Our areas of focus in this draft annual plan

Draft annual plan 2024/25.

The work outlined in this draft annual plan reflects the areas where we consider the Office can have the greatest impact from the work we do. The plan is presented under the Office’s strategic priorities. Taken together, this draft annual plan focuses on:

Sustainability of public audit

The public audit system remains under pressure due to a worldwide shortage of auditors, rapidly evolving audit requirements, and continuing public sector reform. Although our larger audits are now meeting or exceeding pre-pandemic timeliness, the audits of schools and other smaller public organisations remain a challenge and are a key focus for us in 2024/25.

In 2023/24, we completed a review of Audit New Zealand’s practice management and commenced a programme to better position Audit New Zealand for the future. This work will also include realigning the portfolio of public sector audits to ensure that we have the best available auditor for each public organisation.

Public sector performance

Good performance reporting that shows clearly what was intended and what has been achieved with public money is crucial for maintaining the public’s trust and confidence in the public sector. The way many public organisations report on their performance is not good enough to enable Parliament, councils, and the public to help them understand how public organisations are performing or to hold them to account for it.

Our draft annual plan describes how we will continue to influence improvements in performance reporting in public organisations and how we will support Parliament in its scrutiny of the public sector using this performance information.

We remain ready to contribute to a proposed ad hoc parliamentary select committee that might be established to inquire into performance reporting more broadly.

We also plan to look at the systems and processes for reporting against the government targets (including testing through annual audits where relevant).

The public sector needs to perform well for all New Zealanders. Across our work programme we have an interest in the equity of outcomes for different groups, including improving outcomes for Māori. This work includes analysing public sector data about equity in public services. We intend to complete work on how public organisations are meeting Treaty settlement commitments and assess how the Public Service has responded to its responsibilities for Māori Crown relationships under the Public Service Act 2020.

Addressing long-term challenges

We are interested in how public organisations are responding to the wide range of long-term challenges facing New Zealand. This includes looking at how planning and decision-making by public organisations takes a long-term view and how well the public sector co-ordinates its work to address these challenges.

Climate change is one of the most significant of these challenges. Our work includes auditing climate related information and completing our performance audit of how a selection of councils are identifying and implementing plans in their response to climate change.

As well as our work on climate change, this draft annual plan describes our intended work looking at infrastructure resilience, access to public housing, access to health services, and interventions with youth across the justice sector.

We will also audit the New Zealand Health Plan – both Te Pae Waenga (which commences in July 2024) and the reporting against the former Te Pae Tata.

Public organisations in both central and local government are operating in a challenging economic environment and in a challenging economic outlook. This draft annual plan includes work that will look at how public organisations use information to plan, measure, and report on the benefits of their spending. We will look at how value for money is assessed and reported internationally to identify good practice and consider how well financial management practice in central government organisations is set up to deliver value for money.

The drivers of trust in the public sector

When we consider what drives trust in the public sector, we often talk about:

  • competence: providing core public services effectively and efficiently;
  • reliability: providing those services in normal times and times of crisis and stewarding the system for the long-term; and
  • whether people believe the public sector acts honestly, openly, and fairly.

The perception of honesty can be far more significant than competence and reliability in determining whether the public sector is viewed as trustworthy.

Operating with integrity is fundamental to maintaining trust and confidence. We will continue to raise awareness of the importance of strong integrity practice across the public sector. We plan to carry out two integrity-focused performance audits in 2024/25 – integrity in the sports sector and assessing the progress by New Zealand Defence force in implementing Operation Respect. We will also look at the operation of systems and processes for managing ministerial conflicts of interest. We will continue to bring together public sector leaders and experts to discuss integrity issues and share good practice.

Focusing on emerging issues

In recent years, we have focused on carrying out rapid work that responds to issues as they emerge. The findings and recommendations we make from this rapid work can have immediate impact on a carefully targeted topic.2

In 2023/24, we looked at how effectively the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was monitoring importers of foods that present a risk to public health (specified high-risk foods). This audit resulted in MPI committing to changes to address issues we identified. Before the end of June, we will complete another rapid performance audit.

In 2024/25, we plan to increase the number of rapid performance audits to four (one for each quarter). One of the rapid performance audits we plan to do is looking at the systems and processes public organisations have to measure progress towards the new government targets. This will mean that any improvements we identify can be made quickly to ensure reliable reporting.

Because rapid performance audits are designed to respond to emerging issues, we will consider topics for these throughout the year. We are interested in your views about areas of public sector performance that would be suitable for this type of rapid performance audit work.

Focus entities

In preparing this draft annual plan, we have brought a sharper focus in our discretionary work on influencing change in the public organisations that spend the most public money and have the most impact on the public and on public sector performance. This includes focusing some of our work on seven of the largest central government organisations that, together, are responsible for more than 60% of central government expenditure. We will also focus on the three central agencies that have influence across the public sector3 and Auckland Council, the country’s largest local government entity.

2: For example, our work on the cost-of-living payment prompted the Government to tighten criteria and, consequently, there was a significant reduction in payments made to ineligible recipients.

3: The seven larger-spending public organisations are Te Whatu Ora, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Justice, and New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi. The central agencies are the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Public Service Commission, and the Treasury.