The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) is one of the three central agencies responsible for coordinating and managing public sector performance. The others are the State Services Commission and the Treasury.
DPMC's overall area of responsibility is in helping to provide, at an administrative level, the “constitutional and institutional glue” that underlies our system of parliamentary democracy.
The Role of DPMC
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet occupies a unique position at the centre of New Zealand’s system of democratic government. It exists to support the effective conduct of executive government by the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and members of the Cabinet. The department’s principal role is provision of advice, on a daily basis, to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the wide range of complex issues that confront the Government – particularly its policy priorities. Issues that governments are required to deal with are often complex or pressing, and require well-founded advice and judgement. DPMC also provides impartial advice, through the Clerk of the Executive Council and Government House, to the Governor-General. In addition it plays a role in coordinating and leading the work of government departments and agencies, and other entities as appropriate, to ensure that decision making takes account of all relevant viewpoints and that advice is as coherent and complete as possible.
Supporting the Prime Minister and Cabinet
The Prime Minister is the political leader of the government and the country – and its main public “face”. The Prime Minister is also the chair of the Cabinet, and is responsible for the effective operation of executive government. These roles combine political and executive responsibilities.
DPMC provides assistance to the Prime Minister in three broad categories.
Issues that are the direct responsibility of the Prime Minister
This entails the provision of free and frank advice and support on constitutional issues relating to the conduct of executive government – including during elections and transitions between administrations – and issues associated with the operation of the Cabinet system.
Issues that arise across the full range of government business
DPMC provides a continuous flow of advice to the Prime Minister on major and daily issues, along with oversight of wider government activity and access to information and assessments. DPMC also works directly with Ministers on specific issues. The Deputy Prime Minister plays a lead role on behalf of the Prime Minister over a number of the government’s policy programmes and DPMC supports him on some of these matters from time to time.
DPMC works with central agencies to draw together departments in support of the Government’s priorities, to focus agencies on providing options for action, to ensure implementation of agreed programmes and policies, to drive for enhanced agency performance, and to deal effectively with issues which affect the nation. DPMC also provides the secretariat support for decision making by the Cabinet and its committees.
Administrative support to the Prime Minister
This includes preparation of replies to Parliamentary questions, and dealing with Official Information Act requests and other correspondence. A totally separate body, the Office of the Prime Minister, also advises the Prime Minister: it is the primary point of responsibility for managing political issues and relationships with other political parties and for providing administrative and media support.
Supporting the Governor-General
The Governor-General occupies a leading position in New Zealand’s constitutional framework. We are a constitutional monarchy. His Excellency serves as the representative of The Queen, New Zealand’s Head of State. His constitutional, ceremonial, and community roles together seek to maintain national unity and foster national identity. The Clerk of the Executive Council and Government House staff support the Governor-General in carrying out his functions. The Queen’s powers and those of her representative, the Governor-General, are almost always exercised only on the advice of Ministers.
Bringing the System Together
DPMC strives to support a high standard of executive decision making by providing quality advice that is timely, responds to the directions set by government, is forward-looking, is cognisant of changing circumstances and emerging issues, and gives assurance that policies are being delivered in an effective and coordinated manner.
To provide this support the department draws on close relationships with other departments and agencies, crown entities, local government, business, iwi, and the wider community.
The overall outcome that DPMC - in conjunction with other agencies - seeks to achieve is:
Good Government, with effective Public Service Support
In achieving this outcome, DPMC has adopted five contributing outcomes that reflect the department’s key streams of work:
- Decision making by the Prime Minister and Cabinet is well informed and supported.
- Executive government is well conducted and continues in accordance with accepted conventions and practices.
- The Governor-General is appropriately advised and supported in undertaking his constitutional, ceremonial and community-leadership roles.
- The intelligence system and national security priorities are well led, coordinated and managed.
- State sector performance is improved.
The diversity of work contributing to these outcomes is indicative of DPMC's history, structure and the roles of each business unit.
DPMC formally came into existence on 1 January 1990, as a result of a report which recommended establishing structures to provide two separate streams of advice to the Prime Minister; one, a new government department to supply impartial, high quality advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), and another, a Prime Minister's Private Office (which is not part of DPMC), to provide personal support and media services, and advice of a party political nature.
Government House was included in the scope of the department in August 1990, after a review of the Governor-General’s support requirements. The External Assessments Bureau (now called the National Assessments Bureau) became part of DPMC on 1 July 1991.
DPMC is comprised of seven business units headed by the Chief Executive, Andrew Kibblewhite (from 25 June 2012).
- Provides impartial secretariat services to the Executive Council, Cabinet and Cabinet committees;
- Provides impartial advice to the Governor-General, Prime Minister and other ministers on certain constitutional, policy and procedural issues, especially those contained in the Cabinet Manual;
- Assists in the coordination of the government’s legislative programme;
- Administers the New Zealand Royal Honours System and oversees the development of the Royal New Zealand Honours Lists; and
- Acts as a channel of communication between the Governor-General and government, and has responsibility for the overall policy and administration of Government House.
- Provides administrative and support services for the Governor-General to enable him to carry out the functions of the office; and
- Maintains Government House and its grounds in Wellington, as well as the smaller Government House in Auckland.
- Provides impartial advice on issues of the day directly to the Prime Minister and, on occasion, to other ministers;
- Coordinates the advice coming in from different government departments, so the Prime Minister is given coherent and impartial advice; and
- Contributes to policy development across the full range of government business, including coordinating the provision of advice across agencies.
- Makes objective assessments of events and developments to inform government decision making, using the widest possible range of information from available open and classified sources;
- Takes the lead in co-ordinating assessment reporting to Government on matters concerning national security; and
- Produces reports to inform the members of inter-departmental watch groups that coordinate New Zealand’s responses to external crises and threats to New Zealand.
- Deals with national security threats that affect New Zealand and its interests, both onshore and offshore;
- Coordinates the activities of central government agencies in preparing for and responding to security crises, emergencies and natural disasters; and
- Advises the Prime Minister on intelligence and security matters.
- Supports the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) in its governance role of the NZ intelligence community.
- Leads and coordinates the NZ intelligence community agencies for requirements, priority setting, risk management and functional performance reporting.
- Coordinates the NZ intelligence community's overall relationships with foreign partners.
- Leads development of cyber security policy advice for government.
- Coordinates development, implementation and review of national cyber security policy and strategies, including international engagement on cyber security and engagement with the private sector.
- Provides support and advice to the Chief Executive.
- Manages DPMC compliance, accountability reporting, assurance, security and risk management.
- Is responsible for the DPMC customer interface, setting performance expectations and service performance monitoring, with Central Agencies Support Services (CASS).
- Leads strategic planning and oversight of DPMC’s corporate direction.
- Leads change management and oversight of change projects.
The State Services Commission, Treasury, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: Corporate Centre
The three Central Agencies – the State Services Commission, Treasury, and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – are working together as a “Corporate Centre” to lead a State sector that New Zealanders can trust, and that delivers better public services, including outstanding results and value for money. This requires the Corporate Centre to take an active role across the sector, and provide system-level coordination, a clear focus and strong leadership. The Corporate Centre works together, and uses the three agencies’ respective strengths and collective expertise to support the State sector to deliver better outcomes for New Zealanders.