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Second Standards Board Report

16 August 2001 Media Statement

State Services Minister Trevor Mallard today released the second report of the State sector standards board, which outlines the board’s view of the current state of State sector organisations, the environment in which they are working, and potential improvements that could be made within the State sector.

“Overall, the board describes a high-pressure environment," Trevor Mallard said.

“In the public domain, the board describes a State sector that is subject to intense work pressure, and media and public scrutiny, and where the public perceives tension between politicians and senior officials.

“In the policy and political environment, senior officials face greater uncertainty and complexity as the world changes quickly, and the MMP electoral system requires greater skill from officials working alongside Ministers.

“In the workforce, the board says State sector organisations face a labour market in which workers can shift jobs quickly, taking critical knowledge and skills with them.

“The board says service delivery agencies are under particular pressure, and in some parts of the State sector, morale is low.

“At the same time, the board says the State sector has maintained its core values. While the board says there are variations across organisations, generally the State sector has:

- Able people who work hard to achieve results.
- A strong commitment to the spirit of public service.
- Steady improvements in productivity.
- High levels of integrity.
- Sound professional performance.
- High standards of political neutrality.

“In summary, the board says the pressure is on, but that, generally, State sector organisations are maintaining their core values.”

The board says that in order to maintain and improve the position, Ministers and State sector managers must focus on six areas.

Key points from those six areas are:

- Leadership – that is, a co-ordinated approach to growing the next generation of senior officials and improving the skills of the current generation.
- Performance management – the board makes the point that performance management is as much about recognising good performance as it is about responding to poor performance. Overall, the board suggests we need a system that provides a balance of legal requirements, remuneration, training, and promotion.
- Remuneration – the board says remuneration in some roles has lagged behind the private sector. The board says that those people on lower incomes are often the people who work most closely with the clients of departments.
- Governance – the board notes that while State sector organisations now have greater direct control over their resources and their internal organisational arrangements, they must continue to take a whole-of-Government approach to the tasks the Government sets them. The board says the number of State sector organisations requires review.
- Role of the State Services Commission – the board commends the work underway to upgrade the Public Service chief executive performance management system, and says that if the improvements are successful, they could be tried elsewhere in the State sector.
- Relations with politicians – the board says that political criticism leads to risk-averse behaviour by officials. It says that Ministers and officials must ensure that they can exchange views in an environment of trust.

Trevor Mallard said he would ask the State Services Commission (SSC) to report on the board’s recommendations.

“I am aware that work is already underway – at the SSC and elsewhere – that covers many of the points the board has made. However, the Government needs to be reassured that we have, in hand, a comprehensive response to the board.”

Trevor Mallard said that responses to the first report of the board – which was released early this year - were underway.

“Notably, as recommended by the board, the ‘statement of Government expectations of the State sector’ – and the accompanying ‘statement of commitment by the Government to the State sector’ – had been adopted and a review of the role of the centre is underway."

Ends

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