Annual Report 2008-2009

Managing performance and integrity

The Leadership Team is supported by a set of subcommittees focused on key areas of the Ministry's performance. The Audit Committee meets quarterly to independently review all aspects of our operations.
The Value for Money Advisory Board provides direction and guidance on our Value for Money review.

Governance arrangements

The Leadership Team oversees the Ministry's capability and capacity to deliver our strategic priorities. It receives monthly reports on a range of performance and risk issues. In 2009, three new governance subcommittees focusing on Information Technology, Human Resources and Industrial Relations, and Finance and Capital Asset Management were established. These governance arrangements ensure the key areas of the Ministry's operations achieve focused scrutiny from top management.

Audit Committee

Our Audit Committee independently advises the Chief Executive and it has the mandate to look across all our activities.

The committee meets four times a year and is chaired by one of three external members. Between them, the committee members have extensive experience in public and private sector financial and risk management, governance, and the management of large projects, including IT.

Value for Money Advisory Board

The Advisory Board provides advice and support to the Chief Executive on the implementation of the Ministry's Value for Money work programme and on opportunities to embed a culture of efficiency and value for money in our ongoing business-as-usual activities.

The Advisory Board meets formally five times a year and is chaired by one of the three external members.

Measuring performance and cost effectiveness

Performance measures tell us whether we are delivering services well. Indicators tell us what difference our services are making in improving the lives of those receiving them. The Ministry is committed to an ongoing review of our indicators and performance measures to improve the impact our services have for people, and to improve the efficiency of our services. We also regularly evaluate the Ministry's programmes to confirm they meet our objectives.

New indicators have shown the proportion of Unemployment Benefit applicants who do not need a benefit within 28 days of attending a Work for You seminar has grown. Savings in benefit not paid to these people is an indication of the effectiveness of this approach. A related set of performance measures are included in the Output Plan showing the Ministry's performance in Tailored Sets of Services to Help People into Work or Achieve Independence. These measures will improve our knowledge of the effectiveness of services to get people into work.

Two new outcome indicators have been developed to provide information on repeat offending by youth justice clients and reoccurring cases of child abuse and neglect. These indicators will help us to improve the effectiveness of our services to reduce youth offending and of our services to break cycles of child abuse.

Service performance

In 2008/2009 the Ministry continued to maintain a high level of performance in delivering its services to New Zealanders. As at 30 June 2009, the Ministry applied a total of 95 performance measures to the full breadth of its services. Twenty measures (21 per cent), exceeded the performance standard by more than five per cent. Sixty-eight measures (72 per cent) achieved the required standard and the remaining seven measures (seven per cent) were under the standard, but only one measure was under by more than five per cent.

This measure was Getting Clients into Work: 'The proportion of job-seeking clients in receipt of a main benefit with a duration of six months or more, who exit into employment will be 35%'. New sustainable employment measures and targets are to be introduced for 2009/2010 to take account of the shifts in the economy we have faced over the last year.

Complying with our legal obligations

Complying with our legal obligations is the responsibility of every member of the Ministry's staff. This year we have implemented an overarching, centralised legislation compliance programme to monitor our compliance with all relevant legislation. This programme will assure us that we comply with all relevant legal obligations across the Ministry.

Our internal policies translate the law into practical guidelines for staff, tailored to the Ministry's business. Our Legal Services team works with managers across the Ministry to ensure those policies properly reflect the law. This is backed up by a rolling programme to systematically check all policies against the underlying legal requirements. This has been enhanced over the last year by requiring business groups to complete legislation compliance checks using a software programme specifically designed for this purpose. Compliance levels will be independently checked by our Risk and Assurance team as part of the 2009/2010 Total Assurance Plan.

Legal Services works with business areas to ensure the staff are aware of our legal requirements and are able to identify legal risk. This complements the Ministry's wider risk management approach.

Risk management in a changing environment

The current economic climate means more people and families are accessing our services. This means we are seeing an increase in the number of people wanting unemployment benefits, third-tier assistance, budget and counselling advice and care and protection services.

Managing this increasing demand requires good judgement by our people to make sure decision making follows our policies and practices. In this environment, it's vital that our key internal controls continue to be effective and that risks are actively managed.

We keep an eye on what's going on through our Total Assurance Plan, so we can be confident the things we rely on to keep us safe are operating as they should be. As part of this, we monitor the control environment to see how well it's working and we determine if the Ministry's network of risk management activities, controls and governance is adequate and functioning effectively.

Maintaining the integrity of our benefit system

It is important New Zealanders have trust and confidence in how we deliver income support to people. We have a dedicated Integrity Services team made up of five units with 450 staff in 15 locations nationwide in the 2008/2009 year. Over the past year, we have:

  • investigated more than 26,400 cases of potential benefit fraud
  • compared more than 22 million records through data matching with other agencies to detect incorrect benefit payments
  • been successful with 95 per cent of the benefit fraud cases we've prosecuted
    developed a specialised integrity and fraud awareness resource to ensure staff know what is required of them in maintaining the integrity of the Ministry and its payment systems
  • concentrated on identifying fraud risk and used the knowledge based approach in our field work.

We separate balances owing arising from recoverable assistance and advances from debts arising from overpayments and fraud. Recoverable assistance offers critical additional financial help to people in need and is an alternative to interest bearing debt. It helps people with their immediate and essential needs such as:

  • outstanding power, gas, water costs
  • bonds and rents
  • fridges and washing machines
  • school uniforms, car seats for children.

We know that debt from benefit overpayments has a negative impact on people, families, whänau and communities. Over the next year we will work to assure the integrity of the Ministry's systems and processes and to minimise debt for people by:

  • preventing and reducing fraud
  • preventing, reducing and collecting overpayments
  • supporting full and correct entitlement.

We will achieve this by:

  • continuing to build on existing ways that have produced effective responses, such as:
    -increasing the number of frontline investigators to investigate cases of fraud
    -reviewing and improving our data-matching programmes with other agencies
    -developing a set of integrity standards so that, wherever you work in the Ministry, you can help support the integrity of the benefit system
  • developing an intelligence-led work programme that will improve and increase activities across the Ministry to minimise and mitigate the consequences of fraud
  • raising the awareness of staff integrity issues for all staff across the Ministry
  • developing and implementing a programme of work that improves debt collection activities
  • through our National Programme Centre, developing the capability and tools to manage the increasing numbers of risk-driven desk based investigations.

Strong leadership and governance combined with a culture of risk-smart behaviour and a commitment to maintaining the integrity of the benefit system mean we're well placed to deliver on our commitments.

Each year, we handle around 98,000 client interactions relating to error, abuse and fraud, and the collection of non-current debt.

95 per cent of current beneficiaries are repaying their balances owed, 80 per cent of former beneficiaries are either repaying or have repaid their balances owed.
Annual Report 2008-2009

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