Slip sliding the Transylvanian way

16 November 2018

Romania takes over the presidency of the European Union on 1 January 2019 – with a responsibility for leadership which the Romanian Government seems steadfastly resisting at home. It has been accused of backsliding by the EU, and undoing improvements required of it when it joined the EU in 2007. This week the EU made eight demands to reverse new laws which would damage prosecutorial independence and decriminalise some forms of corruption. Like Poland and Hungary, Romania having been admitted to the EU in the belief that its population aspired to a Western European respect for democratic principles and the rule of law,  now seems to be reverting to the corrupt practices of its days as a communist regime.

Romania faces a credibility issue with its image in the EU suffering from “constant attempts to undermine justice reform and anti-corruption”. “Judging by the reactions of the ruling coalition leaders, there is little desire to reverse the back-tracking,” an Expert Forum spokesperson reported.

  • Romania’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor was removed from office in July, after achieving dozens of convictions against officials, including ministers, former ministers and MPs. A process to appoint a replacement has stalled.
  • The Justice Minister is in the process of dismissing the general prosecutor who is investigating violence during anti-government demonstrations when more than 450 people were injured.
  • Supporters of the Social Democrat leader (barred from serving as prime minister because of an electoral fraud) are disrupting corruption probes against him.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “I regret that Romania has not only stalled its reform process, but also re-opened and backtracked on issues where progress was made over the past 10 years. It is essential that Romania gets back on track immediately in the fight against corruption and also ensures an independent judiciary. …. in the interest of its citizens, its country, and the EU as a whole.”

Romania sits along with middle ranked nations in a range of governance indices. Transparency International rates its government services as 59th of the 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index ( NZ is 1st ).  The Sustainable Governance Indicators for Romania are at 5.10 ( from 10 ) for Governance ( NZ is 7.5 ) and 4.64 for Democracy ( NZ is 8.43 ). The World Justice Program rates it 51st  of  102 surveyed countries for Open Government ( NZ is 2nd ).

https://www.ft.com/content/b033e9aa-e74c-11e8-8a85-04b8afea6ea3

https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/wjp-rule-law-index/wjp-open-government-index/global-scores-rankings

Advertisements

Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Address; More God Talk

13 November 2018

Gus O’Donnell (GO’D), Baron O’Donnell former Head of the UK Civil Service gave the Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Address at the School of Government last night. His topic “Global problems, national solutions; building better states and better global architecture” was a frolic around perspectives gained from an impressive career at the centre of the British government.

He made recurring references to the contributions to effective government of good people as he spanned climate change, technology, population ageing, globalisation, comparative systems, organisational structures, the contribution of women, and the ineffectiveness of international organisations.

Lord O’Donnell started optimistically, at a personal level, suggesting things should get better through the endeavours of people that he has “brought on” – with the implication that good leaders grow better leaders.  But he concluded on a macro level with a disheartening assessment that without leadership from the large economies, and inhibited by international organisations structured for the 1950’s, global solutions to global problems are not currently feasible.

We need better government – a 21st-century civil service, but he did not indicate a preferred model.  National leaders must be willing to perform on a global stage.  The best we can expect is regional cooperation.

Among the numerous quips,

  • when speaking of globalisation and the need to compensate those who were disadvantaged, “we need better ways to retrain losers into winners”;
  • “intelligence, like underwear, is important to have but it is not necessary to show it off”;
  • of Civil Service research into the historic practice of terminating employment of women on marriage –“married women are no worse than the unmarried”;
  • on Special Advisers – “the good ones are invaluable, but on the other hand the bad are a problem – they revert to what they know, which is speaking to journalists”;
  • Government is best with a strong centre “Scotland has done it best”;
  • The system of government currently in Northern Ireland  is “Westminster without Ministers – but is it paradise or paralysis?”;
  • “Is it wise to house the politicians together? Keeping Ministers in their departments is best”;
  • on the IMF and the World Bank; “they are not fit for purpose”.

