can handle major challenges
What type of issues
might citizens or those who represent them bring directly or indirectly
to the Prime Minister?
This briefing set
out to assist citizens assess when PM and DPMC might appropriately be
asked to help them have their voices heard - and where it is inappropriate
to focus at that level.
overall outcome - Good government with effective public service support
- clearly supports the government’s goal to “maintain trust
in government and provide strong social services”.
DPMC works at the
point where ministers, agencies and advice streams come together at the
Cabinet table – ensuring that the final decisions of the government
have been given effective public-service support at a departmental level.
The DPMC made its
role more public in its 2005 Statement of Intent (SOI), where it provided
interested people help in finding out and working out what they might
seek on significant matters from the Prime Minister. You can find out
more from statements
of intent, and other information on the DPMC website.
People with significant questions who may have wanted help from the Prime
Minister earlier on might have found little official guidance to turn
to. But the 2005 DPMC statement of Intent sought to bring greater clarity
to its various key interventions, linkages, outcomes, outputs and activities
and the governments goals for the public sector.
DPMC was established in January 1990 to provide impartial, high-quality
advice and support to the Executive (the Prime Minister, the Governor-General,
and the Cabinet).
A totally separate body, the Office of the Prime Minister, also advises
the Prime Minister and is the primary point of responsibility for coalition
The SOI does not answer every question – given so much is still
a matter of judgment – but it does give useful pointers.
The pointers might
get even clearer in future SOIs if the chief executives of the three central
agencies, DPMC, Treasury and the State Services Commission make and report
progress on their fresh commitment to focus on more planning.
to emerging policy issues
DPMC needs to maintain sufficient capability to respond rapidly at an
administrative level to new policy issues that require close monitoring
by senior ministers.
Examples of this
“troubleshooting” and issues-management role include the Climate
Change Project and the Foreshore and Seabed group, both of which were
housed in DPMC.
Other issues DPMC
has had on its agenda show what the PM might attend to with the help of
DPMC – e.g. health reforms, safer communities, positive ageing,
review of ministerial actions, Y2K and some big urgent matters such as
Issues are responded
to as required and DPMC may be asked to set up temporary units or task
forces to provide advice on a particular issue (or issues) within a specified
length of time.
The DPMC is already employed in helping coordinate some issues, in trying
to manage other issues, and could propose or be invited to handle other
issues that may not even have been defined, or may be waiting for some
trigger to bring them centre-stage in the nation’s affairs.
DPMC provides the continuity of constitutional and administrative services
that helps maintain New Zealand’s strong parliamentary democracy.
One of DPMC’s roles is to be the “constitutional and institutional
glue” that holds the system together; another is to be the “oil”
that allows the free flow of information, advice and policy for government
DPMC’s high-level outcome is also the responsibility of many other
parts of the government system, including ministers and the public service
as a whole. Along with the two other central agencies – Treasury
and the SSC – DPMC is responsible for providing the leadership that
enables the public service to carry out the business of government efficiently,
effectively and collectively.
It provides a broad mix of activities – from wide-ranging assessments
and policy advice to support for centre-of-government functions and public-sector
leadership – that together allow the government of the day to conduct
its business in pursuit of its mandated political objectives.
main outcome remains “good government, with effective public service
support”. This outcome can only be achieved if DPMC works effectively
across government with the entire range of public-sector agencies. A robust
whole-of government approach is therefore the essential underpinning of
the department’s effectiveness.
of central agencies
DPMC supports the Prime Minister’s twin roles as leader of the government
and chair of Cabinet, and has explicit responsibility for promoting co-ordination
across the public service. This co-ordination role extends some of the
department’s activities across the whole public service and –
depending on the issue – further out into local government, industry
and the wider community.
A great deal of DPMC’s activities focus on facilitating government
decision making at a strategic and operational level. A major role is
to help co-ordinate the work of the core public service departments and
ministries – so that decision making takes account of all relevant
viewpoints and is as coherent and complete as possible.
As a central agency, DPMC works with the Treasury and the SSC on a number
of fronts to support government and provide leadership within the state
sector. All three agencies have a shared interest in a high-performing,
trusted and accessible state sector, delivering the right things in the
right way at the right prices. This is an outcome to which all three agencies
contribute, through their respective contributing outcomes.
During 2004/05 the three chief executives, John Whitehead, Mark Prebble
and Maarten Wevers, made a commitment to develop better approaches to
working together on shared outcome work. Initially, the focus was on building
a clearer picture of each agency’s separate business and the respective
contributions that each agency will expect of the others in carrying out
that business. The agencies will also focus on building greater co-ordination
and collaboration in their respective planning processes.
