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Public Sector Leadership Best Practice Survey

Trevor Mallard
14 June 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:5.30pm

Launch of the Price Waterhouse Cooper Public Sector Leadership Best Practice Survey Report

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening.

When I became Minister of State Services, the expectations on the new Government's within this portfolio were huge. That was no surprise. I was one of a range of then Opposition MPs who talked a lot about a change of direction needed in the state sector. It seemed that the public service had lost its way, had lost a lot of its capability, had lost a lot of the values that we expect from those who serve us.

Six months down the track it's time to talk about what we've achieved and where we go from here.

More so than any of my other portfolio areas, the state sector portfolio is not characterised by direct policy initiatives.

But we have made tangible progress towards one of our primary goals to improve the capability and operations within the public service.

In particular I'd like to talk here a bit about the Hunn Report into the Department of Work and Income.

It's been one of the more high profile aspects of my State Services role this year. But more relevant to this evening's event it contains some interesting parallels to the Price Waterhouse Coopers pilot survey.

They both emphasise the importance of human resource capability throughout the public service. They both have a focus on leadership. They both recognise the need to encourage that leadership throughout the organisation.

While the Hunn report did focus on the Department of Work and Income, it also contained a 'wake up' message for the wider public service.

As such, the Government will issue two formal responses to the report. One will be from my colleage Steve Maharey which will focus on the department itself. That will be followed by a separate response from me as State Services Minister looking at how we can utilise the findings of the Hunn report to make some positive changes across all public service departments.

If there was one thing the report made clear it was that the department has a major credibility problem. The problems it identified were not tangible problems like financial mismanagement. They were intangible issues like a lack of experience; poor judgement; the perception of the department as adopting a culture of waste and extravagance. That credibility problem has spread more widely throughout the public service.

While misdeeds in one company does not manifest itself into widespread opposition against all who dabble in private enterprise. But the public ownership of the public sector results in an almost unfair perception that to a certain degree taints all agencies when there is unethical or extravagant behaviour within the public service.

We are looking at ways in which we can give the public service a better indication of what our expectations are. Our expectations as Government and as Ministers, and the expectations we believe the general public has and that deserves to be met.

We will look at ways which we can invest in the people in the public service while offering modern day career structures. We will look at ways to focus more on the needs of citizens rather than adopting a blind obsession with systems. We will look at how to promote a system of collaboration and co-operation rather than encouraging agencies to compete against one another.

I'm pleased to be here this evening because I think that the survey we are launching backs up some of the Government concerns.

But there is also a Beacon of Hope within this survey. There is an indication that there is still genuine intent and goodwill among senior players in the state sector to provide a culture of service. That makes my job more worthwhile.

I'd like to finish with a general comment about the public service.

In the wider Government policy platform there is the use of the term The Third Way – an alternative between an interventionist welfare state and a 'market' rules survival of the fittest regime. The Third Way guides innovation and economic development while still looking after the basic needs of all citizens and providing opportunity, regardless of their personal background or circumstances.

In a sense there is a need for a third way within the public service.

None of us want a return to what we perceive as the 'Gliding On' days of the public service. But nor do we want a public sector where individual agencies compete to attract each other's 'clients' or congratulate themselves for cost cutting only to force another agency to pick up the work that they have dropped.

There is a third way. A public service which operates efficiently and effectively while maintaining its core objective to serve. To serve the Government of the day by providing quality advice and support as it seeks to implement its policy. To serve the people of New Zealand who deserve respect and value for money from their public service.

ENDS

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