27 September 2012


The practice in the New Zealand State Services has always been that managers are responsible for integrity leadership.


Managers at all levels of an agency are expected to give effect to the “6 Trust Elements” – to ensure there are standards, that their staff are trained on those standards, that work practices embody those standards, that as managers they model those standards, that they take decisive action when there are breaches of standards, and that their staff are familiar with the consequences of breaching standards.


The State Sector Act establishes the overarching framework – the State Services Commissioner has set standards of integrity that apply to agencies and their employees – and in Public Service departments, chief executives have additional statutory duties to imbue the spirit of service, and to ensure that all employees maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.


The Bill amending the State Sector Act, introduced into Parliament in late August to give effect to the Better Public Services programme, will not affect these responsibilities. The powerful sentiment of imbuing the spirit of service remains although it may be at odds with the plain English mantra of law drafters. ( It moves from being part of the Long Title, to becoming a specified purpose of the Act.)


Nothing will change the focus that all officers with supervisory roles must give to invigorating the “6 Trust Elements”, and the duty of all who work for government to serve with integrity and to subordinate personal interest to the public interest where there is potential for conflict.


SSC guidance about integrity obligations, accessible on its website, is unchanging in its relevance. However, managers, keen to convey a sense of the contemporary in their training, may prefer to reference newly minted material.


An excellent training resource recently published in the United States could meet that need. Although targeting US local governments, much of the content written by Robert Wechsler, the Director of Research at City Ethics – a “good governance” NGO – has universal application.  Local Government Ethics Programs: A Resource for Ethics Commission Members, Ethics Reformers, Local Officials, Attorneys, Journalists, and Students is published with Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License, to encourage its use, and attributed reproduction for training purposes. See the bottom link. ( And incidentally, I note that a comment from an Integrity Talking Points entry has been included.)