Rating the Departments

The Dominion Post reports:

The education and health ministries are among the worst-performing government departments, according to a report card ranking state agencies and bosses.

The snapshot report, to be issued on Friday, finds excessive red tape, bureaucratic systems and ineffective consultation are hampering government departments.

While health and education are lagging, the Social Development Ministry is leading the way, alongside Customs and the Reserve Bank.

The Trans Tasman Media report, which is in the final draft stages, used 16 independent commentators to assess 37 departments.

The independent board rated departments in five categories: chief executive performance, ease of doing business, budget performance and value for money, service delivery, and overall performance.

I was one of the 16 commentators (as was the Dominion Post Editor), and also helped Trans Tasman with the survey design. I found the data quite fascinating.

The board of advisors included Peter Conway from the CTU, Mai Chen, Dave Henderson from the Assn of NGOs, Tina Reid from the Federation of Voluntary Welfare Orgs, Phil O’Reilly from Business NZ etc.

Each state core agency was rated from 1 to 7, so four is the mid point. and the average agency overall rating was 4.2.

The top 10 agencies for overall performance were:

  1. Customs 5.38
  2. Reserve Bank 5.08
  3. MSD 5.08
  4. LINZ 5.00
  5. Stats 5.00
  6. MFAT 4.91
  7. Treasury 4.77
  8. IRD 4.73
  9. DPMC 4.67
  10. MED 4.64

Customs received high ratings across the board. They are obviously a quiet effective performer.

The three biggest departments in terms of vote administered are Education, Health and MSD.  What I found interesting is that one of them was rated right near the top, and the other two almost at the bottom.

When you consider the past scandals and crises at MSD (which includes CYF), they really have turned their performance around. They have shown that size is not a barrier to quality.

It of some concern that the ratings for Education and Health ministries are so low.

The other area of real concern is SSC, with a low 3,55 rating. SSC is one of the three co-ordinating or central agencies alongside DPMC and Treasury. They should be one of the top ten agencies, not one of the bottom ten.How can you be in charge of assessing the performance of other agencies, when your own performance is seen externally (and internally from what I hear) as lack lustre.

From time to time people suggest that we don’t really need three central co-ordinating agencies, and SSC could be abolished with some of its functions transferred to DPMC. Unless they make themselves more relevant, and of greater value, then that may be an idea whose time has come.

Later in the week Trans-Tasman will announce the pick of the panel for Agency of the Year and CEO of the Year. This is not based simply on the ratings, but is based on more qualitative judgements.

The full report is around 100 pages long, and includes detailed critiques of each agency. It is available for sale from Trans Tasman.

Another interesting aspect of the results was, as reported here, that CEOs tnded to get higher ratings than their agencies. This suggests that having a good CEO is a necessary pre-requisite to good performance, but by itself is not a guarantee of sucess.

Some agencies seem to be so challenged, they they defy even the best CEO to turn around. On the other hand MSD is a good example of what you can do.

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