15 December 2011

A Cabinet Circular published yesterday confirmed that the new administration will operate on the basis of the Cabinet Manual (2008) and the Agreements between the National Party and the Act, Maori and United Future parties.

Confirmation that the Cabinet Manual remains the rule book for the way government operates provides an opportunity for all who work in Government agencies to review the Chapter 3 provisions about the relationship between Ministers and officials. But more importantly, we should refresh our understanding of the behavioural obligations specified in paragraphs 3.50 – 3.75. These are the provisions specifying Integrity and Conduct across the state sector.

The Cabinet Manual is the source document for the notion of the “principles of public service”, providing meaning to those principles. Under the title of “Principles of public service” is the direction that –

“Employees in the state sector must act with a spirit of service to the community and meet high standards of integrity and conduct in everything they do. In particular, employees must be fair, impartial, responsible, and trustworthy.”

This is a “loaded” direction. It makes clear that the “spirit of service”, which has its foundation in the long title to the State Sector Act, applies to the state sector. The application is beyond the Public Service departments whose chief executives have a responsibility “to imbue staff with the spirit of service to the community”.

It makes clear that

* all agencies across the state sector are required to meet high standards of integrity and conduct

* fairness, impartiality, responsibility and trustworthiness are principles of particular importance

* the mandatory application of these principles is to employees

* that the principles apply, beyond on the job activities, to everything they do.

Agencies comprising the state sector are listed on the State Services Commission website link below.