 

https://integritytalkingpoints.com/?s=O%27Donnell

www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/gus-odonnell-no-wonder-they-call-him-god-2246298.html

New Zealand compares well within OECD on Sustainable Governance Indicators

12 November 2018

The 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I has stimulated a profusion of TV programmes utilising contemporary film, dramatically enhanced and converted to colour. Much of it has a focus on military scenes but re-worked film of related geopolitical influences also features.

Political aspirations in 1913 -14 seem to have made a collision between the imperial alliances unavoidable. Empires however depend on their bureaucracies. Bureaucrats at that time were presumably as dedicated in serving their government and improving the well-being of their communities as they are now. What then should officials have done to redirect national endeavours away from war, which few now would regard as having been in the best interests of any of the participating countries.  The war to end all wars has not avoided recurring conflicts, despite – or perhaps because of, the codes and values of public services in the protagonist states.

Is there something in the integrity obligation of public servants working collectively, which should ensure that national leaders are not making decisions where armed conflict is an option?  Should the duty of public servants include protecting their communities from even a “just war”?

An unsurprising commonality of the Bertelsmann Stiftung 2018 Sustainable Governance Indicators (published in October) is that the top ranking countries are also the countries noted for above average rankings in the Global Peace Index (New Zealand was ranked 2nd most peaceful in the 2018 index) and in other characteristics valued in democratic societies. The SGI evaluates  EU and OECD countries on 32 metrics, grouped about the Quality of Democracy, Governance, and Policy Effectiveness – which also aggregate into an overall  SGI score.

The report indicates that the Nordic states, Switzerland and Germany are the most successful countries with regard to sustainable policy outcomes. The northern Europeans also score highest on the Governance Indicators. New Zealand gets a special mention about its system of government described as having a “high strategic capacity and long-term orientation”.

The main concern arising this year from the data is the declining standards of democracy in more than half of the States surveyed,  the polarising of communities, and in particular, growing constraints on the freedom of the press.

The New Zealand section of the report is a 52 page overview, updating the previous year’s data.SGI.    Social Policy rates well but New Zealand is in midfield regarding Economic and Environmental Policy effectiveness. The table below compares the rankings of New Zealand and Australia for the three main functions

Australia New Zealand
Quality of Democracy 14th       7th
Governance 10th       5th
Policy Effectiveness 13th     26th

 

http://www.sgi-network.org/docs/2018/basics/SGI2018_Overview.pdf

http://www.sgi-network.org/docs/2018/country/SGI2018_New_Zealand.pdf

https://integritytalkingpoints.com/2012/03/15/beware-the-ides-of-march/

http://www.sgi-network.org/2018/New_Zealand

p 177  http://www.sgi-network.org/docs/2018/basics/SGI2018_Overview.pdf

https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Global-Peace-Index-2018-Snapshot.pdf

Openness is essential to an atmosphere of trust

9 November 2018

Seven weeks ago the Minister of State Services announced that the Government would be proactively releasing Briefing Papers for Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.  We are now seven weeks away from implementation. Cabinet Papers lodged from 1 January 2019 must be published by the related agency on its website within 30 business days of Cabinet making a final decision on the paper’s recommendations.

The Government states that it is committed to improving practices around the proactive release of information. This will promote good government and transparency and foster public trust and confidence in agencies. The motivation is that democracies thrive when citizens trust and participate in their government.

Proactive release includes publishing a wide variety of official information, without any request from the public and publishing the same or edited information that has previously been released to an individual requester under the Official Information Act.

There is a caveat of course. The responsible Minister will be required to assess whether there are good reasons to withhold any of the information. Only Appointments and Honours papers will be automatically excluded from publication.

Cabinet Circular CO (18) 4 sets out relevant procedures. Papers going to Cabinet will have a Proactive Release section, which states whether or not the Minister proposes to release the material within 30 days of decisions being made by Cabinet. If a Cabinet paper is not intended to be proactively released, then the reason why must be explained.

Despite a series of very public hiccoughs during their first year in power, current Ministers appear to be philosophically attuned to strengthening the characteristics of good government.  The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCISE) pilot Index this year, which measured eight core functions and four core attributes of 31 developed jurisdictions to determine their effectiveness, treats Openness as an essential attribute. The United Kingdom was rated best for Openness, followed by New Zealand and then Norway, Denmark and Finland. A proactive release of Cabinet Papers must improve that standing.

