‘Think Broad’ public service sector changes ahead

State Services Commission

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins announced broad changes to boost public sector performance and responsiveness. At a 26 June event he released planned reforms to the State Sector Act 1988.

Minister Hipkins emphasized the need for government to put wellbeing at the forefront of public service delivery.  He noted that major goals such as child wellbeing can’t be addressed by one Agency or Department or separate agencies working independently. He emphasized that the legislation is intended to be change-enabling rather than restrictive.

The proposed outcome now accepted by Cabinet is for a new Public Services Act and a culture change programme.  The act will include provisions in five areas to help the public service join up services, and to secure public trust and confidence:

  1. A unified public service
    • Purpose statement; five foundational principles for the public service (political neutrality, free and frank advice, merit-based appointment, stewardship and open government); ‘spirit of service’ and values; and a code of conduct.
    • Expanding the scope of the Act to include 46 Crown Agents (including agencies such as ACC, Housing New Zealand, New Zealand Transport Agency, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Tertiary Education Commission, PHARMAC and district health boards)
    • Requiring public service to periodically provide long term insights to parliament.
  2. Te Ao Tūmatanui – Strengthening the Māori/Crown relationship
    • Prominent clarification of the expectations of the public service in relation to its Treaty partner.
    • Expectations on the Commissioner and chief executives to be accountable for supporting the Māori/Crown relationship, based on several core responsibilities.
  3. Employment and workforce
    • Enabling the Commission to negotiate common terms and conditions for groups of public servants, to have oversight of pay equity bargaining and to provide Workforce Policy Statements that help align agencies on employment issues and workforce priorities.
    • Enabling portability of employment benefits.
    • Inclusiveness and diversity are fostered via additional duties for chief executives and the Commissioner.
  4. Leadership
    • Public Service Leadership Team (all CEs) to drive a connected system, led by the Commissioner
    • Functional CEs leading system improvement
    • Stronger leadership and governance structure via additional statutory Deputy Commissioner
    • Senior leadership strategy to enable leaders to move across the system, and development of a strong core of leaders with portable leadership/knowledge.
  5. Organisations
    • Interdepartmental Executive Boards comprising CEs with direct funding to align strategy, planning and funding on cross-cutting policies, problems or priorities.
    • joint ventures between departments that can deliver joined-up functions.
    • Flexible departmental agency model that can be used in a wider range of situations than is currently possible.
    • In the regions this is likely to mean:
      • Shifting organisational boundaries to a more common basis built around communities of interest, to reflect territorial authority boundaries in general.
      • Designation of regional leaders to provide system leadership. They will have the mana and mandate to convene cross-agency decision making forums.
      • Communicating public service focus areas through regional profiles and priorities for the whole Public Service. This will be developed with leaders within local government, iwi, business and community groups.
      • Developing shared property and IT models to support the operation of regional offices and the greater integration of services for communities.
      • Existing Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) delivery will be maintained, including the effective ongoing engagement with regional partners in delivering PGF objectives.

The Bill is expected to be enacted before the end of 2020, with implementation phased in over time.

This follows a consultation process in October 2018 which received more than 300 written submissions including from TINZ. The State Services Commission (SSC) has proactively released an analysis of the submissions, copies of all submissions, a series of cabinet papers, and an impact statement that works through the problems, opportunities and challenges of change.

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