Part 2: The Role of the State Services Commission in Relation to Māori

The State Services Commission: Capability to Recognise and Address Issues for Māori.


The capability that a department requires is dictated by a number of factors – including its role, the outcomes it wishes to achieve, and the environment in which it operates. In considering the Māori capability of the Commission, we needed a clear understanding of the Commission’s role in relation to Māori.

This Part considers:

  • the role of the Commission in relation to Māori; and
  • the process followed to define that role and our assessment of that process.

What We Did

Our examination included:

  • discussions with the key Commission staff involved in defining the role of the Commission in relation to Māori – in order to understand the process whereby the role was defined; and
  • reviewing documentation that showed how the Commission’s role was defined.

Defining the Commission’s Role in Relation to Māori

The Commission’s internal strategy Māori Responsiveness in the Commission: 2003-2006 (the Māori Responsiveness Strategy) defines the Commission’s role in relation to Māori as being –

to provide assurance to Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department’s capability to address issues that impact on Māori, firstly as Treaty partners and Māori as citizens, and secondly as Public Service employees who identify as Māori.

The Commission’s Statement of Intent for 2003 recognises the relevance of responsiveness to Māori to the outcomes the Commission wants to achieve.

Assurance on Departmental Capability and Performance

In reviewing the performance of departments and chief executives, the Commission is responsible for assessing their performance in:

  • contributing to the Government’s strategic objectives for Māori or the Treaty, where appropriate;
  • managing their statutory or policy obligations relating to the Treaty and/or Māori in being a “good employer” (including EEO); and
  • providing high-quality policy advice that takes account of the impact on Māori as appropriate.

The Commission has recognised that many parts of the State sector have struggled to respond to the needs of Māori as citizens, employees and parties to the Treaty of Waitangi. It has identified improving State sector performance in Māori responsiveness as one of its priorities in 2003-04, and has made the commitment to assist the Public Service to develop its capability to engage with Māori.

The four Deputy Commissioner Teams are responsible for this work. The diagram on the next page shows the Deputy Commissioners and their teams in the structure of the Commission.

Strategic Human Resources

The Commission has the function of promoting, developing and monitoring EEO policies and programmes for the Public Service.

Māori are one of a number of target EEO groups – reflecting the need for Public Service chief executives to give effect to their good employer obligations under section 56 of the State Sector Act and recognising that Māori are making up an increasing proportion of the working-age population. Targeting Māori as an EEO group is also about ensuring that the Public Service has Māori staff with the managerial, policy and service delivery capability to achieve Government outcomes appropriately.

The Strategic Development Branch is responsible for this aspect of the Commission’s responsibilities.

State Services Commission – Organisational Structure

Organisational structure of State Services Commission.

Increasing Public Knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi

From 1 July 2003, the Commission was given responsibility for managing initiatives to meet the Government’s objective to increase the level of public knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Statutory Obligations as a Government Department

The State Services Commissioner, as chief executive of the Commission, is responsible for ensuring that the Commission meets its statutory obligations as a government department under the State Sector Act.

How Did the Commission Define this Role?

The most significant steps in the process of defining the Commission’s role in relation to Māori were:

  • clarifying legislative aspects of the Commission’s role with the Minister of State Services in 1999; and
  • developing a Business Need Statement in 2000 on the basis of this earlier work.

The Commission then proceeded to compile its Māori Responsiveness Strategy.

1999 Briefing to the Minister of State Services

In order to arrive at a clearer understanding of its role in relation to Māori, in 1999 the Commission developed a view on its role in relation to Māori, which it tested with its then Minister, and subsequently adopted. It was agreed at that time that the role of the Commission would centre on capability assurance, but that the Commission would participate where appropriate in initiatives led by other agencies to promote capability improvements.

In its paper to the Minister, the Commission identified those of its statutory functions which were of particular relevance to its role in relation to Māori. Since primary responsibility for achieving outcomes for Māori rests with the chief executives of individual departments (as employers and in the delivery of services and other activities), the Commission considers that it can exert only indirect influence on departments through its functions under the State Sector Act.

