23 October 2014

Progress towards a trusted State Services is summarised in pages 26-30 of the State Services Commission Annual Report tabled this week. The Commissioner identifies the tools which will help measure progress in the implementation of an Integrity Strategy for 2015 – 2020.  These include the favourable trend since 2007 in New Zealanders’ Experience and Perception of Trust in Public Services validated by the Kiwis Count survey results, the Transparency International National Integrity System Assessment (December 2013) and the Integrity and Conduct Survey of the State Services (December 2014).

The report acknowledges the need for a stronger focus to consistently entrench integrity aspirations.  A State Sector Leadership Strategy involving a group of agencies having “…. specific interests in promoting integrity” will use their specialist knowledge to develop new and innovative ways to reinforce standards.  Bullying is an undiminishing problem highlighted by the Integrity and Conduct survey results, and a “clear need” is seen for agencies to prevent bullying at work.

A strange disconnect continues throughout district health boards, where promotion and awareness of agency codes is  lower than elsewhere in the State services, yet DHB staff have the highest rates of personal accomplishment in their work. The report mentions the contribution of the Performance Improvement Framework and the Better Public Services Goals to the work of agency human resources units and the SSC Integrity Helpdesk in fostering better appreciation of integrity obligations.

The report points to the establishment of the Government Chief Privacy Officer and the related mandate for privacy leadership across the State services. Contrastingly, there is no reference to comparable statutory responsibilities, currently being championed by the Ombudsmen, to make official information available – although the inquiry into disclosure of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade restructure information is mentioned.

The Auditor General’s Annual Report also tabled this week, has a number of similar measures that evaluate progress towards her Office’s paramount outcome, of a trusted public sector. She concluded that in 2013 / 14 the Office of the Auditor General mostly maintained or improved its outcomes. The State Services Commissioner’s observations were more equivocal.