Submissions open on legislation to reform public service

Sat 07 Dec 2019

The Government is inviting submissions on the legislation proposing changes to the public service.

Parliament house

The Government is inviting submissions on the legislation proposing changes to the public service.

The deadline to make a submission is 31 January 2020.

The Public Service Legislation Bill would repeal the State Sector Act 1988 and replace it with a new Public Service Act. It would also make related amendments to the Public Finance Act 1989. The stated purpose of the legislation is to modernise the legislative framework for the Public Service by expanding the types of agencies that make up the Public Service and bring them together with a common purpose, ethos and strengthened leadership arrangements.

The Parliamentary webpage provides an overview of the legislation aims:

  • "clearly establish the purpose, principles, and values of an apolitical public service, as well as its role in government formation
  • ​recognise the role of the public service to support the Crown in its commitment to its relationships with Māori
  • provide a more flexible set of options for organisational arrangements to support the public service in better responding to priorities and joining up more effectively
  • ​increase interoperability across the public service workforce and preserve the future public service as an attractive and inclusive place to work
  • strengthen leadership across the public service, and provides for system- and future-focused leadership."

The changes would allow the creation of boards or joint ventures, similar to the Joint Venture Business Unit already launched to address family violence and sexual violence. These joint ventures would be made up of chief executives from relevant government agencies who would work together on key issues. They would be accountable to a single Minister and receive direct budget appropriations.

Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins introduced the bill saying “The current Act has reached the limit of what it can achieve.” He went on to say:

“The State Sector Act 1988 was designed for its time, and since then there have been major social, economic and technological changes, many of them on a global scale.  

It is no longer possible for a single agency to fix the really big and complex problems New Zealand faces today.

While the current Act has provided some benefits to efficiency and effectiveness at the agency level, it can no longer support the way modern public services need to be delivered.”

More information about the Government work to reform the State Sector is available on the State Services Commission website.

Update: In July 2020 Parliament passed the new Public Service Act, which repeals and replaces the State Sector Act 1988. Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has commented on the new Act saying:

“The Public Service Act is a vital piece of law that will shape the public service for many years to come. The fact that it doesn’t make explicit the human rights responsibilities of public officials is shocking."

Related media

Opinion: Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Human rights for the public service – but what about the rest of us?, Stuff, 26.02.2020

Chief Human Rights Commissioner criticises double standard in the public sector reform bill, NZ Human Rights Commission, 24.02.2020

Public service gender pay gap continues to close and more women in leadership, Beehive Press Release, 28.11.2019

A largely unnoticed power grab, Newsroom, 20.11.2019

Image: Wikimedia

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