Monday, March 4, 2024

Auditor-General prescribes change for Treasury well-being report

The Office of the Auditor-General has today published a commentary on the Treasury’s well-being report, Te Tai Waiora: Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand (Te Tai Waiora).

Te Tai Waiora is the first of the Treasury’s well-being reports and another in its suite of ‘stewardship reports’.

“Producing a report on the well-being of a nation is not an easy task, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. In that context, Te Tai Waiora provides a large and well-considered collection of information and analysis about the state of New Zealand’s well-being and the risks to its sustainability,” said Auditor-General, John Ryan.

“In my view, the Treasury has delivered on what it set out to do and Te Tai Waiora fulfils its legislative requirements. This includes exploring what is important to Māori through a Māori well-being framework (He Ara Waiora).

“All this information is important in supporting an explanation of well-being. However, as a stewardship report, Te Tai Waiora will only reach its full potential if it is widely understood, discussed, and used,” he said.

The Treasury told the Auditor-General’s staff that Te Tai Waiora has been used to improve its internal capability and knowledge about well-being. The report has also been used to inform the government’s annual Budget processes and other policy decisions.

“All of this is consistent with the Treasury’s in-depth analytical approach to Te Tai Waiora,” said Mr Ryan.

“However, there is less indication of Te Tai Waiora starting wider discussions or debate about New Zealand’s well-being. After reading the report, I am left with questions about what all the technical information means for New Zealanders and how the report can be used more widely to improve their understanding of well-being and their trust in the government’s stewardship of well-being.”

He said the Treasury had indicated it is likely to publish a second well-being report in 2026.

“The Treasury told us that it may decide to use a broader engagement and collaborative process. If this happens, it will be a positive step.”

The Auditor-General suggested Treasury consider the following changes for future reports:

  • Take a broader perspective on well-being that is informed through conversations with the public, community groups, and iwi, hapū, and whānau Māori, including a wider and more aligned engagement process for the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, the He Ara Waiora framework, and the well-being report.
  • Use more accessible language and helpful channels of communication, such as easy-to-read reports, summaries, and/or regional breakdowns.
  • Explain how the information in the well-being report relates to and complements other relevant stewardship reports and recognised national well-being reporting, such as the reporting on sustainable development goals and Statistics New Zealand’s reporting.
  • Highlight how previous well-being reports have affected policy decisions throughout the public sector.

Mr Ryan said such stewardship reports should act to strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the government’s actions.

“Preparing these well-being reports is an opportunity to build closer connections with New Zealanders, develop a wider understanding of what matters to them, counter misinformation, demonstrate public accountability, and strengthen trust and confidence in the public sector,” said Mr Ryan.

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