You are here: Home Publications Publications A-Z m Ministry of Justice Annual Report 1 July 2010 - 30 June 2011 Managing in a changing operating environment

Managing in a changing operating environment

Our work programme is designed to achieve justice sector and Ministry outcomes. It is also driven by Government objectives and shaped by the environment in which we operate.

A new strategic direction

The Ministry has developed a new five-year strategic direction to challenge us to think and work in new ways to meet the Government’s and the public’s expectations for delivering better, smarter public services. It has three key areas of focus:

  • fewer: ensuring there is less need for justice services 
  • faster: doing our work and delivering results more quickly
  • fit-for-purpose: creating and operating a modern, effective justice system.

Reducing the flow of cases into the justice system is critical to ensuring better social outcomes and lower costs. Although criminal justice is not the sole focus of the Ministry, a key priority over the next five years is leading other agencies and sectors to address the factors that drive crime.

Starting at the preventative end, we are seeking ways to reduce demand on the justice system so there are fewer people and cases coming into the system. This will be to the benefit of all New Zealanders in a variety of social and economic ways and will ensure the system is dealing with the cases it should be.

For those people and cases already in the system, we will seek faster ways of moving them through without compromising fair process, and maintaining the integrity of the court system so the impacts and costs are reduced and so it can cope more easily with changing volumes and types of cases.

At the same time, we must also focus on the possibilities of different ways of making sure the justice system is fit-for-purpose in the future. We have a crucial policy role that spans a wide range of issues relevant to New Zealand society. We are also responsible for upholding the justice system, protecting fundamental rights and supporting a court system that is accessible, cost-effective, independent and relevant to our society.

We will work with our sector partners and take opportunities to rethink our service delivery models. We will continue to seek new, more sustainable operating models and challenge ourselves to be open minded and not constrained by current practice. To ensure we can deliver on our strategy, we will also need to do work inside the Ministry on our own capability. We will shape the Ministry to adapt and to deliver on our fewer, faster and fit-for-purpose strategy.

Recovering from the Christchurch earthquakes

Canterbury suffered economically and socially from the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The extraordinary circumstances in Christchurch have made us look for new ways of working and have reinforced the need for the sector to work collaboratively.

The experience and knowledge gained following the first earthquake on 4 September 2010 meant our systems and people were well prepared on 22 February 2011, the day of the most serious earthquake.

We drew on capabilities from across the Ministry to restore services in Christchurch. This included diverting telephone calls to Auckland to take advantage of the call centre created by the Auckland Service Delivery Project.

Our staff on the ground worked closely with the judiciary, the Police and the legal profession to get essential services up and running. Within 24 hours of the February earthquake, an arrest court was operating out of Christchurch Central Police Station. Arrest courts and remand appearances have continued to be provided from this location and the Rangiora District Court, while hearings in custody have been held at the Christchurch Men’s Prison.

A collaborative approach between the Ministry, Community Probation Service, New Zealand Police, Department of Corrections, Legal Services Agency and the New Zealand Law Society was critical to ensuring that the courts operated effectively from day one of the February earthquake.

The Ministry’s coronial services unit played a fundamental part in the response and recovery from the February Christchurch earthquake. Coronial services staff worked collaboratively with coroners, the Police disaster victim identification team, specialists from overseas and forensic pathologists to ensure the accurate identification and release of victims back to their families as quickly as possible. The Ministry’s national Initial Investigation Office, based in Auckland, also provided around-the-clock assistance. The response included the setting up of a temporary mortuary facility at Burnham Military Camp within 48 hours, which has been recognised as world class.

The Ministry worked to restore an almost full range of court services in Christchurch by June 2011, despite no access to court buildings for the first four months following the February earthquake. This led to the use of interim venues including Ngā Hau e Whā Marae and the Riccarton Racecourse. Temporary court facilities have been run out of the Wigram Air Force Museum, while the Department of Building and Housing has hosted the Tenancy Tribunal. Coronial services have operated from the Burnham Military Camp and latterly the Christchurch Hornby Police Station. The Ministry has also worked to redirect trials, particularly jury trials, out of Christchurch. This has required considerable flexibility from the courts, public sector agencies and other parties involved.

We have continually looked to broaden services and make the most efficient use of the facilities available to us. We want to continue the innovative ways we have been working. Initiatives, such as centralised calling and cross-jurisdictional scheduling to maximise the use of facilities, have proven successful in restoring and maintaining services and have delivered efficiencies despite challenging operating environments. Our future efforts will build on what we have done to help address the unique circumstances forced upon us and court users. Everything we have achieved is possible because of our staff and great working relationships with justice sector agencies, the judiciary and other government agencies and stakeholders.

Managing risk

To manage and mitigate its risks, the Ministry has developed a Risk Management Framework that is closely aligned to the ISO 31000 Risk Management Standard. The framework provides a consistent methodology for the identification and management of risk.

Risk is managed at all levels of the organisation and mitigation progress is reported regularly. The Ministry’s Audit and Risk Committee met quarterly during 2010/11, providing independent advice to assist the Chief Executive in discharging their responsibilities, including maintenance of internal control systems, responsible resource management and risk management.

The Committee comprises members appointed from outside the Ministry. Their role is advisory only, with no management accountability. This separation preserves its independence and objectivity.

Similarly, an internal risk and assurance team provides the Chief Executive and the Committee with independent assurance and advice.

A Strategic Risks Register was updated quarterly by the Ministry’s Executive Team to identify higher-level strategic risks, reflect mitigation progress and prioritise actions across the Ministry. The register was reviewed by the Audit and Risk Committee at each of their meetings. The Ministry’s key strategic risks are outlined in the following table.

The Ministry performed well in the 2011 Departmental Internal Control Evaluation for the Ministry of Justice, retaining our overall Good rating and raising our ratings of aggregate planning and budgeting information and external reporting from Good to Excellent.

KEY STRATEGIC RISKS

Risk Response
Ministry and sector budget shortfalls have a major impact on service delivery  The Ministry has investigated a range of actions to reduce costs and improve value-for-money. Where changes have been implemented, the Ministry regularly monitors progress to ensure savings and benefits are achieved.
Inadequate change governance and management  The Ministry has introduced new arrangements to enable governance at a portfolio and organisational level and to devolve key responsibilities to steering groups and project sponsors. This structure enables the Executive Team to focus on strategic oversight, direction and risks that jeopardise delivery of the Ministry’s key initiatives.
Insufficient IT systems, disaster recovery preparedness  The Disaster Recovery Programme has been initiated, tasked with implementing a disaster recovery solution for critical systems in 2013. In the interim, the Ministry is reviewing existing disaster recovery arrangements to mitigate exposure to a Wellington disaster scenario.
Insufficient business continuity planning   The Ministry is developing a national office crisis management plan and reviewing its court site business continuity plans. An initiative to refresh and consolidate national office business continuity planning under a single overarching plan is planned for 2011/12.
Legal aid improvements not delivered   During 2010/11, the Legal Services Agency successfully transitioned into the Ministry. Some risk remains while the transition beds in. The longer-term risk and the primary focus moving forward, remains the non-delivery of effectiveness and efficiency improvements to the legal aid system.