8 Jun 2021

Family and sexual violence government venture: Auditor-General finds shortcomings

7:31 pm on 8 June 2021

Significant improvements are needed if the government's joint venture on family and sexual violence is to succeed, the Auditor-General says.

no caption

File photo. Photo: 123RF

Set up in 2018, the joint venture is meant to change the way government agencies and Māori work together to bring down the country's persistently high rates of violence against children and intimate partners.

Auditor-General John Ryan has carried out a performance audit and said that while the initiative had been effective in some areas, there had been only limited changes in the way government agencies worked together.

"To achieve transformational change, everyone involved, from ministers to agency staff, needs to have a clear, shared understanding of what they are seeking to achieve, their respective roles and accountabilities, and what this means in practice," Ryan's report said.

"Those involved in the joint venture need to devote time and effort to achieving and maintaining the clarity of purpose, support, and cohesive effort needed to achieve this change."

Ryan was particularly concerned about how the joint venture was working with Māori.

"In my view, the joint venture's partnership with Māori can be successful only when government agencies and the responsible ministers are realistic and clear about what a partnership means," the report said.

"The joint venture needs also to agree with Māori on how that will work in practice."

Ryan said the joint venture also needed to "invest significant time and effort" in building relationships with non-government agencies and other stakeholder groups in the family and sexual violence sector.

There was work already under way to address the issues in the report, Ryan said, particularly in developing the joint venture's relationship with Māori, clarifying the joint venture's role, and communicating this role to the agencies involved.

No caption

Auditor-General John Ryan. Photo: Controller and Auditor General

Ryan made five recommendations and said he intended to carry out further work to monitor the progress of the joint venture.

"In my view, the joint venture cannot be approached as just another programme of work," he said.

"The recent funding towards the joint venture announced in Budget 2021 is helpful, but money alone is not enough.

"To deliver the change that the joint venture was set up to achieve, all of those involved must have a shared purpose and clarity about their respective roles and accountabilities."

The joint venture involves the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development, the New Zealand Police, Oranga Tamariki, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In a statement, joint venture deputy chair Andrew Kibblewhite said the Auditor-General had acknowledged that while it had been a challenge for all involved, it was "the right challenge".

"The Joint Venture is about learning new ways of working that are different from how government organisations have traditionally worked. It is about working across all the agencies involved to achieve a common goal of eliminating family violence and sexual violence," Kibblewhite said.

"All joint venture agencies are committed to bringing the work they do on family violence and sexual violence and connecting their efforts with their joint venture, community and Māori partners to make a real impact on this most challenging of issues.

"The new approach can be seen in the community led engagement on the national strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence that is currently under way."

He said the approach had developed over time and had already made changes to address some of the concerns the Auditor-General raised.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs