25 November 2012
Two reports were published in Britain last week relating to the focus on accountability in government. Of particular interest in New Zealand is Reforming Civil Service Accountability – Lessons from New Zealand and Australia, reporting on the findings of the Institute for Government researchers who visited New Zealand (and Australia) recently. The second is the Report of the House of Lords Constitution Select Committee inquiry into the accountability of civil servants.
(Research commissioned by the British Government from the Institute of Public Policy Research into similar matters, has not yet been published. The Institute for Government had already begun its research into accountability matters when the Government went to the market to obtain similar research. )
The report is a sound compilation of the Australian and New Zealand models. It will interesting to see whether the IPPR researchers come to different conclusions despite consulting very siminlar sources.
A possible effect will be to disabuse those who have spoken of adopting antipodean practices to enhance civil service effectiveness. The concluding paragraph of the report is instructive:
“The purpose of international comparative research such as this paper is therefore not to identify a perfect model that can be imported to the UK, since all governments are engaged in an ongoing process of reform, often looking to learn from countries that have followed alternative paths. Indeed, during our research we repeatedly found examples of where Australia and New Zealand were looking to the UK for lessons (drawing on the now-defunct Capability Reviews and the Top 200 network among other things). This serves as a reminder that each Westminster system has strengths and weaknesses. None offer a perfect model that can be exported in its entirety, but all offer lessons that can inform the reform process elsewhere. It is our hope that this paper will help to facilitate this learning process.”