The Auditor General’s report on the Joint Venture for Family and Sexual Violence was released in early June. Joint ventures are a central part of the Public Service Act 2020. This very first joint venture was established in 2018, before the Act was passed. It is accountable for achieving an impact on this highly entrenched and tragic problem, where enduring outcomes will only become evident over a long period of time.
The Auditor General intended to take “an early look” at this new way of working in order to provide learning and an opportunity to change course or make improvements. This is important as it is likely that more joint ventures will be established, and lessons must be learnt.
Neither the Auditor General nor IPANZ intend criticism of any individuals so far involved. Indeed, the joint venture has made significant achievements and is evolving and improving all the time.
However, the extent of change required must be courageously acknowledged. This report is measured and careful, but it presents a stark picture of how unfit for purpose the current ways of working in the public service are to ensure such joint ventures work well.
It paints a picture of agencies defaulting to ways of working which are familiar to them. It talks of staff seeing the joint venture as a separate entity to which they contribute, rather than being part of the joint venture. It describes resources being diverted away from the joint venture to other departmental priorities. An overriding point is that purpose, roles and accountabilities must be carefully negotiated, agreed, understood and communicated.
It seems that while collaboration is familiar to many public servants, often at the front line, what was lacking was the system leadership on how to govern more collaborative ways of working. In addition, the overall system itself does not create the conditions for partnership to thrive; time, resources, authorization, including cross-agency Ministerial priority, and support. Partnerships involve sustained relationships, and yet we read in this report about high turnover of staff, or the use of contractors, militating against the building of enduring trust and relationships.
This report suggests some quite profound changes, if the public service and the government is intent on using joint ventures to improve outcomes. Culture, structure, financial flows, habits, accountabilities and mindsets will be scrutinised. This report provides rich learning for everyone in the public sector and is likely to be a catalyst for deep adjustments to some current processes and systems, incentives, levers, rewards and capabilities. This report does not recommend incremental change or tweaks to current ways of doing things. It talks of transformation.
You can read the full report here - https://oag.parliament.nz/2021/joint-venture