01 August 2022

Cabinet agrees priorities and terms of reference for a CE board reporting to a lead minister, with members appointed by the Public Service Commissioner. This may be reinforced by an Order in Council creating an interdepartmental executive board under the Public Service Act 2020.  Some decision rights may shift to the board.

The basics

  • When to use this tool

    • Shared responsibility is insufficient for resolving deep trade-offs between agency interest and shared interests
    • The relationships are too complex or involve too many sectors for shared responsibility to operate effectively
    • It is not possible to solve the problem by reframing it to involve fewer agencies
    • The problem is large/important enough to warrant the additional priority, cost and time
  • How to agree goals/outcomes

    • Cabinet decisions on performance results and targets
    • Ministerial priorities
    • Purpose, scope and functions of board agreed by Cabinet on establishment
    • Budget process (where board administers an appropriation)
  • Governance model required

    One of:

    • Cabinet-mandated CE board
    • Interdepartmental executive board established by order-in-council
    • Cabinet to establish board and set mandate and responsibilities, potentially through Order in Council
    • Public Service Commissioner to appoint membership
    • Public Service Commissioner to review CE performance with regard to board responsibilities agreed by Cabinet
    • Board members responsible for engaging with affected CEs not on the board
  • Ministerial relationships required

    • Separate minister with overall responsibility for board and priority results
    • CEs are jointly responsible to the minister for the functions of the board
  • Incentives required

    • Ministerial accountability
    • Recognition for CEs
    • And potential for:
      • Scheduled reporting to Cabinet
      • Cabinet agreement to investment plans
      • Annual reporting and audit (where required under PFA)
  • How to manage the funding

    • Board administers its own appropriation (only if Board formalised as IEB)
    • Board uses appropriation from another agency (servicing department)

About this model

The governance model in collective accountability is a cross-agency decision-making board which provides a formal mechanism for strengthening cross-agency planning, prioritisation and budgeting processes. As with the shared responsibility model, it might be used where a shared outcome requires cross-agency planning and resourcing, with aligned but separate delivery — but where more intensive and higher levels of integration are needed. The chief executives on the board collectively agree strategy, planning and resourcing.

These boards are established by Cabinet mandate and can be reinforced by Order in Council creating an interdepartmental executive board. Duties and functions are determined by Cabinet. The governance arrangement creates a collective accountability for a group of chief executives to the appropriate minister to achieve a specific purpose, thereby strengthening incentives for chief executives.

While the board is responsible for providing advice to the minister, individual chief executives (including those who are not members of the board) are responsible for implementing the minister’s decisions and continue to be responsible for the performance and financial management of their respective departments. The chief executives on the board must take responsibility for consulting the chief executives of any departments and departmental agencies within the remit of the board but not actually on the board.

Members of a collective accountability board are selected by the Public Service Commissioner from among the chief executives of the departments and departmental agencies within the remit of the board. In the case of an interdepartmental executive board, these are listed in the Order in Council which establishes the board. The Commissioner also designates one of these chief executives as chair of the board. Independent advisers can be appointed in an advisory capacity but cannot hold decision rights.

A Cabinet-mandated board arrangement that is not an interdepartmental executive board under the Public Service Act 2020 can allow greater flexibility, for example the possibility of appointing an independent chair without decision rights who can be a ‘neutral broker’.  Where chief executives’ individual departmental responsibilities are likely to conflict with or take priority over the work of the board, legal accountability to the board’s minister will be more important and so establishing the board under the tighter regime of the Act may work better.

Supplementary guidance note — Interdepartmental executive board

Case Study: Social Wellbeing Board

(Cabinet mandated board, not interdepartmental executive board )

A new Social Investment Board (subsequently Social Wellbeing Board) was initiated on 1 July 2017, replacing the former Social Sector Board, which had been a voluntary coordination body. The purpose was to strengthen the alignment of functions for the social system. The scope of the SWB is the social sector, and its role is to deliver outcomes across the social sector where there is no natural lead agency on the issue and it requires the collaboration of a number of agencies.

Cabinet mandates the terms of reference for the board that sets out the scope, including which agencies are under the remit of the board. The Public Service Commissioner appoints members to the board from within that scope as well as acting as an independent chair. An independent chair helps the SWB operate as an agency-neutral forum which acts to reinforce the collective ownership and joint responsibilities of the chief executive members.

When initially established, the board was made up of the chief executives of the Ministries of Education, Health, Justice and Social Development, plus the independent chair.  It has now been expanded to involve all the chief executives with key roles in the social sector, including Inland Revenue.  It also now reports to several ministers with responsibility for different social sector priorities.    

The chief executives are responsible for providing through their respective departments the outputs necessary to operationalise policies and strategies agreed by Cabinet Social Wellbeing Committee in the Board’s work programme.

The SWB is supported by the Social Wellbeing Agency as a secretariat, provider of policy development and advice, and host for cross-agency projects led by the board.

Social Wellbeing Board, Briefing to the Incoming Minister — beehive.govt.nz

Case Study: Border Executive Board

(Interdepartmental Executive Board under the Public Service Act 2020)

The Border Executive Board was established in January 2021, in order to deliver an integrated and effective New Zealand border system. It is the first interdepartmental executive board to be established. Its role, as set by Cabinet, is to:

  • ensure the response to keep COVID-19 out is working well at the border
  • position New Zealand to have a safer and smarter border
  • address gaps or future risks from people, good or craft arriving at the border
  • manage border-related fiscal challenges arising from a change in cost-recovery activities.

Cabinet set the remit of the board, which includes:

  • New Zealand Customs Service
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry for Primary Industries
  • Ministry of Transport.

The Public Service Commissioner selected chief executives of all 6 agencies within the remit to be members of the board, and designated the Comptroller of Customs as chair.

Members of the board are jointly responsible to the Minister for the Covid-19 Response.

The Border Executive Board is supported by a small team hosted by the New Zealand Customs Service that provides strategic leadership; manages issues, risk and assurance activities; and provides secretariat support for the board’s meetings.

Find more information on the Border Executive Board, including its terms of reference and operating procedures on the New Zealand Customs Service website.

About the Border Executive Board — New Zealand Customs Service