Government departments are more likely to embellish how well they are serving Māori if no one is keeping tabs on them, Māori MPs warn.
Te Puni Kōkiri (the Ministry of Māori Development) told the Māori Affairs Select Committee it did not have the resources to audit all departments on their achievements for Māori.
Its chief executive, Michelle Hippolite, said years of restructuring at the ministry meant it could no longer do one of its key jobs: keeping an eye on the entire public sector's outcomes for Māori.
Instead, she said, it had to prioritise which departments it monitored.
"Our impact to influence all parts of government is not possible with the resource we have at the moment."
Ms Hippolite said Te Puni Kōkiri was looking at how each department could audit itself.
"I'm working with the State Services Commission to see how do we do that and build that into expectations of each agency."
It was important agencies considered what was required for them to be effective for Māori and made sure their frameworks included analysis associated with that impact, Ms Hippolite said.
The Ministry of Education was among those already showing a focus on lifting the performance of the system for Māori, she said.
'Woeful' delivery of outcomes for Māori
Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis, from Labour, said it would be tough to hold more obscure agencies to task.
"How well is the Ministry of Women's Affairs actually doing for Māori women in New Zealand?
"I can't say that we have actually had any information from them about how well Māori women are doing. And any information, we have to take their word from it that it is accurate."
He said agencies could be tempted to embellish their outcomes for Māori and wanted to see Te Puni Kōkiri better resourced to do its job.
Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, also from Labour, agreed. "Let's face it. Some departments are woeful in their delivery of outcomes for Māori."
Self-reviews could lack consistency, she said.
"If TPK was to audit performance against, for example, implementation of its treaty obligations, showing how outcomes for Māori have been improved, then that can be a more consistent approach."
Te Puni Kōkiri was challenged by the committee for its spending on contractors - more than $7 million in a year, which was about the same as its overall staffing budget.
It needed to pull the brakes, Ms Mahuta said.
"If Te Puni Kōkiri underwent this big transformation to get its staffing levels right and the right skill capacity, it should not be contracting out at the level that it is."
Ms Hippolite said some projects such as the ongoing review of Māori land laws had required specialist consultants but she agreed the bill had been higher than expected.
She intended to reduce how much was allocated to consultants and upskill staff.