In defining its role, the Commission also had regard for its own statutory obligations as a government department.

2000 Business Need Statement

In June 2000 the Commission formulated a Business Need Statement that built upon the earlier work of the Commission in 1999. The Business Need Statement highlighted some key challenges for the Commission, and concluded that Commission staff needed to:

  • have an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and contemporary Treaty issues;
  • assess the capability of departments as a whole to meet Government’s objectives for Māori and the Treaty;
  • identify analytical gaps in respect of Māori and/or the Treaty where relevant in departmental policy advice;
  • undertake analysis of the impacts of approaches to public management on Māori and/or the Treaty where appropriate; and
  • include in chief executive recruitment, systems that give effect to the requirement to appoint chief executives who will act as good employers.

Our Views

Given the Government’s goals and statutory requirements, departments need to have:

  • identified and defined their role in relation to Māori, and in so doing considered how to contribute to the Government’s strategic goals in respect of Māori;
  • followed a sound process when defining their role and distinguished their role from those of other agencies with which their responsibilities may overlap;
  • identified strategic and business objectives that will give effect to their role; and
  • ensured that their role is clearly understood by stakeholders and other departments.

In our view, the Commission has undertaken a considered analysis of its role in relation to Māori. This is demonstrated by the presentation of the Commission’s initial analysis of this role to the Minister of State Services in 1999, and the subsequent formulation of the Business Need Statement and adoption of the Māori Responsiveness Strategy.

The recognition of responsiveness to Māori as a priority in the Commission’s Statement of Intent further supports the emphasis the Commission places on its role. Through the process of defining its role, the Commission has clearly considered how to contribute to the Government’s strategic goals in respect of Māori, and how this can be effected through its capability assurance role.

The Commission considers that the Ministry of Māori Development (Te Puni Kōkiri) also has a role in advising on departmental capability for Māori.3 In its Māori Responsiveness Strategy, the Commission has noted the need to define its roles and relationship boundaries with Te Puni Kōkiri, and has allocated responsibility for this task to the Deputy Commissioners.

As yet, the boundary between the roles of the Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri has not been clearly defined. We understand that the Commission has raised with Te Puni Kōkiri the issue of the respective roles of the two departments, and that discussions were scheduled. However, by mutual agreement, these discussions were placed on hold while the Commission was reviewing Te Puni Kōkiri.4

Lack of clarity over respective roles and responsibilities has the potential to create confusion for departments, blur accountabilities, and lead to duplication of effort. We recommend that the Commission give priority to reaching agreement with Te Puni Kōkiri over their respective roles.

The Commission has concluded that its role in relation to Māori should centre on providing capability assurance to the Government that chief executives develop and maintain their department‘s capability to address issues that impact on Māori – firstly as treaty partners and citizens and secondly as Public Service employees who identify as Māori. While the Commission has communicated its broader role in relation to departmental capability assurance to departments and key stakeholders, wider communication of the Commission’s role in respect of Māori capability assurance has yet to occur.

The role of the Commission in relation to Māori should be clearly articulated to departments. This will give departments a better understanding of the Commission’s responsibilities – as well as clarifying the Commission’s role of providing advice and assurance to departments on Māori capability. Clearer communication of the Commission’s role would also make it easier for Te Puni Kōkiri to fulfil its own roles.


We recommend that the Commission:

  • complete its discussions with Te Puni Kōkiri in order to clearly define their respective roles, thereby avoiding the potential for duplication of effort and blurred accountability; and
  • clearly articulate its role in relation to Māori to departments and other stakeholders.

3: Section 5 of the Ministry of Māori Development Act 1991 defines the particular responsibilities of the Ministry as including:

  • Promoting increases in the levels of achievement attained by Māori with respect to:

    – Education;

    – Training and employment;

    – Health;

    – Economic resource development;

  • Monitoring, and liaising with, each department and agency that provides or has a responsibility to provide services to or for Māori for the purpose of ensuring the adequacy of those services.

4: The Commissioner has reviewed Te Puni Kōkiri’s management systems and their operation, in response to questions about the monitoring of Crown Entities, provision of Ministerial Services, and general capability.

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