Departments likely to co-orperate more under e-gov't

A government advisory group is expecting e-government plans to smooth the way towards greater co-operation between departments.

A government advisory group is expecting e-government plans to smooth the way towards greater co-operation between departments.

The group's report, released in December, proposes seven to 10 “super-networks”, each coordinating the efforts of a number of government departments, as a way of offering more efficient and pertinent services to the public. A proliferation of agencies and ministerial portfolios and “a concentration on vertical accountabilities at the expense of whole-of-government approaches” makes co-ordinated delivery of services more complicated, the group’s report says.

The citizen sees government services in terms of receipt of a service, rather than being concerned about which particular agencies are handling the problem, it says.

These are refrains familiar from e-government circles, and the advisory group makes the point that e-government is already facing the problem.

“E-government is likely to crystallise some tensions around accountability,” the report says, “and may increase pressure for change in vote structures [the apportionment of taxpayer funds to the functions of various departments] as different agencies collaborate more extensively.”

E-government unit chief Brendan Boyle has acknowledged that once approved computer applications start coming into use across agencies, there will have to be “some central point” to co-ordinate the efforts among departments and lay down some rules.

Land Information New Zealand chief executive Russ Ballard, speaking at the annual meeting of the IT Association of NZ (ITANZ) in Novermber, said that to improve progress with e-government, public sector governance should break with its present “silo structure".

The advisory group does not commit itself on whether the "super-networks" should be “soft” networks, where "network leaders would not have the right to direct the member organisations on their internal management, and would not be accountable for the performance of individual organisations in the network”. The alternative is a “hard” network structure, where some such powers would be vested in the chief executive of a component organisation acting as network head, or a “super-CE [chief executive] appointed to a separate role running the network with a secretariat to assist them”.

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