The councillor leading the charge for better quality advice for elected members is delighted the quality of Auckland Council’s reporting has been assessed as among the best in the country.
“Not only did the reports assessed by the New Zealand Institute Economic Research receive the top score of all participating councils, but it also saw us move up 10 places when benchmarked against central government units,” says Councillor Desley Simpson, who chairs the council’s Quality Advice Political Working Group.
“It’s a shame that we are among just six councils brave enough to put their work under the same scrutiny.”
Councillor Simpson had been critical of reports in the past but stepped up to chair the Quality Advice Political Advisory Group with the aim of improving staff reports to elected members.
“I really believe if you don't aim high you will never hit high.
“I argued for high targets for the year and was told I had aimed too high but I wouldn’t back down and I am so proud to see staff achieve this result.”
The NZIER assessed the quality of reporting and analysis provided to committees and elected members.
Key to this has been reformatting of reports, including new headings such as ‘financial implications’.
Among the noticeable improvements identified by NZIER were better-written reports that focus on substance over process and have clear and action-oriented recommendations. Improvements can be made by better outlining of next steps and timelines and strengthening impacts assessments.
In addition to assessing its reports, this year the council asked NZIER to review its overall quality advice programme.
The NZIER assessment report noted that improvements at this level are hard-won, and reflect the focus and effort going into improving quality.
"It's an impressive programme, well thought out and well planned," says NZEIR Associate Cathy Scott.
"It's certainly one of the best we've seen.
“The programme has all the foundations in place to ensure quality advice, for example standards, guidance, focused training, and tools to assist report writers.”
Councillor Simpson is committed to ensuring looking forward to ongoing improvements with the programme.
“There are two elements to political decision making: you have to be in the room to vote and you have to have all the facts. Having taken this challenging role, I am responsible for ensuring our reports have a target of the highest quality and deliver all the information elected members need for their decision making.”
Supporting our decision makers
The quality advice programme is a key component of our organisation’s strategy to achieve the vision of Auckland being a world-class city.
“It is critical that we support decision-makers with easy to read, accurate and well-analysed information and advice,” says the council’s Governance Director Phil Wilson.
“These reviews give us an external, independent benchmark to measure ourselves against and it is great to see how far we have come.”
"2018 was a great year for us, with our best results to date and now topping the local government benchmarking. Going forward, we want to keep the pedal down, maintain momentum and continue to build on these fantastic results.”