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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.124

    19 May, 2000

    The Winz Warrant of Fitness

  • Commentary— from the Editors of The Jobs Letter
  • The Hunn Report — An Essential Summary
  • Christine Rankin — The Objections Letter
  • Voices — on the Hunn Report

  • winzlog.jpg - 5684 Bytes

  • Former State Services commissioner Don Hunn's report into Winz was released earlier this month. The Ministerial Inquiry into the Department of Work and Income (DWI) has given Winz a cautious pass in its "warrant of fitness" ordered by State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, and Employment and Social Services Minister Steve Maharey.

    The review finds that the concept of the "one-stop shop" has worked well enough to stick with it. And the review concludes that there are no significant administrative failings that would imply that the department was incapable of doing its job.

    Hunn: "There appears to be general agreement that the original concept of full structural integration together with case management (albeit with some reservations) have proved to be sufficiently effective in the initial stages as to justify the continuation of the department. There is also general agreement that further major restructuring would be inadvisable..."

  • The review comments that Winz has achieved a great deal, given the timetable and scale of the merger between the former Income Support and the NZ Employment Service. But the report also says that a major failing has been Winz's under-emphasis on its employment aims. The report estimates that 70% of the department's business is in paying benefits, while only 30% is on employment placement.

    Hunn: "It is instructive to recall that the decision to establish DWI was taken in the context of a radical shift in employment policy and in the planning stage the organisation was referred to as the Integrated Employment Service. While the functions originally envisaged for the department included benefit reform and a contribution to "Strengthening Families", the emphasis was on minimising long-term unemployment and maximising community work..."

  • A change in terminology. Throughout the report Winz is referred to as "DWI", for the "Department of Work and Income", which is Steve Maharey's preference to the corporate term "Winz" which was derived from "Work and Income New Zealand". Maharey describes it "... as a change of language, not a change of name", and as such reflects his desire to see the department adopt more of a public service approach. Whether "DWI" succeeds in replacing "Winz" in the public consciousness ... remains to be seen.

  • Public comments on the future of the Community Employment functions within Winz accounted for 10% of the submissions. Hunn reported that the community employment function "... was a subject that had very strong views, especially since its amalgamation into DWI". Hunn did not, however, make any detailed recommendations on the future and placement of the Community Employment Group ... saying simply that this would need to be a Cabinet decision.

    The Community Employment staff within Winz had requested an urgent review of their place in the department. Hunn remarked: "There were strong feelings that the community approach does not blend in well with the individualised focus of DWI and that the risk of being submerged in the department is very high, thus endangering the achievement of Government's objectives for community development..."

  • The reliability of the Winz computer systems was also a key concern of the Hunn report. The report says there is "considerable dissatisfaction among staff at the workface with IT services" and remarks that technology failures have deprived staff of essential tools.

    Hunn says he has "obtained information" about the downtime in the computer system, but says he "... sees no point in identifying how and who might be responsible for the various IT failures resulting in outage."

    The report says that Winz staff would appreciate "an IT system that is wholly owned by the department and that has a high level of reliability". It recommends that the service level agreement between Winz and its main contractor EDS be renegotiated "as a matter of urgency".

  • The PSA, the union representing Winz workers, has welcomed the Hunn report, saying that it " a vindication of our work in Winz to change its culture". PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff says that the PSA and Winz have already been working together to prepare the groundwork for change. Wagstaff: "We have an agreement specifically aimed at "... the creation of a culture of respect, co-operation, openness, mutual trust and quality communication." That's a good start. We are encouraged by Winz's willingness to work co-operatively for change ... and we look forward to using the agreement as a basis for changing the culture at Winz. The Hunn report, by identifying the issues, makes a good starting point..."

    Wagstaff is referring to the "Partnership for Quality" agreement, which was signed on May 1st between the Government and the PSA. This agreement contains a set of principles designed "... to build quality public services and public confidence in them".

  • Leaks and objections. The Hunn report had already undergone substantial revisions before it was released to the public. Under the rules "of natural justice", Hunn sent a draft of the report to Winz chief executive Christine Rankin and also to Ministers Maharey and Mallard. Changes were then made to the official document.

    The draft report, leaked to the media, had contained 10 recommendations, including several specific to Christine Rankin. The draft said that these recommendations were "to address the issues which have been brought to the attention of this review" ... and had included:
    — that the chief executive delegate responsibility for operations matters
    — that a deputy secretary help the chief executive develop relationships with outside organisations
    — that consideration be given to reducing the size of the national office and restructuring management.

