8 March 2011
Should officials in different parts of the State be subject to differing integrity obligations?
New Zealand had a Public Service code of conduct from 1990 until 2007. The code applied to staff in the Departments listed in Schedule 1 of the State Sector Act. There were between 34 and 37 departments at any one time, encompassing about 43,000 public servants. The code didn’t apply to “non Public Service departments like the Police, the Defence Force and the Parliamentary Service. It didn’t apply to the many agencies detached from departments under the New Public Management reforms of the 1980s.
The Crown Entities Act came into force in early 2005, clarifying governance arrangements of Crown entities, and identifying parts of government that, together with the Public Service make up the State Services. The State Services Commissioner was empowered to issue standards of integrity and conduct that could be applied to the Public Service and to other agencies in the State services. His code, which came into force in December 2007 applied to more than 120,000 State servants (with no decision made yet on whether to apply the code 40,000 school board employees) .
In 2008 an amendment to the Cabinet Manual extended this obligation. The Cabinet Manual directs that all State sector employees in the State must conform to the principles of public service – of being fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy. These are the 4 elements under which the State Services Commission has group the 18 standards of integrity and conduct for the State Services.
In addition to the standards, the State Sector Act requires Public Service chief executives to ensure their staff maintain standards of integrity and a spirit of service to the community. So the situation in New Zealand is that with the exception of local authority employees, most people working for government agencies are bound to the same integrity obligations.
Canada is now taking that road. A new public sector code is being enacted. This will replace the existing public service code and make many more officials subject to common set of behavioural standards . The statutory proposal is that agencies will develop an agency specific code in addition to the public sector code.