Appendix 5

 

Discussion Paper: Structural Options for Reform of Firearms Administration

 

 

 

 

(The following paper was prepared by Mr Ian Miller at the request of the Review.)

 

Introduction

Consideration is being given to the options for enhancing the control of firearms.

This paper identifies and describes five options for a structure to oversee/manage the development and implementation of any new measures which may be proposed. They range from the relatively simple device of a body to independently monitor the performance of the agency responsible for managing the changes, through to a purpose-designed entity to implement and maintain the new procedures on an ongoing basis.

A consistent format is applied to the analysis of each option to facilitate comparison and evaluation as follows:

Ÿ The assumptions regarding the option are stated.

Ÿ The option is described.

Ÿ The relative ease of implementation is discussed.

Ÿ Existing precedents for the use of the option are identified and described.

Ÿ An indicative cost of operation for a standardised level of activity is estimated.

Ÿ The perceived strengths and weaknesses are identified.

 

At the conclusion of the report I have provided a brief summary of how I personally assess the merits of the options identified.

 

Context

The options are developed on the understanding that there may be two different forms of application of the structural options. Responsibility for enhanced gun control measures may remain with the Police or may shift to some other authorised agency. In the former case a mechanism to maintain the momentum of the review recommendations may be necessary.

 

The Options

In summary the options identified are as follows:

 

Option 1: The Status Quo Police have sole responsibility: The status quo is retained with the Police remaining responsible for developing and implementing the recommendations of the Review.

Option 2: An independent Advisory Board oversees Police responsibility: An independent advisory board is established to oversee and advise on the development and implementation of the response to the recommendations of the Review with the Police retaining accountability for resourcing and managing the activity.

Option 3: Independent sunset agency reverting to Police: An independent agency is established under a sunset clause to manage the development and implementation of the recommendations over a specified term after which ongoing responsibility reverts to the Police.

Option 4: Permanent independent authority: An independent agency is established as the permanent authority for the development, implementation and maintenance of the recommendations.

Option 5: Integration into other Government agency: The responsibility for the development, implementation and maintenance of the recommendations is assigned to some existing agency other than Police, which is considered to have the relevant skills, technology and public standing to manage the role effectively.

 

Assessment of the Options

 

1. Status Quo: Police Responsibility

Assumption: That there is some reluctance from Police or politicians to change the current policy and service delivery arrangements.

 

Description: The Police would continue to provide policy advice on gun control measures and implement and manage the agreed measures as part of the broad sweep of Police activities.

 

Existing precedents: Maintains the status quo.

 

Indicative cost of operation: N/A.

 

Ease of implementation: This is a no change scenario and as such should be implemented without any difficulty.

 

Perceived strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Ÿ Builds on existing level of expertise.

Ÿ Police personnel have high personal motivation to achieve effective gun control.

Ÿ Continued integration may enhance overall enforcement capability.

Ÿ No need to "market" a change in approach to the public with the attendant costs and risks that would entail.

Ÿ Limits potential for unwanted political debate.

Ÿ Information system costs should presumably already be included in the INCIS budget.

Ÿ Provides a fast start to implementation of any agreed enhancements.

 

Weaknesses

Ÿ Management of licensing is not a core Police activity.

Ÿ Front line policing activities must be considered to have priority for Police resources.

Ÿ Police are likely to continue to give priority to front line activities.

Ÿ Gun control has potential to be an industrial dispute pawn.

Ÿ Police track record to date.

Ÿ Overheads charged to the activity likely to include factors that are not strictly relevant to licensing.

 

 

2. An Independent Advisory Board Oversees Police Responsibility

 

Assumption: That the Commissioner of Police or the Minister may wish to have the benefit of an independent advisory board to oversee the development and implementation of the recommendations of the Review in order to ensure they are given appropriate priority by Police.

 

Description: Either the Commissioner or the Minister would appoint a board of say 4- 6 persons. The board’s terms of reference would charge them with overseeing and advising on the conduct of the programme of activity which arises from the recommendations of the Review.

The board would likely have a fixed term sufficient to see the process through to an agreed major milestone. I would envisage that its life could extend to say the end of the first year of re-licensing under the new policy framework, which is envisaged to be 1999. If need be the term of office could be extended further should the process turn out to be more protracted than expected.

Existing precedents: There are a range of advisory boards working with departments and Ministers on a similar basis to that envisaged. They are generally prerogative entities, which exist at the whim of the instigator and therefore may be seen to lack teeth. However if the chief executive or Minister values their input they can be a powerful tool in a period of change and for on going management support. Current examples include the advisory boards in Social Welfare (one for each business unit), Inland Revenue, Health (Health Information Council) and Internal Affairs (Heritage and National Identity Boards).