    However, the final report had no such list of recommendations, saying it had avoided them "... because the first set of decisions needed to deal with the problems described in this review will be political ones, for the ministers alone to take."

  • Most of the changes to the draft report were made in response to objections made by Christine Rankin and her lawyers, in a letter to Don Hunn. This "objections" letter was later tabled in Parliament by Trevor Mallard, and the media were able to compare the final report in the light of the Rankin objections. We have reprinted some of Rankin's key points from her "objections" letter in this special issue on the Hunn report.

  • Will Christine Rankin go? Neither State Services Minister Trevor Mallard, nor State services Commissioner Michael Wintringham would comment on Rankin's future, in the light of the Hunn report. Mallard says "it is against the law" for him to express an opinion since decisions on the CEO's future were up to Mr Wintringham.

    Rankin is employed on a three-year fixed-term contract which ends in July 2001. Audrey Young, political journalist with the New Zealand Herald, reports that until now, ministers have been careful not to say anything that might give cause for Rankin to take a constructive dismissal suit against the government. PM Helen Clark has told reporters that the government just can't get rid of Rankin. Clark remarks "... without perhaps talking about her in particular" that a law case against dismissal would cost the taxpayer a lot of money. Clark: "That's the problem."

    Audrey Young says it would cost a relative pittance about $375,000 to terminate Rankin's contract early under the "Perry Cameron" incompatability clause, named after the former secretary of Internal affairs who was forced out because of poor relations with former minister Warren Cooper. Young: "But a constructive dismissal claim would undoubtedly cost a lot more ... The problem is the political muckiness it would create."

  • What happens next? Trevor Mallard said it would be several weeks before the Government would respond formally to the report. But while the Hunn report was being prepared, the government did set up a steering committee to investigate options for an overhaul of Winz.

    Don Hunn remarks in his report that "... the Government has it's own new welfare and employment policies it wishes to implement and there are organisational issues arising from the establishment phase which need to be dealt with ... this is likely to require significant reconfiguration of the organisation and the redirection of plans for organisation development."

    Hunn suggests that ministers formulate a strategy to drive the changes that could include increasing the department's focus on employment, and improving its services to Maori and Pacific Island people.

    Internet link. The full Hunn Report "Ministerial review into the Department of Work and Income" (32pg) and Annexes (120pg) are available on the internet at

    Sources Ministerial Review into the Department of Work and Income, Don Hunn Wellington 8 May 2000;
    Letter to Don Hunn, Ministerial Review Team from Christine Rankin, Chief Executive of Winz, 27 April 2000;
    New Zealand Herald 10 May 2000 "Watered-down Winz report says little" by Audrey Young;
    Press Release NZ Government 10 May 2000 "Government to release full Winz report";
    Article Scoop Media 10 May 2000 "Rankin weakens critical Winz report" by Chris Holm;
    Press Release Act New Zealand "Leak a cover-up of ministerial impotence";
    Press Release State Services Commission "Report Of The Review Of Work And Income NZ" (The State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham);
    The Dominion 10 May 2000 "Winz report watered down" by Karen Howard;
    New Zealand Herald 11 May 2000 "Rankin objected to draft details" by Audrey Young;
    The Daily News 11 May 2000 "Winz boss job seems secure after review" by NZPA
    Press Release PSA 11 May 2000 "PSA Welcomes Winz report";
    Press Release Act NZ 11 May 2000 "Act turns up heat on government over Winz boss Muriel Newman";
    Press Release Green Party 11 May 2000 "Winz needs more than a name change Sue Bradford";
    Press Release NZ First 11 May 2000 "Please: No more logoing Ron Mark"
    The Daily News 13 May 2000 "Let Rankin do job, says National list MP" by Anthony Paltridge;
    New Zealand Herald 13 May 2000 "Parlez-vous Winzspeak?" by Jon Gadsby
    Weekend Herald 13-14 May 2000 "Vehicle OK, but the driver fails" by Audrey Young;
    Sunday Star Times 14 May 2000 "A testing time to gauge your sanity" by Michael Laws;
    New Zealand Herald Letter to the Editor from Joan Chapple, Glendowie 15 May 2000 ;
    The Dominion 15 May 2000 "Work and Income IT slammed" by Tom Pullar-Strecker;
    The Dominion Editorial 15 May 2000 "Winz needs clear goals";
    Press Release Act NZ 15 May 2000 "Time for government to decide Rankin's future Muriel Newman";

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