Making the SAB Model Work

134 The inherent accountability tensions that exist with the SAB model, and the risks this give rise to, increases the onus on the parties involved to take steps to make the model work. Much of this comes down to the quality of the relationships involved. As part of the review, interviews were undertaken with personnel involved with some of the other SABs that exist. Drawing on those interviews, there is a range of formal and informal measures that need to be in place to make sure that the SAB model works well. These measures are summarised in the table below and comments made as to how NZFSA and MAF could jointly strengthen the function of the SAB arrangement.

Formal Requirements

Comment

Relationship agreement setting out common aims and objectives, accountability principles and requirements, roles and responsibilities, structured processes for consultation, information sharing and communications

An agreement is needed to anchor the relationship. It should act as a point of reference that can be resorted to in the event of relationship difficulties.

The existing relationship document between MAF and NZFSA is modelled on that between MFAT and NZAid. Its contents are appropriate for a document of this type.

Delegations from the Director-General to the Executive Director

These are in place.

Output agreement signed by the Director-General

This is in place and the practice of co-signature by the Executive Director is consistent with the underlying delegation of functions.

Aligned HR policies

These have not been assessed as part of the review, but it is understood this is the case.

Shared services agreement

No formal agreement exists. The greater the degree of autonomy afforded to the SAB, the greater the need for such a document. The process of agreeing the document of itself is a useful discipline for establishing priorities and evaluating trade-offs.

Appropriate recognition given to role of SAB in the Statement of Intent (SoI) and Annual Report

A matter of judgement, but the current SoI and latest Annual Report adequately explain the role of NZFSA and how it contributes to MAF/Government outcomes. Having a separate Vote means there is explicit coverage of NZFSA in the Forecast Statement of Service Performance.

Performance appraisal undertaken against agreed and documented expectations

This occurs now.

135 In short, for the most part, the formal requirements normally expected to assist in shaping and governing the relationship between a parent department and a SAB are in place in the context of MAF/NZFSA. There are no major gaps although development of a shared services agreement is suggested.

136 Formal requirements set the framework, but of themselves do not necessarily deliver the behaviours that are required for an effective Ministry/SAB relationship. The formal requirements need to be supported by appropriate informal mechanisms. Drawing on interviews with various officials involved with other SABs, various informal mechanisms are viewed as supporting the effective functioning of relationships. These are summarised below.

Informal Mechanisms

Comment

Aligned values and culture

Alignment is hard to measure and can be difficult to change. It is noted that the MAF SoI does not outline the values and cultures that underpin the organisation (although some elements of values are lightly touched on in the relationship document). These are important elements of organisational performance. Poor alignment can seriously impede organisational effectiveness.

Quality of the CEO/Executive Director Relationship

Personalities and the ability to work together are critical. Both parties need to want to make the relationship work. This should be demonstrated by the parties meeting regularly to review the state of the relationship and to identify ways in which any areas of concern can be addressed. Fortnightly meetings of the Executive Director and the Director-general occur so the opportunity to raise and discuss issues exists.

Co-owning success

The recent FMD hoax is an example of this working in practice.

Co-location

"Out of sight" can lead to "out of mind". Most other SABs are co-located with the parent organisation

Inter-agency involvement in industry forums, gatherings etc

NZFSA regularly hosts meetings and fora with industry. It is appropriate that MAF be encouraged to attend these and vice versa. There are suggestions that this is not happening as much as it should.

Induction

Personnel joining MAF/NZFSA should, as part of their induction, attend briefings provided by NZFSA/MAF. This is not happening as much as it should

137 The fact that other SABs exist and, in some cases, have existed for many years, suggests that notwithstanding the inherent accountability tensions, the model can be made to work. A key point, however, is that the parties to the relationship have to want to make it work. Moreover, to assist, the parties need a range of formal and informal arrangements and mechanisms to foster an effective working relationship.

138 Changing existing structural arrangements into a stand-alone department does not alter the need for effective co-operation and collaboration. Changing the structure into a stand-alone department is unlikely, of itself, to strengthen collaborative links. Similarly, changing the existing structure into a division of MAF will not, of itself, address any underlying relationship issues.

139 The outcomes that Government is wanting from MAF and NZFSA (high performing agricultural sector, rules based trade and healthy New Zealanders) demand high levels of co-ordination and collaboration between the two agencies. The risks to NZ's interests from fragmenting resources into two separate entities are large. There are, however, some advantages in retaining the NZFSA brand and maintaining the focus that comes through having an identity that is to some extent separate from that of the parent organisation. The SAB model continues to offer this potential while at the same time retaining the advantages of having the two organisations very closely aligned with one another. Achieving these advantages does, however, require commitment to make the SAB model work. The formal and informal mechanisms outlined above are practical tools for assisting the parties to ensure that the model does work.

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