 

Indicative cost of operation: Boards tend to meet on an as required basis, which could be between six and twelve times a year. If they are required to monitor financial and business performance they may be engaged to provide a certain amount of time each month for that purpose over and above meeting times.

The usual arrangement is to negotiate a fee similar to that paid to a board director. Government rates are generally regarded as involving a charity component although that is under review at the present time. If there were no change the fees would probably be in the order of $600- 800 a day. For a board of six members meeting say twelve times a year the fees would come to $50,400. Actual and reasonable travel expenses would be available. I would estimate these at $500 per meeting for say four members or $24,000.

There would be associated administrative costs such as the preparation and issue of agenda and recording minutes. My assumption is that the effort involved would be little more than what one might expect in any well run change management project and as such should be regarded as part of the overall business case for change.

 

Ease of implementation: This can be variable dependent on the level of public interest. Where a chief executive takes the initiative it can be very straightforward. A list of possible members is prepared for the chief executive. A short list of preferred candidates is identified and these persons approached to determine their interest in participation. If they are willing to become members it is then simply a matter of documenting terms of reference and getting down to business.

If the role is likely to be of a higher profile the process can become more complicated particularly where there is consultation at a political level involved. In that event a suggested shortlist is often referred for discussion with caucus members before any approach is made to the potential candidates. Notwithstanding this additional step in the process it is still possible to secure the appointment of a board in a relatively timely fashion.

 

Perceived strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Ÿ Injects a measure of independent accountability into the process.

Ÿ Not subject to competing priorities.

Ÿ Enables a wider range of interest and expertise to be utilised.

Ÿ Can provide potential adversaries the opportunity to channel their interest in a positive manner at board level.

Ÿ Allows the chief executive or Minister a degree of separation.

Ÿ Creates a single focus change champion.

Ÿ Provides a useful conduit for information that may otherwise be filtered or not sent.

Ÿ Lends weight and formality to the area, which can sustain momentum.

Weaknesses

Ÿ Dependent on the level of public interest the appointment process may be constrained and some potential candidates may decline involvement.

Ÿ Can hijack the process.

Ÿ May be held at arms length by the agency responsible for the change process.

Ÿ May be "captured" by change agency.

Ÿ Ultimately has only advisory powers and therefore unable to command action.

 

3. Independent Sunset Agency Reverting to the Police

Assumptions: That there is a perceived need for ensuring that the agreed enhancements are implemented in a timely manner and that this can not be guaranteed if the Police have the sole responsibility, given the competing demand from business as usual and other major initiatives such as INCIS. However once the enhancements are implemented the benefits of reintegration of the function into Police are seen to outweigh retaining a separate agency.

Description: A separate entity is established for the sole purpose of developing and implementing the recommendations from the Review after which the ongoing responsibility reverts to Police.

The entity could be established under existing legislation using the funding provisions of the Public Finance Act or be set up under a specific enactment. The choice of approach would be dependent on the extent to which the entity requires separate legal recognition to carry out the functions (i.e. ability to sue and be sued).

There would be an independent advisory board to oversee and guide the operations including advising on the re-integration process and subsequent management arrangements (for example they could recommend a continuing role for an advisory board). The entity would employ its own policy and implementation resources. Staff could be seconded from Police or recruited from any other available source. Given the transitional nature of the activity it is likely there would be a considerable amount of outsourcing. Activities such as data entry and call center operations are prime examples of this approach or ways of implementing it.

Police would continue to play a key role in the licensing processes and quite likely the buy-back as well. They would vet applicants and inspect facilities or arrange for suitable qualified agents to act on their behalf. They would have on-line access to licence holder and gun registration details, which are likely to be retained as part of INCIS for ease of re-integration. They could receive and store firearms that are put forward for sale or surrender.

Existing precedents: There have been many such implementation agencies. Two examples I am familiar with are the Information Authority, which was established under the Official Information Act 1983 for a three-year term to assist bed down that legislation and advise on future enhancements and the National Interim Provider Board, which was set up as a part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to manage the transition of the Area Health Boards to Crown Health Entity status.

The common feature of such agencies has been that in every instance there was a pre-existing body, which could potentially have provided the service but competition for priority or concern about performance led to the alternative approach. Also, at the conclusion of the change process the function was absorbed back into an existing agency albeit on a reduced scale.

 

Indicative cost of operation: The board costs are likely to be higher than an advisory board as the level of accountability increases. I would suggest say five members at an average of $30,000 plus say three members travelling at $500 a month giving a total cost of $168,000.

The level of staffing is dependent on the nature of the work programme and the amount of out sourcing of services such as data entry.

