21 January 2011

The State Services standards of integrity and conduct include the obligation “to work to the best of our abilities”.  Specifying “smart” measures to assess compliance would be a challenge.  In “Understanding the code –guidance for State Servants”, the State Services Commission explanation includes the following:

“Working to the best of our abilities reflects our spirit of service to the community.

We need to demonstrate a strong sense of personal responsibility and commitment to the public good. We must be apolitical, responsive, objective and accountable in our work, but also try to improve the quality and quantity of the contribution we make; working with focus, urgency and impact….”

New Zealand no longer has a statutory retirement age. State servants should they wish can work as long as they choose.  It is interesting to speculate what working to the best of our abilities means when capacity diminishes.

The Propublica website has an interesting commentary on the contribution which US Federal court judges make to the law.  These judges are not required to retire.  When life tenure was prescribed in the 18th century American males lived to about 40.  Now 12% of the Federal judges are over 80 (and one sitting judge is 100!)  Their retirement pay is the same as their salary. Most prefer to keep working. The article explores the implications of age.  Historically the purpose of the public service pension schemes was to enable appointees to retire and make space for younger blood.

Perhaps officials without adequate pension arrangements will choose to emulate federal Court judges?