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Clark: IPANZ Excellence Awards

Embargoed until 9.50 pm
Tuesday 27 May 2008

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address to

Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards

Te Papa

9.50 pm


Thank you for the invitation to be here tonight to present the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in the Public Sector.

It should never be thought that excellence in the public sector is either a rare commodity or an oxymoron. While individual failings or incidents will be leapt on with glee by its critics, overall our public sector does a first class job for New Zealand.

That explains why satisfaction with New Zealand public services is high by world standards – it stands at 68 per cent in last year’s survey, equal with the score of Canada’s public service in a similar survey.

Canada is considered to be a world leader in providing citizen-centred public services, and has been carrying out satisfaction surveys since 1998. Our survey was conducted for the first time last year, and we can be proud of the result.

But our public sector measures up in other important ways as well. New Zealand consistently ranks as a world leader in honesty and transparency in government.

The Worldwide Corruption Index compiled by Gallup ranks 101 countries according to perceptions of corruption in business and government. New Zealand ranks second equal for lack of corruption, alongside Denmark, with only Finland ahead of us.

Transparency International last year assessed New Zealand as first equal in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. We shared the top spot with Iceland and Finland.

These results matter to us all. It is very important to be able to have trust and confidence in our public sector. While unfortunately there are occasions when the integrity of an individual or an agency is called into question, these must remain rare and exceptional events.

Our public sector funds and provides services which are essential for our nation - from health and education to social security and law and order, to major infrastructure, the care of our natural environment and our heritage, to representation of our interests off shore and to our security.

Many in the public sector exercise special powers over peoples’ lives – through the power to collect tax, to arrest, to issue fines, to shut down a worksite, or to remove children in the interests of their safety.

With that power comes responsibility. That makes trust in those who exercise such power essential.

This can be a heavy burden to carry and I’m sure our public servants are very conscious of that. New Zealanders have very high expectations of all of us involved in any form of public service.

Tonight we celebrate those making major efforts to achieve the highest possible standards. Take the New Zealand Police – who come in for a great deal of public scrutiny.

In the 2005 Public Life Values survey, 74 per cent of respondents had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Police.

Tonight’s awards recognise major efforts by the Police to lift public confidence in them even further through their Leadership and Management Development Framework initiated in 2004. This framework was recognised as the top human resources initiative in New Zealand by the Human Resource Institute earlier this year, and it is appropriate that it is recognised tonight.

This year the awards recognise for the first time journalists who have provided balanced and accurate coverage of public sector activity. I suspect that media coverage rather than occasional personal interaction drives perceptions of the public sector !

So it’s important that the good news gets out – whether it’s about innovation in Police human resources policy, or the work the Ministry of Social Development and other agencies are doing to combat youth gang activity; or the Ministry of Justice’s introduction of electronic filing of infringement notices; or the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Organisational Transformation project.

And let’s not forget the importance of innovation in local government, with both New Plymouth and Far North District Council featuring tonight for their engagement in Maoridom.

My thanks go to the sponsors of tonight’s awards : Gen-i, the State Services Commission, the Leadership Development Centre, Te Puni Kokiri, Microsoft, Russell McVeagh, and Talent2 – for your endorsement of the importance of excellence in the public sector.

I also thank Ross Tanner, and the team at IPANZ who have worked over many months to bring these Awards to us tonight.

It is now my pleasant duty to announce the winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Public Sector Excellence.


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