Given the work which has been done on scoping the costs, I would suggest that a peak staff level of around 40 is realistic during the start-up phase if there is any form of universal registration of firearms and limited use of outsourcing. There-after I would assume an ongoing total cost of operation in the vicinity of $4 million per annum including board members’ fees.

During the start up phase there would be additional expenses such as training costs and publicity. There would also be capital costs associated with the establishment and fit-out of an office.

 

Ease of implementation: If legislation is required there is likely to be delay. If existing provisions can be used the process can be quite quick. The National Interim Provider Board was established within three months including recruiting staff and the board members and securing and fitting out premises. In that instance the board was established as part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in order to provide a mechanism for Crown funding to be channelled to the activity without the need for either a separate appropriation or legislative enactment.

Perceived strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Ÿ Focused on a clear objective with no competing priorities.

Ÿ The involvement of a board can be more attractive to potential recruits than working for a mainstream agency. (Sense of action and perceived lack of bureaucracy a strong drawcard.)

Ÿ Can provide potential adversaries the opportunity to channel their interest in a positive manner at board level.

Ÿ Has a clear timetable and incentive to get on and complete the task.

Ÿ High visibility enhances accountability.

Ÿ Staff likely to be very task-oriented and give above average effort.

Ÿ Enables Police to concentrate on their core business

Weaknesses

Ÿ Re-integration requires careful planning and management to avoid loss of key personnel and reduction in performance standards and priorities.

Ÿ Single focus of a stand-alone entity can mean the bigger picture is not seen when that may be important.

Ÿ Reliant on high performing board members.

Ÿ Agency may want to remain intact and not re-integrate.

Ÿ Can set up a "them and us" tension with historic provider of service although this can be minimised with use of secondments which carry over existing knowledge and experience and maintain established lines of communication.

Ÿ Risk that once re-integrated the activity is overshadowed by other priorities and the gains are lost.

Ÿ Larger organisations often carry high overheads which when spread to a new activity on re-integration can lead to cost increases that are not matched by service improvements.

Ÿ Strategic alliances which are fostered by the independence and focus may be lost on re-integration.

 

 

4. Permanent Independent Agency

Assumptions: It is concluded that the function is not a core policing activity and a stand-alone entity is established to provide focus and expertise to manage the development, implementation and ongoing operation of the agreed measures.

Description: A Crown entity is established with the legislative mandate to implement and manage the agreed gun control measures.

The entity would be subject to the provisions of the Public Finance Act. It would be accountable to a designated Minister and operate pursuant to a contract that was agreed for and on behalf of the Minister. The Minister would be assisted in that process by a designated Department (could be Police or some other justice or regulatory department), which would also monitor performance of the contract terms.

The entity would provide an annual report to Parliament and be subject to the scrutiny of Parliamentary Select Committees and the Auditor General.

In all other respects the entity would be little different from the sunset clause agency. It would have close and continuing relationship with Police and is likely to recruit or second staff from that agency.

 

Existing precedents: There are a host of agencies that have been established to give focus, direction and enhanced accountability for a function of Government. They range from the State Owned Enterprises, which manage commercial activities to the bodies, which dispense Crown funds such as Creative New Zealand and the Lotteries Commission.

For the purposes of this exercise one might look at the Civil Defence Authority or the Fire Services Commission for a large scale precedent or at the Registrar of Security Guards and Private Investigators and the Commissioner for the Environment for small-scale examples.

The common features are the appointment of a governing body to oversee the activity and hire a chief executive. The chief executive is responsible for organising how the service will be provided. That can range from outsourcing to an in-house operation with variations in between. The decision on which approach to follow is based on an assessment of the likely quality, cost and public reaction.

This type of agency often has a close and relationship with other organisations working on associated topics. Increasingly these relations are the subject of memorandum of understanding and similar protocols and can even involve purchase agreements whereby one provides the other a specified service for an agreed price.

 

Indicative cost of operation: The cost would be similar to that for a sunset agency.

 

Ease of implementation: The main difficulty with this option is the likely delay in securing the necessary legislative mandate. Gun control is a high profile issue: debate around any reform proposals could well be protracted. It could however, be possible to start the establishment process in advance of the mandate and this has been done in similar circumstances.

 

Perceived strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Ÿ Focused on a clear objective with no competing priorities.

Ÿ If involves a board can be more attractive to potential recruits than working for a mainstream agency. (Sense of action and perceived lack of bureaucracy again a strong drawcard.)

Ÿ High visibility enhances accountability failings hard to hide.

Ÿ Staff likely to be task-oriented.

Ÿ Able to take a long-term view and plan and manage accordingly.

Ÿ Can provide potential adversaries the opportunity to channel their interest in a positive manner at board level.

Ÿ Clear public accountability.

Ÿ Enables Police to concentrate on their core business

Ÿ Cannot pass problems to a successor like a sunset agency could.

