16 The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) was established on 1 July 2002 as a semi-autonomous body (SAB) attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (the Ministry or MAF?). Under this arrangement, the authorities and powers exercised by NZFSA are vested in the first instance with the MAF Director-General who delegates comprehensively to the NZFSA Executive Director. The Executive Director may provide policy advice on matters of food safety independently of advice on those matters that might be offered by the Director-General. The Executive Director is accountable both to the Minister for Food Safety for policy, and to the Director-General for the exercise of delegated authorities and overall performance.
17 The reporting lines and accountabilities in the SAB model can be confusing and difficult to understand. For example, while the Executive Director has a direct reporting line to the Minister for Food Safety, the Director-General has, under the State Sector Act, ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the Ministry and the advice it tenders to Government consistent with the performance measures and expectations set out in the Ministry's Statement of Intent.
18 A recent performance review of NZFSA (referred to as the "Scott report") concluded that "the overall impression from considering the stakeholders' feedback and the formal performance reports is that NZFSA is an outstandingly competent regulator".1 Notwithstanding this very positive conclusion, the report raised a number of concerns regarding the effectiveness of the SAB model.
19 More than three years after establishment, now that NZFSA is operating as a highly reputable agency, it is timely to review NZFSA's status as a SAB attached to MAF with a view to ensuring it is structured to operate in the most efficient, effective and economical way in the future. To this end, the machinery of government review has addressed:
- the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining the current arrangements as a SAB attached to MAF
- the viability of modifying some of the current arrangements, including possible separation of NZFSA from MAF, and
- any other changes that might be appropriate.
20 In addressing these issues, the review has:
- considered existing governance and accountability relationships between the NZFSA, MAF and Ministers and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of these
- compared the NZFSA SAB arrangements with other SABs that exist in the State services
- identified options for change and assessed the risks, costs and benefits involved, and
- brought this analysis together to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of the possible options for change in comparison with maintaining the status quo.
21 As part of the review's brief, a wide range of external stakeholders was interviewed to obtain views on the SAB model and the options for NZFSA. The interviews were conducted on a non-attribution basis. A list of interviewees is included as Appendix A.
1 Scott G., and McKenzie, L., (2005) "Review of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority" The report was commissioned by the NZFSA as part of its review of the performance of the organisation against the ministerial objectives, NZFSA's objectives and, more generally, the expectations of its stakeholders.