The three central CEOs planned to develop a system that enables the central
agencies to identify emerging performance problems early within poorly
performing agencies and develop a process for dealing with them.
Each of the three central agencies has differing but complementary roles
in developing effective outcomes for the public service as a whole.
The Treasury seeks to improve the effective and efficient use of state
resources and regulatory powers and to improve decision-making and performance-management
systems for the state sector.
The SSC focuses on producing a high-performing state sector by promoting
the development of senior managers and effective public-management systems
in the public service.
DPMC’s emphasis is on effective support for the decision-making
processes of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The aim is to ensure
that the elected government and its administrative agencies can design
and deliver policies and services that improve the lives of citizens,
within a framework of stable constitutional government.
The common purpose of the three central agencies is to create a public-management
system that facilitates a high-performing state sector.
In this environment, an increasingly important role for DPMC is to take
account of links with other areas of government policy and to consider
the longer-term implications of particular policies.
DPMC ‘s 2005 SOI recorded that it was moving to ensure that matters
such as planning are tackled in a more collaborative manner with the other
central agencies – The Treasury and the State Services Commission.
DPMC’s outcomes require it to
• be aware of current and emerging issues relevant to its work
• conduct thorough and robust analysis
• provide soundly based advice
• disseminate the government’s decisions in a clear and timely
• engage in an open and constructive manner across the whole of
DPMC has seven business
units: the Cabinet Office, the Policy Advisory Group, the External Assessments
Bureau, the Corporate Services Unit, the Domestic and External Security
Group, and Government House. Each of these units have their own programmes,
personnel, relationships, accountabilities and history.
that support the continuity of executive government were at the forefront
of DPMC work preparations for 2005 and 2006.
Government-formation: There was a requirement to ensure
that the processes and conventions relating to the 2005 election, and
the government-formation period following the election, are understood
Governor-General: DPMC anticipated a corresponding requirement
to manage the process associated with the change of Governor-General in
2006. Because of her or his key role in New Zealand’s system of
government, effective support for the Governor-General by DPMC is a key
contributor to its overall outcome of “good government”. Maintaining
the credibility of the person and office of the Governor-General is integral
to the effective performance of the constitutional and ceremonial roles.
Cabinet Office: It is the Cabinet Office within DPMC
that is charged with ensuring that the constitutional practices and arrangements
that support the continuity of executive government are conducted and
upheld in accordance with our constitutional framework. Many aspects of
New Zealand’s constitution operate on the basis of long-standing
conventions and practices. Some conventions remain closely linked to those
New Zealand has inherited, whilst others have developed a distinct New
The Cabinet Office is the recognised source of expert knowledge on the
systems of Cabinet and executive government – and is absolutely
scrupulous in maintaining impartiality between administrations, agencies
and individual ministers. One of its activities has been to provide advice
on the progress and outcomes of the inquiry conducted by the
Constitutional Arrangements Committee.
Security and risk management: Security and risk management
are increasingly prominent issues for governments worldwide. DPMC’s
role is to offer the Prime Minister, and ministers, a whole-of-government
view about risks and major security issues that are of interest to New
Zealand. Continuing, co-ordinated effort across a significant number of
government agencies is required for New Zealand to manage security risks,
and keep abreast of international expectations in this field. The Domestic
and External Security Group, and the External Assessments Bureau provide
In the past, because of its place at the centre of the government system,
DPMC has been the home to a number of special policy units established
to deal with particular issues that required a whole-of-government response
by government. DPMC aims to have the ability to manage policy-development
challenges of this nature.
The length of time
staff recently have worked for DPMC in its central Wellington offices
was on average six years. There are slightly more men than women, about
80% are Pakeha and 10% Maori. The average age is 45 years.
DPMC seeks excellent
working relationships, based on high levels of trust, with all agencies
that could influence or affect the business of government. This is necessary
for gathering information, developing and testing policy advice, and generally
gaining stakeholders’ engagement in policy implementation.
of responsibility and the various policy and information flows through
the system of executive government can be further understood with the
aid of a diagram in the DPMC SOI provided to Parliament.
Find out more:
Telephone: 04 471-9035
Fax: 04 472-3181
This briefing is based on the DPMC Statement of Intent, edited by
Anthony Haas, checked by the DPMC and published at decisionmaker.co.nz
on 5 March 2006