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Cabinet paper consultation with departments

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 16 July 2019
Issue status: 
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This publication is part of the CabGuide.

Cabinet paper consultation with departments

Departments that prepare Cabinet papers are responsible for ensuring that appropriate consultation is undertaken, that other departments are given reasonable time to comment, and that views are accurately reflected in the paper.  Effective consultation ensures that Ministers receive sound, comprehensive, and co-ordinated policy advice.

When should consultation take place

Consultation with departments can take a number of forms. On occasion, it is sufficient to send copies of a draft paper to other departments for comment. In other cases, it is appropriate to discuss and try to get agreement with other departments on policy issues before finalising a draft paper for more formal consultation. For significant cross-government policy issues, a collaborative approach between relevant departments will be required.

Departments being consulted must be given enough time to consider a draft paper, and should see the final version of the document before it is uploaded to CabNet to ensure that they are happy with the comments attributed to them. Papers should indicate the departments consulted and, if appropriate outline their views and/or whether they agree with the proposals.

Every attempt must be made to present a proposal that is supported by all departments that were consulted. If consensus cannot be reached, the paper should include all views and, if necessary, options should be provided in the recommendations, clearly showing who supports which option.

Departments preparing papers must ensure that they consider the interests both of other departments and of other government agencies, including the Privacy Commissioner and Officers of Parliament (the Controller and Auditor-General, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment).

Which departments need to be consulted

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the Treasury

Many Cabinet papers will need to be consulted with DPMC, PSC and the Treasury. Drafters should, where they are uncertain, check with the relevant advisors in DPMC, the Treasury, and PSC on whether the paper that they are preparing needs consultation with those departments.

DPMC has responsibility for advising the Prime Minister on all policy proposals that are likely to have implications for the government as a whole. This is often because they are significant policy matters, issues needing high-level co-ordination, or issues of particular public interest.

PSC has responsibility for advising Ministers on whole of government perspectives, on proposals to establish, merge, or disestablish Public sector agencies (other than State-owned enterprises), and on proposals with an impact on organisational structures, strategic alignment, and capability. PSC is also responsible for chief executive accountability or departmental performance specifications, and workforce or employment relations in the Public sector.

The Treasury has responsibility for advising the Minister of Finance on all proposals with economic implications, financial or fiscal (expenditure or revenue) implications, implications for the Public Finance Act 1989, and regulatory implications (proposals for primary legislation or disallowable instruments submitted for approval to Cabinet).

The Treasury must be consulted on all papers with financial, fiscal, economic, or regulatory implications, or that contain recommendations on expenditure or revenue. The Treasury must be allowed at least two weeks to comment (unless there are compelling and unavoidable reasons to be less), and the implications must be detailed in the Cabinet or Cabinet committee paper and, if appropriate, in an accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment. This is discussed further in the page on Financial Implications in Cabinet papers.

Consultation on matters with implications for the Crown

Ministers also want assurance that the issues in papers have been assessed for their implications for the Crown. This includes legal obligations, human rights issues, regulatory impact and compliance cost implications, and the use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land.

The following list indicates which departments drafters should consider consulting to ensure that their paper addresses these matters:

Consultation on impacts on population groups

Any policy proposal will have impacts on particular population groups, such as people of certain ages or ethnicities.  Ministers will want to know that these have been well thought through.  The best way to work out if there are impacts on populations is to consult early with population agencies (i.e.  government agencies which focus on population groups).  The list below indicates the departments that drafters should consider consulting and includes links to tools to help with analysis where these are available:

Consultation on other cross-government issues

Some papers may also require consultation with departments that have responsibility for more specialised areas of activity with application across the government. These issues include:

  • proposals where reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key policy objective, or the direct emission impacts are likely to be significant - the Ministry for the Environment
  • policy proposals that have a direct impact on offending and victimisation, that create or change criminal offences, infringements or penalties, or that impact on court-based procedures and workloads – the Ministry of Justice  (MoJ)
  • proposals affecting central government decision making processes, Ministerial ethics, Ministerial portfolios, and constitutional issues – the Cabinet Office (in DPMC)
  • legislative and policy proposals that may affect the privacy of individuals, including information matching proposals – MoJ and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner
  • proposals with implications for the record of government activity and the custody of government records – Archives New Zealand  (in the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA))
  • proposals that have implications for the collection, analysis and release of statistical information from surveys or administrative databases, or that relate to monitoring and evaluation – Statistics New Zealand
  • proposals that have implications for local government or that may have an impact on particular communities – DIA. The Guide for central government engagement with local government is a useful resource to support effective engagement with local government 
  • proposals that have implications for the community and voluntary sector – the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector (in DIA).
Last updated: 
Tuesday, 20 December 2016

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