Education, health ministries rate poorly

BY KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/06/2010

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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.

The panel found the departments were getting bogged down by systems. "[They] generally have created far too much process and are often very inefficient, particularly with consultation, fail to cut to the chase and in many cases lack real energy."

Senior writers at the Trans Tasman political newsletter also wrote an assessment of each department.

The findings of the panel and writers were generally consistent, Trans Tasman editor Max Bowden said. Departments that did well were those that could embrace the policy direction of the government, and adapt to change, he said.

The State Services Commission – which ranked in the bottom five for overall performance, with questions raised over why it existed – oversees government departments.

Spokesman Jason Ryan said agency performance would be addressed by the department, and a "robust methodology" was being established.

"The end result should be that the public receive more effective and efficient services for their taxpayers' dollars."

The Education Ministry came bottom of the rankings for overall performance, chief executive performance, and quality of service, while the Health Ministry was considered worst in the value for money category, and was in the bottom five overall.

The assessment said the Education Ministry was seen as "ineffective and too politically correct", as it played a "piggy in the middle" role in the introduction of national standards.

Chief executive Karen Sewell refused to comment on her department's performance until she had seen the whole report.

Panelists said the Heath Ministry was struggling despite leadership by Stephen McKernan.

"[Health] is really confused, with too many sections not knowing what others are doing, and doing stuff without consultation in the affected communities."

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Deputy director-general of health corporate services Andrew Bridgman said the Health Ministry welcomed feedback, and would read the report's findings with interest.

But its performance was best measured by results such as health targets, and the latest results showed significant improvements, he said.

"The public can be assured these are real results that are clear evidence of ongoing improvements in the New Zealand health system."

While health and education come off badly in the report, the Social Development Ministry receives praise, ranking in the top five for all categories, and scoring the highest chief executive rating.

While two of the big three agencies received low ratings, the biggest one of them all received only plaudits, the report said.

The long-term value for money campaign, and its role at the front line of the recession were all mentioned.

Chief executive Peter Hughes said it was a reflection of his staff's work. "I am very proud of them and the work that they do."

Panelists included Phil O'Reilly from Business New Zealand, Charles Finny from the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, and Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney. Ratings were based on their dealings with the departments as customers.

A chief executive and government department of the year will be announced when the report is made public officially on Friday.

- The Dominion Post

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