Government reviews more state agencies

  • Bill English
  • Tony Ryall
Deputy Prime Minister State Services

The Government is proposing changes that will reduce the number of government agencies as it seeks better value for money, less duplication and improved co-ordination across the state sector, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Tony Ryall announced today.

The proposals include disestablishing five crown entities and three tribunals, merging two government agencies, establishing shared corporate services across the government's three central agencies and consolidating the services of a number of others.

"New Zealand currently has 39 government departments, over 150 Crown entities of various types, not including school boards of trustees, and more than 200 other agencies," Mr English says.

"As the Prime Minister said in his Statement to Parliament, we want government administration to be as efficient and well organised as it can be. At present the costs of running government are too high and there is too much duplication and waste.

"We have a wide-ranging programme of reform as we seek to improve frontline public services within tight financial constraints. Structural changes are only a small part of that programme and will go ahead only where they make sense.

"In this case, we believe the proposed changes have the potential to reduce duplication of roles and back office functions and improve the cohesion of frontline services," Mr English says.

State Services Minister Tony Ryall says the Government is committed to improving the efficiency, coordination and quality of public services.

"This means focusing government efforts and funding on the things that matter most to New Zealanders – and making sure we do them well.

"Officials are now undertaking due diligence on the proposals, which will involve gathering financial and other information from the affected organisations and listening to the views of chief executives, board chairs, staff and other key stakeholders.

"We expect these changes will result in savings over the medium term, which will be offset by some initial upfront costs. However there are no goals for staff reductions or money saved.

"We expect the changes to happen, unless the due diligence produces better alternatives or there are compelling reasons not to proceed with the proposed changes," Mr Ryall says.

Officials are expected to report back in July, after which Cabinet will make final decisions.

The proposals are:

Crown entities and tribunals – There are seven proposals for changes to Crown entities and tribunals:

· Set up an arms-length health promotion agency to take over the relevant functions of the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) and the Ministry of Health.

· Disestablish the Crown Health Financing Agency and transfer its district health board lending function to either the Ministry of Health or to the Debt Management Office; transfer the management of residual Area Health Board liabilities to the Ministry of Health, and determine the best location for property functions.

Enable the Mental Health Commission to complete the new Mental Health Blueprint, while providing for the long-term viability of its other functions by delegating the advocacy functions to a separate Mental Health Commissioner in the office of the Health and Disability Commissioner and delegating other functions to the Ministry of Health; or bring forward the date the Mental Health Commission is due to cease functioning (currently 31 August 2015).

· Transfer the functions of the Charities Commission to the Department of Internal Affairs, while ensuring that registration decisions remain separate from Ministers.

· Disestablish three tribunals – the Health Act Boards of Appeal; the Maritime Appeal Authority; and the Land Valuation Tribunals – and transfer their functions to the District Court, to be included in further work led by the Justice Ministry to streamline tribunals and improve efficiency.

Arts, Culture and Heritage sector:

· Encourage greater collaboration between the New Zealand Film Commission and Film New Zealand.

· Consolidate audiovisual archiving. Encourage the New Zealand Film Archive, Radio New Zealand, and Television New Zealand to consolidate material into the Film Archive.

· Consolidate management of heritage property portfolios between the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the Department of Conservation and potentially other agencies in the arts, culture and heritage sector.

· Work with the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Press Council and the Office of Film and Literature Classification to look at opportunities for greater collaboration.

Education sector:

· Transfer work within Vote Employment from the Department of Labour to the Ministry of Education.

· Merge the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority into a single education quality assurance agency.

In addition, as part of their leadership role, the three central agencies, the State Services Commission, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury are consulting with staff on a proposal to establish a shared services centre to integrate their back office functions.

"Once final decisions have been made, it is expected that by March, 2012 these three agencies will have a single corporate service for transactional functions. This will enable improved performance, cost savings and a lift in productivity,” Mr Ryall says.