28 September 2012
 
Whether an unfortunate coincidence, or as some perceive, the result of trying too hard to impress United States interests, several agencies have apparently acted improperly in their investigation of Kim Dotcom. Some commentators have linked the Megaupload affair with declining trust in institutions, implying that the trustworthiness of State Servants is in question. Speculation of that kind is not supported by research.
 
The last UMR Mood of the Nation report on confidence in institutions found that in 2011 “… for the first time the Police took over from GPs as the institution New Zealanders have greatest confidence in. 72% now feel confident in the Police, up 5% on 2010 and up 19% since 2005. Confidence in GPs … has fallen by 6% since 2007 … Primary schools take out third place (up 5% to 64%), followed by the military (up 7% to 61%) …”
 
By comparison, “… confidence in small business has dwindled markedly over the last few years. 48% now feel confident in small business, down 16% since 2006. Over that time, small business has fallen from 3rd to 7th place…”
 
Confidence in the Public Service increased by 5% over the previous survey, and remained 7% higher than confidence in big business.
 
A survey of trust and confidence in the Police released earlier this month showed further strengthening of confidence “… At 77 percent, New Zealand Police’s overall trust and confidence rating would also be the envy of many overseas police forces … Police scored 82 out of 100 for satisfaction with police service delivery ..”.
 
The Kiwis Count Survey published in August confirmed this growing public satisfaction with government services. “…The overall service quality score for public services between February and June 2012 was 72, an increase over the 2009 score of 69 …”
 
Another perspective is the findings of the Performance Improvement Framework reviews being conducted across the State Services. Yesterday the review results for the Police and the Department of Corrections were published. Both show more areas of strength than many other agencies, although the Ministry of Social Development and the Inland Revenue Department remain the best rated by reviewers.
 
This growth in confidence has taken place despite “fiscal constraints” and an ambivalence about enforcement agencies.
 
Yesterday the Guardian recognised the achievements of the former head of the British tax office. Parts of the article probably have equal relevance to agencies exposed by the Kim Dotcom spotlight.
 
“….Tax officials need to spend time with recalcitrant tax payers and other sinners – and have done so since biblical times. That puts them in the firing line, in a much more direct way than other civil servants. For that they deserve credit, even if it means building around them checks, balances and scrutiny….Tax officials need to fend off the silky attack of highly-paid QCs retained by recalcitrant tax payers. That means they need to be super able and highly adaptable …”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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