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State Services Senior Leaders Development

30 November 2005 Speech Notes

State Services Senior Leaders Development Conference

Thank you, Hekia, for the introduction. This conference is the first major one I am attending in a formal capacity as the new Minister of State Services, but it is also a first in a far more important way.

This is the first gathering of senior leaders from right across the State Services, and promises to be both inspiring and challenging as you focus on the theme of new development goals for the state services.

I am told that in this room there are representatives from Crown entities, Autonomous Crown Enterprises or ACEs, Independent Crown Entities or ICEs, Crown agents, Offices of Parliament, public service departments and non public service departments, etc etc. And to think I once thought the health sector was complicated!

Actually, talking of acronyms, there are an incredible number in my police portfolio, with which I am also becoming familiar, and I was delighted last week, when speaking at a road policing conference in the South Island, to be able to use an acronym that no one there had heard of. It was an MV, or modest or minor victory.

I am very pleased to be here for such an historic occasion, and I also want to acknowledge State Services Commissioner Mark Prebble, and John Allen, chief executive at New Zealand Post and your keynote speaker in this first session.

Senior leaders and chief executives here represent literally hundreds of government agencies, but I am also particularly pleased today to welcome those who may well be the next generation of leaders. Thirty places have been reserved here for people with "high potential' for future leadership positions in the State Services, and I am sure you will be inspired by taking part on this special day.

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The importance of leadership in the State Services can be readily understood when it is realised that the agencies you represent employ nearly 200,000 people, a major slice of our workforce.

You provide all the essential services people need to live their lives. Society depends on health, education, welfare, transport, police and defence systems working well --- with the interests of New Zealanders at heart, but your agencies do more than simply deliver services.

Many of you also exercise special powers or influence over people's lives. This is a special characteristic of the State Services. People in this room have the power to collect tax, arrest people, issue fines, shut down a worksite or take children away for their safety.

With power comes responsibility, and you continue to exercise this responsibility only because you hold the trust of New Zealanders.

As the Public Service code of conduct says, the strength of any state system "lies in the extent to which it earns and holds the respect of its citizens. That respect comes from the confidence people have in the integrity of government ¡K Everyone employed in the State Services has a part to play in earning public respect for government and maintaining confidence in the institutions of government."

That is, in fact, a heavy weight to carry, and I am sure you all feel it at times. New Zealanders have very high expectations of all of you.

- They expect your decisions to be made fairly and impartially.

- They expect that public money will be spent wisely.

- They expect public assets will be well looked after.

- They expect you will always behave ethically and thoughtfully.

Mismanagement or abuse of your powers or influence is likely to have serious effects, and where public expectations are not met, public criticism quickly follows. When people lose trust in government, they don't seek the help they are entitled to. They don't provide information necessary for delivering effective services. They resist paying tax and become increasingly resentful of State Services activities. The fabric of society itself begins to unravel.

The Government believes that strengthening the public service strengthens support for all New Zealanders, and that effective State Services provide a vital key to economic and social performance.

One of our first tasks, when we came to power in 1999 and inherited services pared back in the 1990s, was to rebuild the State sector to ensure that it could achieve results in our areas of priority.

Much has been done over the past six years, generally not through sweeping reforms, but through small steps designed to rebuild and refocus state services. Common themes during this redevelopment phase have been a desire to see cohesiveness, fairness, constructive relationships and shared values right across all parts of government.

One excellent example has been a more positive working relationship between the Government and the Public Service Association, formalised through the "Partnership for Quality' agreement. The Government is committed to building on this agreement going forward, and we seek the help of chief executives in its implementation.

In the past year the passage of new State sector legislation has signalled a change in direction for the State Services. This legislation is significant as it is the first major change to New Zealand's public management system in the past decade. The legislation came into force in January this year, and included:

- Amendments to the Public Finance Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act to add flexibility in managing public finances and improving accountability to Parliament.

- Amendments to the State Sector Act. This included extending the State Services Commissioner's mandate to strengthen integration, build capability and provide stronger leadership in the state sector.

