No Surprises

Public service cannot promise any government ‘no surprises’

“No surprises” is fundamentally about the constitutional relationship between ministers and public servants. National’s coalition agreements with Act and New Zealand First agree that the cabinet manual’s “no surprises” policy “needs clarification to better respect the privacy of individuals”. The Institute of Public Administration NZ (IPANZ) suggests a more fundamental overhaul of the entire “no surprises” approach is necessary. Now, at the beginning of the new parliamentary term, is the time to do it.

  • 15 Dec 2023
  • 2023
  • Best Practice
  • No surprises

IPANZ Propositions for change on "No Surprises"

No surprises is not a convention - it's a practice that was added, to the New Zealand system in the late 1980s and is not found in other Westminster systems. No surprises refers to the practice that staff in public agencies should give the minister early warning about a significant or controversial matter, especially those that might arise in public (Cabinet Manual 3.22[a]). At times since its introduction, this practice has been contentious when information held by the public sector has been misused for political purposes, which damages the publics trust in government. The current regime creates unnecessary ambiguity. The rules and guidance need to be refined.

  • 27 Nov 2023

No Surprises: A re-examination

IPANZ Board member, John Larkindale summarises the issues around “no surprises”, informed by a recent IPANZ round table where a diverse range of views were expressed.

  • 27 Nov 2023