The Index validates promoting Openness as a pathway to gaining the trust of citizens. The data sources used to determine Openness are:

  • the World Justice Project Open Government Index – OGI
  • the UN E-participation Index – EPI
  • Bertelsmann Sustainable Governance Indicators – SGI
  • The Worldwide Web Foundation
  • Open Data Barometer – ODB
  • The Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Open Data Index – GODI
  • The OECD OURdata Index

Whereas the UK scores more highly for government data availability, accessibility, and government data impact, New Zealand is top for publishing laws and the right to information.

The influence of Openness on integrity-rich government is illustrated impressively by the five top-rated countries for Openness also featuring among the top 10 economies in the TI Corruption Perception Index.

www.beehive.govt.nz/releases

https://dpmc.govt.nz/publications/co-18-4-proactive-release-cabinet-material-updated-requirements

https://pointofordernz.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/the-de-claring-of-more-openness-govt-to-release-cabinet-papers-but-with-some-exceptions/

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/international-civil-service-effectiveness-incise-index-2017

Quality – not an act but a habit

8 November 2018

Today has been World Quality Day – not one of the United Nations sanctioned days of note, but a promotion of Quality as an organisational value. The focus this year is on Trust – and hence its blog worthiness. The marketing message has it as an opportunity to recognise the role that everyone in an organisation plays in building and maintaining trust with stakeholders.

Perhaps, inimitably, Japan initiated a Quality Month in November 1960. China got the vibe and in 1978 decided that September should be World Quality Month. By 1988 the United States and Canada decided that October was a better month for Quality. In 1990 the United Nations standardised arrangements linking Quality to national prosperity. World Quality Day become the second Thursday in November and has growing traction internationally. It found expression this year in some New Zealand public sector agencies.

This year’s Quality message comes wrapped in trustworthiness: that reputations are built on trust. Trust is a hard-earned commodity, yet one which can be squandered in a moment. There is no shortage of media reporting on quality failure and the impact on the customers and stakeholders of organisations: Grenfell, Facebook, Kobe Steel and BMW to name a few. And there are recent New Zealand examples – corporate and others that are closer to the experiences of State servants. They raise issues about organisational competence and about organisational integrity.

They illustrate why organisations need competent systems to ensure that their activities consistently deliver on promises made to customers and stakeholders; that they have an assurance framework to help understand operational risk, and an improvement framework to mitigate it and improve. Factors which captured the attention of the reviewers from the Reserve Bank and Financial Markets Authority looking into the New Zealand banking sector.

Trust and reputation are built on systems of governance, assurance and improvement, but need a culture of quality.

And culture means people and their drive to serve.

It prioritises people and engaging with them, not the pursuit awards and launching of media statements. It involves engineering diverse teams at all levels of organisations and fueling enthusiasm to generate small projects tacking real problems. It recognises the time it takes to make a difference, the need to be staunchly innovative, to trial change, measure it and try to do better. And it means making the most of existing technology before looking for answers in tomorrow’s toys.

https://www.quality.org/world-quality-day-2018

Inaugural Public Service Day 106 years after legislating for public servants

7 November 2018

The Public Service Act passed on 7 November 1912 established the New Zealand Public Service. The Public Service comprises Government Departments listed in Sch 1 to the State Sector Act, which distinguishes them from the agencies which evolved from the Railways Department and the Post and Telegraph Department.

The anniversary of the enactment is to be commemorated each year with a Public Service Day. The occasion will be marked with presentations of The New Zealand Public Service Medal.  A Royal Warrant of July 2018, authorises “our Minister of State Services” to confer the medal for meritorious service by employees in the New Zealand Public Service (the power may be delegated to the State Service Commissioner.)