- The creation of a new Crown Entities Act. Improving crown entity governance and accountability is important for the Government. It also strengthens the integration of crown entities with the rest of the state sector.

The change in direction has a common theme, focusing on lifting the overall performance of the State Services. Those two words, overall performance, are tremendously important when taken together.

Overall reflects our desire to build connections across the whole of State Services --- making the expression all-of-government a reality.

Performance is also clearly a key. The Government has made a considerable investment in the State sector. In contrast to the 1990s, departments now have sufficient staff to carry out their core roles and are now able to rely less on the use of expensive outside consultants.

That brings me back to your new development goals. Clearly, realizing these goals is fundamental to improving overall performance consistently across all government departments and agencies.

The goals provide a framework for changing, developing or improving the way we work when we need to do just that; and almost as an adjunct to that I am looking forward to working with finance ministers on ensuring we get value for money in the state services.

As you will all be aware, the overall goal for the State Services is: A system of world class professional State Services serving the government of the day and meeting the needs of New Zealanders.

The Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament underlined that commitment: "New Zealand's growing economy relies on strong foundations. The foundations of a 21st century economy must include world class education, infrastructure, healthcare, and social services."

I am sure no one here disagrees with that.

I don't want to cover the ground of later speakers, but I do want to comment briefly on each of the six individual development goals.

I have already talked about the first two, Employer of Choice and Excellent State Servants, in earlier speeches I have made as Minister. It is absolutely appropriate that we aspire to be the best.

These two goals aim to position State Services for the 21st century. As government departments and agencies, State Service employers need to achieve the best results they can for New Zealanders, and to compete strongly for the available pool of talent.

This week I met young New Zealanders taking part in your summer internship programme, and that greatly encouraged me that we are going down the right path.

The third goal, Networked State Services, reflects concern the State Services has become fragmented, making it harder to deal with government as a whole. We must improve openness and accountability through greater IT use, particularly implementing the next phases of the Digital and E-government Strategies.

As the Speech from the Throne said, the overall objective for the next three years is "to continue New Zealand's transformation to a dynamic, knowledge-based economy and society, underpinned by the values of fairness, opportunity and security."

E-government is the key to this, enabling a more networked style of government. It makes state services more accessible and effective, and as a whole easier to deal with for New Zealanders. And isn't that an important reason you all come to work in the morning?

The fourth goal, Coordinated State Agencies, is about ensuring the total contribution of government agencies is greater than the sum of its parts; or, in other words, that agencies not only manage their own outcomes, but joint outcomes as well through planning and working together. The Government will facilitate such links wherever we can.

The fifth goal, Accessible State Services, features on the front cover of today's programme under the heading: Outside in and all joined up.

That is surely where we all want our state services to be. This goal is all about how New Zealanders access and experience government, and where they think improvements can be made. The aim is aptly summed with the words "no wrong door". New Zealanders deserve to be referred, without hassle, to the services they need, and that means agencies working together in a more integrated way.

That won't happen overnight, but when we succeed I can guarantee we will also be well on the way to achieving the sixth and final goal, Trusted State Services. If trust is to be strengthened across the state sector, it will need participation of all our agencies.

The most basic concern of most New Zealanders is that government agencies should be there when they need them, and that they should be trustworthy. That is what everyone here, including me, also wants.

I know many of your agencies have already been tackling the six goals in your own ways. The difference now is that you are explicitly expected to work together toward achieving tangible targets.

Mark Prebble will be giving me regular updates on progress, and a high-level advisory committee, mostly of chief executives, is also providing support. A means of monitoring progress is being developed, and while it is expected that the overall goal of world-class professional state services will not change, there are likely to be changes to the six development goals as targets are achieved.

What you are all here today to talk about is not particularly new nor earth shaking. Many of you will have thought about these issues before, or, as I said, already be putting some of them into practice. What is different today is the mix of people in this room. The entire State Services are represented here.

What is also different from today is that you now all have a visible agenda for transforming New Zealand's State Services. From today you are entrusted with these development goals and with the next generation of the State Services. I wish you every success on the way ahead, and I hope that you find today as inspiring and exciting as I do.


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