New Zealand to Merge National Library, Archives into Department of Internal Affairs
Posted by CLA Govt Library and Info Mgmt Professionals Network on 2010/04/11
These changes were announced to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government agencies.
Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy said:
As the responsible Minister for all three agencies I believe they share natural synergies. These organisations have a common focus on using digital technology and making government information widely accessible to citizens through the internet.
Pooling expertise and resources while sharing back office costs will continue to enhance front line services for the public.
The major roles and functions of the National Library and Archives New Zealand will not change and these important cultural institutions will continue to be trusted and preserved for future generations.
The independence and integrity of the Chief Archivist, National Librarian and Chief Librarian will be preserved. As the responsible Minister I will continue to receive independent advice from the Archives Council, the Guardians of the Alexander Turnbull Library and the Library Information and Advisory Commission.
The State Services Commission released a Cabinet Paper titled Next Steps in Improving State Services Performance that describes the background and rationale behind the changes.
Specifically about the Library and Archives merger:
Technology will play an increasing role in ensuring government discharges its responsibilities to manage information effectively and efficiently, and meet New Zealanders’ expectations that they can access information in ways that suit them. Central to this is the need to exploit digital capability to manage information and effective stewardship of and access to information held within the online domain.
Each of these three agencies stores and provides information which is of particular value because it is gathered, verified, classified or organised by government for the present and future benefit of our people and nation. Examples are archives, collections of national cultural importance, identity records, publicly accessible datasets and government statistics. All three agencies are investing to deliver their information online, 24/7, to New Zealanders. Both Archives and National Library have significant digitalisation plans and bringing these departments together with DIA will support this development with less risk and cost. It will produce opportunities for the use of common capability, economies of scale, and transfers to frontline services through shared backroom services and better access for the public.
We have considered whether there are any risks involved in this proposal which would justify leaving either National Library or Archives New Zealand on a stand-alone basis. In the case of Archives New Zealand, officials have carefully considered whether, given its constitutional importance, the need to maintain the independence of the Chief Archivist necessitates retaining a separate Archives department. It is quite clear that continuing with a stand-alone Archives department is not necessary. Advice from Crown Law confirms this both in terms of public management principles and previous judicial rulings on the matter.
Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has a pivotal role in providing information services. Through its responsibilities in Identity Services in particular, it is experienced in being the trusted custodian of New Zealanders’ records and information. Recently, in July 2009, DIA successfully absorbed the Government Technology Services (GTS) functions and staff from the SSC. Through its role with GTS, DIA has the capability to bring enhanced technology to collecting, storing and preserving records and information, and enabling its reuse to bring forward new thoughts, ideas and economic opportunities.
It can be anticipated that this amalgamation will result in:
- future-proofing of all these key skills and functions by placing them on a much larger corporate platform with ongoing viability in times of fiscal constraint;
- lower corporate overheads (fewer senior managers and shared corporate services);
- reduced collaboration transaction costs (less duplication and fewer agreements to manage and simpler funding arrangements);
- improvement of current systems though the sharing of each agency’s technologies and staff capabilities.
DIA estimates that efficiencies in ICT functions and elimination of back-office duplication would over three years deliver financial efficiencies of $3-9 million. Oneoff transition costs are estimated at $2.5 million in the first year, to be managed within baselines. Initial estimates are that the change would reduce FTE staff numbers by at least 15.
Risks have been considered and can be mitigated. We are conscious that stakeholders are likely to express concerns that specialist services and skills in the separate departments would be lost. While Archives New Zealand and the National Library are currently well regarded and successful institutions, the prospective role of an enlarged DIA is not as well understood. Officials consider that good change management and communications can mitigate these risks. Stakeholder concerns could include a view that the Chief Archivist’s independence or archival practice would be undermined, or that the separate status of the Alexander Turnbull Library would be threatened. This risk can be mitigated by retaining, with only necessary minor amendments, the legislative provisions which currently set out the role and powers of Chief Archivist and National Librarian, together with associated bodies such as the Archives Council. However, it is unlikely that mitigation of risk in these ways will allay a level of publicly expressed concern.
In terms of the Machinery of Government Objectives, outlined in paragraph 13, this proposal:
- will help ‘futureproof’ the functions of the two smaller agencies through their location within a much bigger and therefore more sustainable organisational structure;
- is positive in terms of financial efficiencies;
- will improve effectiveness by bringing together key skills and consolidating resources in the information and ICT fields.
The chief executive of the National Library does not support this proposal and instead favours an amalgamation of National Library and Archives NZ as a prelude to consideration of more extensive amalgamation of agencies not centred on the Department of Internal Affairs.