Monday 13 November 2023

Preparing for the new government

Tova O'Brien at Stuff reports on leaked emails at MBIE that point to preparations for downsizings.

In a statement, MBIE said the cuts were in response to the savings targets imposed by the outgoing Labour government and being mindful of the cost of living crisis.

“This work to date has been based on the targets and expectations set by the current Government. We will have conversations with the new Government when it is formed on how we have worked to date to achieve the fiscal savings target,” Tremain told Stuff.

In late August, just ahead of the election campaign, Labour’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced $4b in public service savings including cutting back on contractors and consultants and trimming agencies’ baselines by 1 and 2% of which MBIE faced the largest cut at $110.8m

But further changes being considered may be in anticipation of the new government making good on its “cut the waste” campaign rhetoric; in the email, Tremain says “we are preparing for change” and that “this is inevitable as we get ready to support a new government and new Ministers”.

I was curious where some of this might be going and had put in an OIA a while back. 

Treasury had started a pre-election information exercise to help them prep for Budget 2024. I figured that whatever they got back from the Ministries would be a heck of a lot more informative than what's served up in Briefings to the Incoming Ministers. 

Because it would be a lot more informative, Treasury withheld all of it. And fair enough. 

But they did give me the questions they'd asked. I'll copy it all here. 

It's relevant to today's story from O'Brien because a lot of this process started before the election, and there was a Baseline Savings Proposal that was underway. 

But Treasury was also asking for substantive changes to stop or scale down current services or activities - as it ought to be. 

Also interesting - Treasury was asking what projects hadn't yet been started, presumably so they could be cut if needed. I wonder if any agencies started scrambling to start spending on projects to lock them in.

I wonder what all showed up as savings options in Section Two.

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