The Transport Ministry says it can improve its policy advice, despite employing fewer staff and being under funding constraints.
A Ministry-commissioned report last year by consulting firm The Institute of Economic Research found 21 of 60 pieces of advice to the transport minister and the Cabinet were communicated in a borderline or poor way.
While it noted the Ministry's comprehensive technical knowledge, it said there had been lapses of judgement.
The Ministry is required to save almost $1 million a year and since the 2010/11 financial year the number of policy staff has dropped from 107 full time equivalent employees to 90.
Ministry spokesperson Gareth Chaplin says despite this they can improve their policy advice by working together.
The report cited one paper that seemed intent on embarrassing the transport minister by reminding him of officials' advice from the distant past and his comments from two years ago. The report said this type of telling off makes officials look churlish.
Other reviewed papers were deemed pointless.
Mr Chaplin said much of the commentary was about the clarity of the presentation and how well structured the recommendations were, and overall its policy work is sound.
"There's always room for improvement but I don't think that's a major cause for concern in terms of the actual quality of the advice being given."
Mr Chaplin says the minister and the Cabinet can have confidence in the Transport Ministry's policy work.