Kia ora koutou
We open this e-update by drawing your attention to the Public Service Act. This new Act can change the way the public service works if we all set our aspirations high and our leaders create the conditions to enable success.
One of the principles in the Act is political neutrality. Possessing and applying ‘political nous’ can assist public sector professionals to act responsibly in the zone between politics and administration. As public sector professionals, we can demonstrate political neutrality while also understanding the political context and the politicians’ reality. We can also respond to the short-term needs of Ministers while being always mindful of the long term, part of our stewardship responsibilities. The principles in the Act are essential and require some deep expertise to deliver wisely.
Do read the excellent article in our “what we have been reading section” on the subject of political astuteness and public value. And let us all continue to explore this.
Shenagh Gleisner, Executive Director
Closing the Loop - how well did the final Public Service Act reflect the IPANZ submission?
The overall conclusion of IPANZ is that some potentially significant changes were made to the Public Service Act legislation prior to its finalisation. There are some disappointments and some opportunities lost, and there are also exciting changes to build on.
You can read our brief analysis here.
Breathing Life into the Public Service Act
All public servants can now breathe life into the Public Service Act. Its success depends on the actions of everyone. The key enablers are “public service culture and behaviour; an updated framework for employment; effective leadership; and a greater range of options for configuring fit-for-purpose public service organisations”.
There are a set of helpful factsheets produced by Te Kawa Mataaho to note the passing of the Act, and we encourage you to read them. We link to one of them, about Maori Crown relationships, here — one to which IPANZ is intent on contributing as much as we can.
Open Government - Another Principal in the Act
IPANZ published an article in our Public Sector Journal in April about how well the new principles of the Public Service Act are understood and evident in the public sector. Open Government was not well understood, so we were interested to read the brief comment on this by Laurence Miller in the Transparency International newsletter, which you can read on our website here. We look forward to hearing more about progress.
NZ Researchers Giving Insights into the Effects of COVID-19
The Auckland University Public Policy Institute has undertaken research into the influence of COVID-19 on trust, attitudes towards Government, and wellbeing.
You can read their succinct policy briefing on this subject here — the brief gives some insight into the increasing trust in government and science, and also notes the importance of early intervention to avoid anxiety and depression.
Instability and "Taking Control"
One of the good things about this e-update is that members often write to us with comments and ideas. Through one reader we heard about a blog written by Mark Foden, who is eloquent on systems thinking. We thought this very brief article by him, about the idea of taking control, was interesting for the times we are in.
Inquiries Help us Learn Important Lessons
You may have recently seen reference to the Inquiry into Operation Burnham, which investigated allegations raised by journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager in the 2017 book Hit & Run.
You may wish to look at the full inquiry report on the Inquiry’s website, and read a blog written by Nicky Hagar. We are not attaching these references as they are long and specific to this case, they are public and easy to find. Instead we draw a quote from each which affirm the importance of investigative journalism and inquiries for public sector professionals.
Nicky Hagar says: “The report says the book has performed a valuable public service” and he also draws attention to “the importance of whistleblowers”.
The report makes four recommendations and the first one includes the following: “We recommend that the Minister of Defence take steps to satisfy him or herself that NZDF’s (a) organisational structure and (b) record-keeping and retrieval processes are in accordance with international best practice and are sufficient to remove or reduce the possibility of organisational and administrative failings of the type identified in this report”.
Checks upon, and scrutiny of, the actions of all agencies in the public sector are vital as they hold us to account and ensure integrity. Inquiries can be very arduous and challenging but we can always learn lessons from them for our own conduct, and our own agencies.
DIA has a useful resource on their website on types of Inquiries, which you can read here.
Are You Taking Full Advantage of the IPANZ Website?
The IPANZ website has a great collection of information on it. We hope you dig into it from time to time to read things you have missed.
To assist you, we have attached a brief “tour” of a few sections of the website. This should enable you to get to interesting stuff quicker. We will add further details on other parts of the website in due course.
We are always trying to do better, so would welcome further ideas for improvement from a user’s perspective – that is you - all our members.
Start your tour here
Be Sure You Get All the IPANZ Membership Benefits
If you are a staff member in one of our member agencies, you should be getting all the members’ benefits including receiving the Public Sector Journal, these e-updates, and reduced rates for our courses.
- Have a look at the member benefits our website under ‘Become a Member’ and if your organisation is on this list you are entitled to the benefits.
- Some organisations, when they become members, give us the names of all staff for our database – a great idea.
- Please pass this e-update on to your colleagues, and encourage them to get their names on our database if they are not on the database already.
Meet the Team
Helena Kaho exemplifies the diversity of public sector professionals in New Zealand.
Our newest board member, Helena trained as a hairdresser then beauty therapist before heading to university at age 26 to study law. Since graduating she has practiced law in the Cook Islands, been a university lecturer and dean, and worked in mediation for MBIE. Her big passion is giving voice and representation to Pasifika communities.
Helena is the latest IPANZ board member profiled in our Meet the Team series. You can read her profile here.
WHAT WE HAVE BEEN READING
Exploring the Concept of "Political Astuteness"
The Public Service Act contains the key principles of political neutrality and free and frank advice, amongst others. It is a good time for public servants, at all levels, to build their understanding of the notion of political nous or political astuteness to help navigate the interface between politics and public service.
IPANZ was prompted to seek the wisdom of writers on this subject, exploring political nous as a competency for public sector leaders. John Alford is a respected leading thinker and writer in subjects such as this. His co-authored article, ‘Public Value and Political Astuteness in the Work of Public Managers: The Art of the Possible’ is a long piece and written some years ago, but we could not find anything that so thoroughly and responsibly explores these ideas. Look at page 6 for a table outlining the skills the authors believe are needed for political astuteness.
As always, we are keen to receive any comments, other good articles, and your views as to whether it is something that IPANZ should focus additional enquiry on.
Stay In-Touch With Us
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