Cabinet appoints 'system leaders' to pursue digital vision

Cabinet appoints 'system leaders' to pursue digital vision

Roles of existing leaders strengthened to break down agency silos.

Chris Hipkins, minister of education.

Chris Hipkins, minister of education.

Credit: Stuart Yeates

The roles of three key public service digital leaders have been strengthened in a further attempt to overcome agency siloes and unify the public service.

The three executives are tasked with improving consistency in approaches to property, procurement, digital, data, and information security across departments have now been designated as "system leads" while a new role has also been added to help drive service transformation.

Secretary for Internal Affairs Paul James has been appointed digital lead by Te Kawa Mataaho, the Public Service Commission. Government statistician Mark Sowden is now data lead and the director-general of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Hampton, is information security lead.

Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins also selected the newly-appointed Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Peter Mersi, to become system leader for service transformation.

He is tasked with driving further service transformation and ensuring government services were "joined-up" and organised around the needs of New Zealanders, Hipkins explained in a May Cabinet paper.

Inland Revenue is widely perceived as a leader in transformation after the successful and under budget delivery of its own $1.5 billion project.

"System leads" were recognised in the 2020 Public Service Act and empowered to operate across agency boundaries.

The designated leaders are charged with overcoming barriers to alignment and in pursuit of a vision to enable common public service workplaces where multiple agencies could be co-located in open, modern, technology-enabled environments managed as a single portfolio.

Suppliers of goods and services across government will also be managed more consistently and systematically using cross-agency procurement data to manage relationships effectively.

Agencies would share common digital platforms, including data platforms, managed as system assets and supporting the sharing of information and collaborative working across agency boundaries.

A "system view" of data would be taken to support effective decision-making and drive improved outcomes, with agencies collecting and storing data in line with centrally determined requirements and standards.

The cabinet paper reported that despite progress under existing structures, a lack of alignment persisted across the various functional areas of government, including in significant investments and proposals coming before Cabinet,

"Legacy issues mean that we can expect to see on-going demand for investment in new assets," the paper said. "Variable uptake of standardised approaches and tools which these leaders have attempted to implement continues to undermine confidence that investment is efficient or effective." 

Limited access by these leads to the necessary capability and capacity had also restricted progress."

Following the appointments, Cabinet expected to receive advice from each new system leader on their detailed mandate with a view to requiring greater involvement of the leader in certain decisions and requiring agencies to operate within settings decided by the system leader "in some circumstances". 

This further advice would include more detail on the roles of each lead and an assessment of the capability and capacity needed to deliver in each area.

"I am proposing a report back to Cabinet by the end of the 2022 on the next steps to implement service transformation across the public service," Hipkins wrote.

The Public Service Act 2020 aimed to organise government around specific priorities and services, rather than within agency boundaries. This included building on developments over the last 10 years to unify the public service in areas where there were commonalities across agencies, and where efficiencies could be gained by running agencies in a more coordinated way.

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