State Sector Act Review: IPANZ submission

IPANZ supports the current review. The State Sector Act 1988 changed substantially how the Public/State Service operated. Now, 30 years on, citizens’ expectations, technology, and the nature of the problems and issues with which public servants have to deal have again changed significantly. As such, it is appropriate to take another look at the way in which the public service operates to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.

Change is likely to require new legislation. IPANZ supports the proposal that a new Act be introduced, rather than an attempt be made to amend the current Act.

IPANZ would like to emphasise strongly that not all the issues identified in the discussion paper are susceptible to a “fix” through legislation. An acceptance of an appropriate ethos, the functioning of relationships both within and external to individual entities, a flexibility of approach and a willingness to learn from experience are essential ingredients if the public service is to flourish. Institutional memory is also essential if resources are to be used to optimum effect and “reinventing the wheel” is to be avoided.

IPANZ notes the assertion in Chapter 2 of the Discussion Document that “work in recent years has greatly enhanced the ability of the Public Service to work in a joined-up way. However, our statutory provisions have lagged behind our practice and now need to catch up”.

The fact that innovative collaborative practices have been introduced within the current legislative framework suggests that practical and effective approaches do not necessarily require new legislative measures. With this in mind, and bearing in mind that any new legislation is likely to be in force for several decades, IPANZ strongly urges that new legislation be drafted with a view to using permissive, rather than mandatory, language wherever possible.

IPANZ wishes to stress that the public service has an integral place in New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.This is often not recognised. The public service is the repository of assumptions, knowledge, research and insights that under political direction inform the activities of government. Thus, without in any way questioning the authority and responsibility of Ministers to Parliament, their relationship with the public service has elements of a partnership. IPANZ believes that this constitutional role of the public service should be explicitly acknowledged in the new Act.

READ MORE in the full submission (attached).