The Environmental Protection Authority’s Chief Executive, Dr Allan Freeth, has drawn attention to “criticism” of his agency in a report that seems to have been scarcely noticed by news media when it was published on April 13.
Dr Freeth issued a press statement (HERE) four weeks later to express his disappointment
” … at the criticism of the organisation’s performance in a report published by the New Zealand Initiative, an independent public policy think-tank.”
His authority welcomed feedback on its performance and accepted criticism when it was justified, he said.
“But when the EPA is described as a poor performer, without any sound evidence to back up the assertion, that is a different matter.
“The New Zealand Initiative stated that the EPA, along with two other agencies, were very poor performers on the basis of just one survey response in each case.
“Such criticism is completely unfounded. I am disappointed that the statements were made based on one opinion.”
One useful consequence of Dr Freeth’s statement and letter of complaint was to nudge our editor to find out what’s been going on.
Dr Freeth’s concern is with mentions of his authority in a report entitled “Who Guards the Guards? Regulatory Governance in New Zealand.”
This report says many of New Zealand’s most important regulatory agencies are performing poorly: the Commerce Commission and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand showed poor results in the Initiative’s study but the Financial Markets Authority ranked high for its regulatory behaviour.
The study was conducted by the Initiative’s chair, Roger Partridge, and research assistant, Amy Thomasson.
It derives its findings
” … from an in-depth survey of New Zealand’s top 200 companies”.
Companies had been asked to both rate and rank the regulators they interact with, allowing a nuanced insight into the regulatory cultures across different agencies. In total, the survey tracked 23 key performance indicators for 24 regulatory agencies.
“Our study does not leave any doubt that regulators need internal checks and balances to perform well,” Mr Partridge said when the report was published.
“A clear separation between the executive and the board, which is the gold standard for corporate governance, should also become the norm for regulators.”
You can download the survey results HERE.
The institute’s press release to announce the study’s publication can be found HERE.
At the time of its publication, the study was the subject of an article written by Richard Baker, research director of the New Zealand Initiative, which was posted on line by interest.co.nz (HERE).
A two-page summary of the report is available HERE.
Your editor found no mention of the Environmental Protection Authority in the press release, the two-page summary or Mr Baker’s on-line article.
Mr Partridge advised AgScience the EPA was not a focus of the research.
He said he had explained to Dr Freeth:
- He is right to point out that our survey obtained only very small sample sizes for some regulators. This is something made explicit in the report, by referring to this fact, and by listing in appendix 1 the number of ratings for each organisation. In the EPA’s case, this was only one rating.
- For this reason the case studies focussed on just three of the regulators for whom a significant number of ratings had been obtained – the FMA, the Commerce Commission and the RBNZ, “for all of whom we are satisfied we had statistically significant datasets.”
- We felt nevertheless that we had to do justice to the many businesses who committed time to complete our survey. For this reason the report contained details of the ratings for all the regulatory agencies for whom data were gained.
- The small sample size issue is clearly identified both in the text of the report and the appendices.
But Dr Freeth says the New Zealand Initiative’s response failed to recognise it was inappropriate to criticise any organisation as having poor performance in this way.
The Environmental Protection Authority undertakes an annual survey of public trust and confidence in its work, conducted by Research New Zealand with sample sizes all above 300 respondents, he said.
And the authority consistently receives feedback which shows well over half of its customers and the New Zealand public have trust and confidence in its work.