The core executive in New Zealand is shaped according to new public management approaches and methods. Most importantly, contracts are negotiated between ministers and chief executives in a large number of departments and ministries. With 35 government departments and ministries, taking a whole government approach to policy development can be complex and time-consuming. After 1999, the Labour-led governments reacted to concerns about fragmentation and silos by recentralizing the steering capacity of the core executive. The most important government departments involved in strategic planning and policy formation are the central agencies of Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the State Services Commission (SSC) and the Treasury. All contracts (performance agreements, departmental statements of intent) support a cooperative and whole government policy approach, though evaluation of the performance assessment of chief executives has a strong focus on departmental achievements. The new National-led government in the period under review decided to seek substantial efficiency reforms without a major reorganization of public sector departments and ministries. This has led to various initiatives, such as greater rationalization and coordination with respect to back-office functions (such as IT, payroll and procurement) with a view to achieving savings which can be shifted to delivering front-line services. Since chief executives are on contract and employ the staff, these changes can only occur with their support and cannot be imposed on individual departments.
Developing strategies to enhance public sector performance management has been progressing for some time. At the end of 2008, DPMC, SSC and the Treasury released “The Capability Toolkit,” “a tool to promote and inform capability management” and strengthen the management and efficiency of government departments. A “Performance Improvement Framework” was published in late 2009 and is now being used for both self-assessment and external review of the performance of government departments and ministries. Since the government has imposed a cap on the size of the state sector, these measures are aimed at securing greater efficiency, effectiveness and performance across the state sector.
There is only a moderate strategic planning capacity that the prime minister can make use of (policy advisory group) vis-à-vis the ministers and increasingly, more ad hoc groups, often including some outside expertise, are complementing the policy advisory work of government agencies. For example, the design of the government’s tax reform package was aided by the work of an independent tax policy working group outside of government that had brought together experts to debate issues and provide advice to the government. The National-led government has found this approach attractive in that it connects the government to expertise while also allowing ideas to be debated by the public prior to decision-making. As pressures on government spending grow in areas such as social security benefits, police, justice and corrections, health and education services, and so on, the government is seeking public-private partnerships and more practical and low-cost solutions which involve greater self- or community-help. One notable initiative is the Whanau Ora program, a policy developed by a minister from the Maori Party, which has pooled funding from government agencies to develop and deliver service to Maori and their families/tribes which are more holistic, tailored and effective in achieving better outcomes.
The Capability Toolkit - A tool to promote and inform capability management (http://www.ssc.govt.nz/display/doc ument.asp?docid=7000, accessed April 12, 2010).
Performance Improvement Framework accessed April 12, 2010).
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2009 accessed April 12,