Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Do we need a Royal Commission on the public service?

Opinion: Do we need a Royal Commission on the public service?

by Grant Duncan
August 7, 2014

The Labour Party has announced that it would establish a Royal Commission to inquire into the public service. This arises from concerns about threats to the political neutrality of public servants.

It would look at whether pressures from ministers have interfered with public servants' willingness to give 'free and frank advice' and whether there are growing risks of corruption.

The present Minister of State Services, Jonathan Coleman, has written this proposal off, however, claiming that it would be 'wasteful' and that it was unnecessary, as both National and Labour have recently supported amendments to the law on the state sector and public finance.

These amendments were significant, but they do not really address the concerns that Labour's spokesperson, Maryan Street, was raising. There are still genuine concerns surrounding the behaviour of ministers towards public servants and the extent to which this may compromise the political neutrality of the public service and its willingness to offer free and frank advice, as opposed to simply telling ministers what they want to hear.

There's a fine balancing act for public servants. They tend to be better informed than the average citizen about political life, and of course they have their personal political opinions. And yet they are required to act as professionals in a way that is politically neutral. This means that they should serve the government of the day loyally, regardless of their personal views.

At the same time, they should be able to offer advice to ministers that evaluates all options. Advice that conflicts with what the government may prefer should not be withheld out of fear of courting displeasure. Public confidence in public services and in policy development relies on our being able to trust that ministers get to hear the whole story (and not just carefully edited highlights) from their advisers. There have been some scandals recently emerging out of Wellington that raise strong suspicions that 'free and frank advice' is no longer welcome in the Beehive.

As for corruption, New Zealand is ranked by Transparency International as the least corrupt country on earth. But no-one seems to know how we got to that position, and it certainly gives us no cause for complacency. Maintaining a relatively clean record in the public services is vital, and we could do with a close examination of what works and what doesn't.

So, yes, a full commission of inquiry into these questions would be great idea.

Associate Professor Grant Duncan is a lecturer in the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University. He teaches public policy and political theory at the Albany campus, and has published a book on social policy in New Zealand. He has also published more widely in the field of public policy and public management.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

Royals: The Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall To Visit

Prime Minister John Key welcomes today’s announcement that the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will visit New Zealand in November. This will be the second joint visit for Their Royal Highnesses to New Zealand. More>>

ALSO:

Tracey Martin Replaced: Ron Mark Is New New Zealand First Deputy Leader

Clayton Mitchell was the successful candidate for the Associate Whip position. Winston Peters was re-elected as Leader by the Caucus. Ron Mark was elected as the Deputy Leader with effect from 10am, Friday, 3rd July. More>>

ALSO:

Rebuild Rebrand: "Regenerate Christchurch" To Replace CERA

The regeneration of Christchurch will be the city’s focus for the next five years as local leadership progressively takes control of the rebuild, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says. More>>

ALSO:

Nauru: Scholars Urge Minister To Act On Deteriorating Democracy

“Since the 2013 election in Nauru, there has been a series of disturbing developments on the islands that indicate a severe deterioration in the state of its parliamentary democracy and in the rule of law,” say the scholars. More>>

ALSO:

Foreign Affairs: NZ Begins Presidency Of UN Security Council

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed the start of New Zealand’s month-long Presidency of the United Nations Security Council in New York. More>>

ALSO:

Labour: Cash For Charter Schools, Mould For State Schools

“Recently released financial statements show the Whangarei charter school He Puna Marama received $3.9 million in government funding to the end of last year. Yet their audited accounts show they only spent $1.4 million on education, leaving almost $2.5 million over two years unaccounted for." More>>

ALSO:

Kiwirail Plans Shift From Electric: National Urged Not To Take Backwards Step

The National Government shouldn’t drag New Zealand backwards by replacing its climate friendly electric trains with carbon-polluting diesel trains, the Green Party said today. More>>

ALSO:

Capital Connection:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news