That wording is interesting.  It cannot be intended that the medal is awarded to Public Service chief executives. Those office holders are not employees. Similarly it cannot be intended to encompass employees in the wider State Services – covering inter alia, Parliamentary Departments, Non Public Services Departments, Reserve Bank, Tertiary Education Institutions, Crown Entities (including DHBs) and their subsidiaries and State-Owned Enterprises, although the predecessor agencies of many were part of the Public Service recognised by the 1912 Act.

The Public Service Act saw the end of the Civil Service which had supported  representative government from the meeting of the first New Zealand Parliament in 1854 (and which took over Colonial Office appointees who had been serving the Governor since separation from the New South Wales administration in 1841.)

This metamorphosis from Civil Service to Public Service which took effect from 1 April 1913 means that although New Zealand has one of the world’s oldest continuous Parliaments, the Public Service is less long standing.  (Canada established its Public Service in 1867, and Australia the year after New Zealand in 1913).

Canada has a Public Service Week ( set up by a two section Act ) and an Exemplary Service Medal created in 2004. Australia has a Public Service Medal but no commemorative Public Service Day.

The State Services Commissioner conferred six medals (two being posthumous) at a weekend event.

Interestingly both Dominica and Tonga also had an inaugural Public Service Day during 2018.  Both marked the day in June coinciding with the United Nations Public Services Day.

www.ssc.govt.nz/public-service-day-honours

https://integritytalkingpoints.com/?s=Public+Service+Act

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1811/S00055/psa-congratulates-public-service-day-award-recipients.htm

www.un.org/en/events/publicserviceday/

www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/innovation/awards-recognition-special-events/national-public-service-week.html

https://www.dominicavibes.dm/news-244862/

http://www.tonga-broadcasting.net/?p=12162

Can you bank on that?

5 November 2018

The New Zealand banking sector appears able to sigh with relief  – or at least draw a deep breath and wait for media attention to move on. The players have been told that a core area of their professional expertise – the governance of management risk – requires serious attention, and that they must markedly improve how they identify and manage unethical behaviour.  None of which is a surprise as polls rating the trustworthiness of bankers score them poorly, among taxi drivers, clergy and lawyers. But the Reserve Bank / Financial Markets Authority report published today, after more than 4000 hours of inquiry, struggles to rationalise the Government’s angst at the profits Australian banks have earned in New Zealand.

It has not uncovered the malfeasance and scale of self-interest being conceded ahead of the Australian Royal Commission into Banking etc Services reporting its findings.  The major players are the same in both markets but something in New Zealand seems to moderate exploitative practices hitherto viewed as acceptable by the leaders in these banks – in a sector once considered the epitome of trustworthiness. The most pejorative observation about the findings seems to be that it is “disgraceful” that only half of the banks had adopted FMA conduct and risk framework guidelines issued 21 months ago.

Business depends on bankers. It seems axiomatic that efficient and effective business depends on good bankers. And presumably, the ease of doing business is shaped by supportive banking services.

Last week the World Bank released its annual Ease of Doing Business survey results. Of the 120 economies assessed, New Zealand, overall, is the place where it is easiest to do business, ahead of Singapore and Denmark. New Zealand has always rated in the top decile in this survey. What is notable about the characteristics evaluated is that business acumen does not dominate. Many determinants are governance skills – the functionality of State servants who develop, implement and improve a regulatory climate sympathetic to business. But there is also an interface with banking capacity, with Getting Credit, Trading Across Borders, Resolving Insolvency. New Zealand is the easiest place for a business to get credit! And a number of the relevant factors are incorporated in the measures gathered by the World Justice Project to compile the Rule of Law Index – in which New Zealand again this year was placed 7th of the 113 surveyed jurisdictions.

The longer this post gets, the more it echoes past entries. There are no fireworks, despite the date.

www.reuters.com/article/us-newzealand-economy-rbnz/nz-regulators-with-eye-on-australian-inquiry-urge-tighter-bank-controls-idUSKCN1NA0DN

www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings

www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings

https://integritytalkingpoints.com/?s=What+can+the+public+sector+learn+from+bankers

https://integritytalkingpoints.com/?s=seeing+what+we+want+to+see

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/joris-luyendijk-banking-blog/2013/oct/01/10-best-quotes-financial-insiders-banking-blog