NZ Parole Board Administrative Case Study

Background

The New Zealand Parole Board’s (the Board) main function is to decide whether an offender is considered to no longer be an undue risk to the safety of the community and can therefore be released from prison on parole with conditions before their sentence end date. In addition, the Board sets release conditions for offenders released at the end of their sentence. Also the Board can, on application by the Department of Corrections, recall offenders to prison.

The ability of the Parole Board to make well-informed and robust decisions regarding offenders is due in part to the effective and efficient operations of the NZ Parole Board Administrative Support Service (NZPBASS).

NZPBASS is solely responsible for collating high volumes of highly sensitive information from multiple sources and are also responsible for the release of Board decisions to offenders and victims. The constant pressure of preparing for upcoming hearings as well as completing hearings that have just concluded takes its toll on the team.

In addition to the significant workloads and volumes of information the primary task of NZPBASS is made further complex requirements to adhere to 5 pieces of legislation. The timing and level of detailed personal information released to the Board is governed by the Parole Act (2002) whilst the ‘how, what and when’ of information released to victims and offenders must adhere to the Victims’ Rights Act (2002), the Privacy Act (1993), the Official Information Act (1982) and the Human Rights Act (1993).

Purpose of project:

Since 2013 there have been a small number of privacy breaches. The project arose from those occasions when the associated paper work, which relates to Board hearings (containing personal information relating to offenders) have been inadvertently released to incorrect parties. These incidents raised the issue of whether the systems and processes that were in place for managing and releasing information was indeed sufficiently robust and ‘fit for purpose’.

Objectives:

  • Robust processes with less margin for error and fewer mistakes
  • No ‘front page’ consequences
  • Decrease levels of pressure for staff, improve scope of roles and levels of staff engagement

Approach:

The application of an impartial perspective in three key phases to determine existing potential problems, stress points and potential solutions:

  1. Identify internal and external environmental influences
  2. Analyse current state
  3. Identify specific actions to work towards proposed solutions

Constraints and solutions:

The scope for ‘creative problem solving’ through total process redesign was limited due to a number of elements specific to NZPBASS. These include:

  • Tight guidelines and legislative compliance
  • Collation of information in various formats from multiple sources
  • Hard deadlines
  • Financial constraints
  • Ingrained processes across multiple communication layers

Working with the above considerations in mind, achievement of the objectives would only be possible by engineering efficiencies within the existing framework. Through the three phases of the project significant improvements were identified with simple implementable actions to make them a reality.

  1. Dead Zones (places where work sits, gets held up, or gets lost)
    o How to keep things moving
  2. Rework loops
    o How to make workflows linear
  3. Checkers checking the checkers – too many approval layers
    o Where simplification can be achieved
  4. Duplication of effort
    o Working smarter not harder
  5. Value add vs. non-value added activities
    o Where unnecessary work can be removed

Outcomes:

There were a number of quick wins that were easily able to be implemented including options for relying less on paper and more on technology, which continue to be worked through.

Process improvements have led to more time being available to the administrators and therefore reducing the risk even further of information going to the wrong party – although it is acknowledged the risk will always be there, as that is human nature.