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Audit New Zealand Update for Crown entities 23 March 2017

Summary notes by Andrew Burns, Manager, Policy & Analytics, State Services Commission

The importance of public trust is one that is front of mind at the moment, for a number of reasons.

I was reading a recent international study of trust in institutions – business, NGOs, Governments.

It might not be definitive, or the only study we have on this, but its findings were troubling.

It suggested that the large part of New Zealand’s population distrusts key institutions. This was the case in 21 of 29 countries in the study.

Out of NGOs, Business, the media and Government, only NGOs are generally trusted.

It also noted that the gap between the majority of the population and the well-off, tertiary educated population is growing.

Nearly half those surveyed thought that “the system is failing them”. They don’t trust institutions and they’re concerned about big issues such as

Immigration, globalisation, social values, the speed of innovation.

Government officials were deemed “credible” by just over a quarter of the population in NZ.

Why does this matter? Trust and confidence in the public service is the foundation of our license to operate.

Our ability to provide services, to provide advice to ministers, to collect taxes, to regulate, steward the public service and our key institutions is fundamentally undermined if our citizens don’t believe us or don’t think we are acting in good faith.

We can see the effects of a lack of credibility in government and experts in the US and in the UK at the moment.

We can also see the impact of the politicisation of the public service and even the judiciary. It compromises, in my view fatally, the credibility of the public service and the quality of advice it provides to the government.

There are a number of ways that I think we can address this issue – and our thinking in this space is a fundamental part of our Better Public Services 2 programme – which I’ll come to shortly.

The way we’re thinking about this is through three lenses:

  • Competency
  • Character
  • Connection

Competency is pretty clear: how well do we serve the public? Are we effective? Efficient? Are we transparent and accountable for how well we perform? Do we own our mistakes and learn from them?

Character: What are our values? how do we behave? Do we act with integrity? Is the “spirit of service” evident in what we do?

Connection: do we put New Zealanders at the heart of what we do? Do we engage with our citizens, listen to them? Are we open and transparent about what we do and how we do it?

In a way the Better Public Services 2 programme address all of these, through specific work, but throughout it too…so I’ll talk you through what we’re doing, and why and what I think it might mean for this audience.

Where did BPS2  come from?

The reforms of the 80s gave us a decentralised system and this system delivered more efficient, vertical structures that focussed on outputs.

CEs were put on fixed term contracts and made accountable for what the delivery of these outputs.

We got much better at delivering welfare, collecting taxes, educational achievement, settling treaty claims and so on. These were seen as world-leading changes that delivered real improvements.

But this decentralisation came at a cost: fragmentation. Fragmentation of services. Fragmentation of assets – people, infrastructure, business functions and knowledge and services.

Each agency did its own thing with a view to maximising efficiency within the agency.

Each agency built its own IT shop. Managed its own people. Delivered its own services.

But we know that New Zealanders, people, don’t experience life like that: happily, your life doesn’t happen in neat, government agency shaped bundles. So our services don’t often fit with how people experience reality.

And as a system, we lost the ability to manage our infrastructure, people and data in a way that maximised the value of the system rather than its parts.

The BPS reforms of 2011 began to address that.

We brought in functional leads to provide scale and leadership to key business functions.

We agreed 10 BPS results that are cross-cutting priorities that meant we started to organise around outcomes for citizens, not organisational structures.

What is BPS 2.0?

BPS 2.0 is the next step in system reform to deliver better results and better services – that’s the key here.

It’s a 12-18 month programme that is lead by and owned by CEs – this is important. They’re not sole actors here now – they’re the stewards of the system who work together to achieve something greater.

It aims to bring greater alignment to our system at the top to do this.

And it aims to improve the trust in and integrity of the public service.

What are we doing?

Results, Services, Trust – everything leads to this. As I said earlier, the confidence and trust in what we do will be delivered not just by our character, but by how we perform, by how well we can connect with our citizens

We’ll be refreshing the 10 BPS results this year. These will set out the top priorities for the public service, to work together on. We will report on how well we are doing against these targets.

State sector architecture: this looks at how we arrange and structure our services, how we can govern and operate them more around outcomes and customer services. How can we become more flexible and adaptive to our citizen’s needs?

Big data and analytics: if we want to deliver better results and services, to make smarter investment decisions, we need to understand our citizens. We need to build and maintain the social license to use and share data appropriately. We need to keep that data secure. This work will look at how we do this as a system rather than in a fragmented way by establishing a new functional lead in this space.

Digital service transformation: who likes internet banking? Who uses their phone to do it? I do – I can do it where I want, when I want, on my own terms. It’s a fantastic innovation. Citizens expect joined up, digital services as the norm now. This is about putting customers at the heart of our services and providing those services in ways that are easy, convenient and effective.

People: we want to deploy and manage our senior people more strategically as a system, not just within agencies. We need to build capability and leadership across the system and widen our talent pool.

We’re holding an event next week with over  600 senior public servants to bring the leadership together and to discuss how we’re going to lead this change together.

To connect with our citizens we need a diverse and inclusive workforce: that means we’ll understand our customers better, we’ll have greater diversity of thought and leadership.

Underpinning all of this is the work to build a trusted, respected and high-integrity public service.

We’re going to look to build a unified public service identity. It will reflect renewed culture and values.

At the heart of this will be the spirit of service and what it means to serve our citizens. We will have high standards of integrity, behaviour and conduct.

And we will work to protect the foundational pillars of the public service:

  1. Free and frank advice
  2. Political neutrality
  3. Open government
  4. Merit based appointments

It’s early days for the programme – we’re still working with CEs and agencies to determine what the programme of work will be and how we make this real.

You can expect to see more about this soon.

What does it mean for you?

I’ve expressed these as questions – because, frankly, I don’t have all the answers and this stuff is going to be hard.

Well, how do we put customers at the centre of what we do? Why should we let legal form, or organisational boundaries inhibit delivering the best outcomes or services for our citizens?

How will your organisation address the issues of trust and integrity? And let’s not refer to some corporate brochure-ware when answering that. What are they really? Do they matter or make a difference to what people do?

How can we integrate our services better? Who’s ever been told that “we don’t deal with that? – you’ll need to speak to department X
or had to re-enter the same data 14 times to get something done? It’s maddening. And its frustrating. And it erodes people’s belief that we care about what we do.

How can you connect better with your citizens and with the rest of the public service?

And how can we do all of this while managing risks? The temptation is to put in controls and processes to do that, but we need to balance those with the risk of poor services, the risk of poor outcomes and the risk that our own citizens think we’re more concerned about managing our own risks than theirs.

These aren’t easy questions but they’re not rhetorical either.

We need to answer them – not just because we want to deliver better results and services – and we do: I don’t believe many people, if anyone, turns up to work to do a bad job – but because the trust and credibility and belief in what we do isn’t just about our integrity and honesty.

It is also about us delivering better services and outcomes and taking pride in doing it.