Co-hosted by the Department of Statistics and the Public Policy Institute, at the University of Auckland.

Presenter: Len Cook

Date: Tuesday 18 May 2021
Time: 3–4PM
Location: MLT3 (Building 303, Room 101), University of Auckland

Strengthening the evidence base for assuring trustworthiness of government

Len’s Presentation (PDF)

A long-standing trust in public services is being challenged for a mix of reasons. This has brought to light a variety of long-standing tensions that exist in the scope, development, evaluation and publication of evidence about public services in New Zealand. These include:
• A mantra of evidence-based policy which overshadows the critical importance of evidence-based process and practice.
• The nature of risks from relying on anecdote and rare events to influence policy change and practice that the paring back of evidence in the public domain helps create.
• A focus on institutional measures ignores the changing societal context and dynamics of population groups that is essential to assess generational change in wellbeing.
• Ignorance of the judicial and societal dimensions of proportionality.
• The role of independent well-resourced third parties (Ombudsman, Judiciary, Auditor-General) for providing public confidence in trustworthiness of public services.
• The importance of evidence from social sciences, official statistics, operational research and continuous improvement in enabling sector change involving diverse autonomous agencies.
• The necessity for of government wide principles that provide common assurance of the integrity of research selection, methods, quality and release.
The presentation will extent the evidence framework developed by Superu by drawing on an analysis of the five reviews of Oranga Tamariki, as well as experiences in official statistics. It will include examples from the presenter’s study of the justice system.

From 1992 to 2000, Len Cook was Government Statistician of New Zealand, working in Statistics New Zealand in a variety of roles from 1971 to 2000, and from 2000 to 2005 as the National Statistician of the United Kingdom.
Some recent roles include:
• Vice President, International Statistics Institute (2005–2009);
• President, Institute of Public Administration NZ (2009–2013);
• Member, Royal Commission on Social Policy (1987–88).
Between 2015 and 2018, Len was Families Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Superu. He is a member of the Remuneration Authority.
His long-standing interests are in the areas of population change and public policy, public administration, official statistics, and the place of science in policy. Personal interests include fly fishing.
Len graduated in Mathematics and Statistics from Otago in 1971. He is a life member of the Population Association of New Zealand and the New Zealand Statistical Association, and an elected Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He has honorary academic appointments at the VUW Institute of Policy Studies, AUT, the University of Otago School of Medicine, and NIDEA.

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