28 March 2013

Kiwis’ Count results for the December 2012 quarter were published yesterday. Customer satisfaction with government services which had shown an improvement with successive surveys has now hit a speed bump. The overall quality of service delivery in the 42 measured services slipped to 72 from a rating of 74 in the September quarter.  What seems to surprise the report writer is that there are no significant improvements in any service, but that three services declined significantly.

On the basis that previous surveys produced sound statistics, the consistent downturn in measures in the latest quarter indicates that there is a change in the perception of how agencies go about their work. Have New Zealanders become less satisfied over the last three months with the way things are done? The explanation may be that the latest results are a “seasonal variation” or that the previous measures were an anomaly – creating a blip in what is a less dramatic, but nevertheless upwards trend.

Interestingly, the Auditor General who this week published her Office’s draft statement of intent, proposes to continue using the Kiwis’ Count data to indicate whether OAG achieves its outcomes.  A measure is that the Kiwis’ Count survey shows improved ( or at least maintained ) rates of public trust with the public service and the public’s most recent experience of public services.  This latter element will obviously not be met.

The Auditor General will be hoping that the Worldwide Governance Indicators when next published in September 2013, and the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index due again in late 2013, repeat the ratings of previous years as these also are indicators specified in the OAG draft statement of intent.  Other measures relate to the State Services Integrity and Conduct Survey findings on the extent to which there is an increase in numbers of state servants reporting that their agency promotes standards of integrity, and the numbers indicating that they have reported any misconduct that they saw in the previous year.  But with no announcement yet about an integrity survey, it looks as if the OAG will be short on data to verify that New Zealand has a trusted public sector.

The Auditor General may have been unaware that the State Services Commission statement of intent published in 2012 did not indicate that there would be a survey in this year.  Perhaps the absence of any significant movement between the 2007 and the 2010 surveys suggested that there was little cost benefit in maintaining the survey series.  That seems to have been the motivation behind ending use of Gallup employment engagement surveys as a measure of staff commitment.  A comparison of survey results from participating parts of the State Services in 2008 /2009 was less than heartening.