-making through:

  • improvement in the availability and quality of data needed to assess value and understand efficiency and cost-effectiveness;
  • better and more meaningful monitoring of significant spending, and efficiency and cost-effectiveness over time; and
  • improvements in the quality of business cases for significant investments, and better-quality cost/benefit assessments in other decision-making.

What we will do

Influence improvement

We will continue to push for more transparency about public sector spending, for more reporting about what is achieved with that spending (particularly when a significant amount of public money is involved), and for changes to the system to enable better transparency at whole-of-government, cross-sector, and organisational levels.

We will highlight good examples of cost/benefit assessments and encourage public organisations to improve how they assess and report on value for money.

Provide assurance and supporting scrutiny

We will report on the quality of information to support decision-making processes (including business cases) where significant amounts of public money are being spent and consider how public organisations are planning for and assessing whether these investments are achieving the desired outcomes.

We will comment specifically about value for money in our work where possible and appropriate – including to highlight where a lack of quality data held by public organisations affects how they can demonstrate value for money.

We will report what we know about performance and expenditure, and how those have trended over time, by drawing on audited performance information.

We will focus on reforms and whether the public organisations affected are reporting that improved value for money is being achieved over time.

We will also, as part of our briefings to select committees, suggest questions for members of Parliament to ask to get better information from public organisations about value for money.

3: Promoting a long-term view

What we want to achieve

Many of the challenges facing New Zealand and the public sector require a continued focus over a long period of time. We want to promote long-term planning in the public sector by encouraging public organisations to use quality data and information to make decisions that will have better long-term outcomes for New Zealanders. This includes promoting integrated planning across the public sector where this might be required.

Why this is important

New Zealand faces a range of long-term challenges (for example, those brought about by climate change). Planning and decision-making will need to take a long-term view and will require co-ordination across government – as well as quality information and reporting about progress – to respond to and address these challenges.

The change we want to see after five years

Public organisations will be:

  • co-ordinating across government when developing long-term plans and strategies for achieving their long-term goals; and
  • providing quality information about their performance, including their progress towards achieving their long-term goals.

Select committees, central agencies, and communities will have the information they need to be able to hold public organisations to account for their stewardship responsibilities.

What we will do

We will continue to build on what we learn from our audits of planning documents, including councils' long-term plans, and promote continued improvement for local government as well as the wider public sector.

This will help us to:

  • provide good practice guidance for public organisations to use when considering their long-term planning and decision-making processes;
  • examine specific long-term goals and challenges that the Government has committed to addressing and assess how well the relevant public organisations are tracking against them; and
  • actively promote a long-term view for the public sector.

Provide guidance

We will develop good practice guidance and highlight public organisations that have a long-term view in their planning and decision-making. We will work with other agencies, bodies, and key individuals with an interest in long-term planning to promote this guidance, and we will bring more of a long-term view into our discussions with public organisations.

We will also identify public organisations that are examples of good practice in how they use information and report about their progress towards achieving their long-term goals. We will develop guidance and promote good practice based on those examples.

We will provide specific guidance to public sector audit and risk committees about long-term planning, risk management, and reporting on progress towards long-term goals.

Influence processes

We will work with central agencies and other stakeholders to influence improvements to processes and tools for long-term planning and decision-making and to encourage integrated planning across entities, where appropriate. We will also work with Parliamentary select committees to support better scrutiny over long-term planning and decision-making by public organisations. We will continue to influence public accountability settings to include a long-term view, particularly for new entities that have multi-agency roles.

We will identify how public organisations can improve the information and reporting they provide to assess their progress in addressing long-term challenges. In particular, we will focus on initiatives addressing long-term challenges that require co-ordination and integrated planning across multiple organisations.

4: Supporting strong organisational integrity practices

What we want to achieve

We want to support the governors of public organisations to meet their stewardship responsibilities to uphold the integrity of New Zealand's public sector.

Why this is important

Public trust and confidence provide public organisations with the social licence to operate. Operating with integrity is fundamental to maintaining that trust and confidence. We want to help maintain New Zealand's international reputation as having a public sector that operates with integrity.

The change we want to see after five years

Public sector leaders will:

  • be taking a system approach to integrity issues and developing strong organisational practices, including reporting;
  • have an understanding of te ao Māori perspectives on integrity and what this means for public organisations; and
  • be holding themselves and others to account for ethical leadership. 

We will be:

  • influencing and supporting strong organisational integrity practices among public organisations; and
  • a role model for strong integrity practices.

What we will do

Developing and promoting integrity resources

We have published an integrity framework to support public sector leaders and governors to take a whole-of-organisation approach to building a culture of integrity. We will develop additional integrity resources to support use of the framework, including resources on how to measure, monitor, and report on integrity practices.

We will also consider te ao Māori perspectives on integrity and whether our resources need to be amended or extended to include these perspectives.

Regular monitoring of integrity practices

We will regularly monitor the integrity practices of public organisations by:

  • developing a performance audit methodology based on the integrity framework to assess the integrity culture of public organisations and conducting integrity-related performance audits;
  • considering the emerging role of auditors in relation to integrity within the organisations they audit, including making amendments to the Auditor-General's auditing standards to ensure that annual audits have a stronger focus on integrity;
  • carrying out more self-initiated inquiries into integrity matters; and
  • supporting Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI) members to carry out International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions' Self-Assessment of Integrity (IntoSAINT).

Improving our own integrity practices

We will embed the integrity framework into our own organisation, including our leadership, governance, and reporting. This will include developing integrity resources for staff, refining processes, and developing an integrity measurement framework to track our progress.