17 May 2013

The State Services Commission statement of intent published yesterday in conjunction with the Budget lists its operating intentions.  These will focus on four activities;

  • Leading the System
  • Delivering Performance Excellence
  •  Building System Capability,  and
  • Strengthening Trust and Integrity

The Commission notes that “maintaining high standards is integral to ensuring the State Services are trusted by government and the public…Institutional integrity, a corruption-free bureaucracy and high-quality government institutions create a stable platform for business investment and economic growth… the Integrity … programme is a critical underpinning for all of our work across the State sector…”

SSC indicates that it will measure the effectiveness of its promotion of integrity across the State Services through results collated from the Kiwis Count survey, and in what is a proposal without any commitment, a further State Services Integrity Survey. Such a survey would add to data sets provided by the 2007 and the 2010 surveys. It is interesting to speculate on how likely it is that this survey will be take place.  The wording in the SOI is that “SSC is looking at undertaking a survey…”

There seems to be a worryingly lack of determination in the SSC mission to make a difference in the quality of integrity across the sector.  The target for the Kiwis Count measure of public trust is “at least 70%” of respondents agree that “…you can trust public servants to do what is right.”  But the standard last year was 74%. This suggests that a report at the year’s end could show that the standard of 70% had been exceeded, but having lowered the bar, it need not indicate that integrity standards may well be falling.

Is there an irony here about trusting public servants to do the right thing?