Weaknesses

Ÿ Single focus can mean the bigger picture is not seen when that may be important.

Ÿ High dependency on board member quality.

Ÿ Can set up a "them and us" tension with historic provider of service although this can be minimised with use of secondments, protocols and service level agreements.

 

 

5. Integration Into Another Government Agency

Assumptions: That the decision is taken to remove the function from Police on the basis that it is not a core activity and to align it with some pre-existing functions in another Government agency which provides registry/licensing type services.

 

Description: The function would be managed as part of an existing Government agency, probably a department rather than a Crown entity given that the former is where most licensing/registry activities are currently located.

The operational structure and work processes are likely to be very similar to that outlined for a stand-alone agency. This would include maintaining the ongoing relationship with Police. It is very possible that an advisory board could be used as well although the role of the board would be limited by comparison with a stand-alone entity; it would not have executive functions.

The principle differences from a stand-alone model would be a relative lack of visibility and the potential for priorities to be influenced by factors that have corporate rather than business significance. On the benefit side, there would be potential to share resources and utilise economies of scale so as to reduce costs. By the same token, overhead costs can often increase in larger organisations, which of course flies in the face of the perception that economies of scale will naturally lead to reductions.

 

Existing precedents: The core functions of Government are still being defined. There has been a decade of considerable change and while the pace has slowed the activity is continuing. Right now options for managing emergency services are under review and this could lead to the relocation of functions within existing agencies.

The result of this process is that there are many activities which have been brought together within a larger organisational "shell". For example the Ministry of Commerce is home to a wide range of functions many of which have a semi-independent status e.g. Consumer Affairs, Patent Office, Communications, Information Technology, Proceeds of Crime and Tourism.

In short it is not uncommon for Government to relocate a function between agencies. I would expect that officials would consider that option as a matter of course when providing advice on how to progress the recommendations of the Review.

 

Indicative cost of operation: In theory the cost should be the same or less than that for a stand-alone agency. However the reality often seems to be different. Overhead costs have a habit of growing and whether or not they benefit a particular function may have little bearing on the apportionment process. Within a large and complex environment financial management systems cannot always allocate costs as precisely as a single purpose entity.

Being part of a larger organisation may also mean that remuneration policies are weighted to factors which are not relevant to a particular activity but none the less lead to increased costs. For example an organisation with a bias to policy work may increase pay rates in an employment contract to attract recruits but the same rate has to be paid in an area which does not have the same recruitment concerns.

The impact of these allocative decisions can be very material in terms of the overhead costs of activities.

 

Ease of implementation: Legislation is likely to be required but this would presumably be more straightforward than that for a stand-alone entity. My own experience with relocation of functions has been that the processes are relatively simple and, with sound management, can be implemented with minimal fuss and bother.

 

Perceived strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Ÿ Enables Police to concentrate on their core business

Ÿ Builds on comparable skills and experience synergies.

Ÿ Allows economies of scale to be captured.

Ÿ Puts relationship with Police on a formal documented basis.

Weaknesses

Ÿ No obvious home for the activity in an existing agency.

Ÿ Potential risk of competition for internal priority leading to down grading of service.

Ÿ Risk of "them and us" conflict with Police.

Ÿ Possible increase in costs because of higher overhead loading.

 

 

Summary of the Options

My assessment is that the preferred option should be the one which gave the greatest certainty that there will be proper accountability for ensuring the proposed enhancements deliver the objective of reduced risk from inadequate gun control. That would encompass the following components. The enhancements must be implemented in an expeditious and effective manner. There must be effective close and continuing links with relevant law enforcement agencies. The implementation process must be simple to administer. Public confidence in the measures proposed has to be maintained and enhanced. The new arrangements have to be delivered in a cost-effective manner.

The extent to which the options identified might meet these objectives involves a degree of subjectivity; ultimately there will always be factors that influence the outcome and which are not anticipated. At this stage I tend to the view that should the function remain with the Police, at the very least the process of implementing your recommendations would benefit from the advice and assistance which an advisory board could provide. The experience of the past suggests that competing priorities will always exist in that environment and assistance is required to ensure an initiative such as this is not downgraded because of unrelated factors.

On balance though, I would in fact go further and look seriously at establishing a purpose-specific development and implementation agency and would not discount the option of retaining that independence in the long term. I believe there is sufficient evidence to show that such an approach can be more timely, cost-effective and ultimately successful than staying with the status quo agency. It also sends a very clear signal that change is going to happen and makes the process transparent.

In summary, I would favour an approach which ensured that there was a high degree of independence from core Police activities for the registration and licensing activities while retaining their role in the specialised areas of fit and proper assessment and possibly gun security reviews.