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Commission Needs to Clarify Position

July 23, 2007

State Services Commission Needs to Clarify Position On Political Activity

The PSA believes the State Services Commission needs to make it clear what the rules are for public servants who have a partner or family member who is politically active.

The PSA has 55,000 members working in the state sector and is concerned about the case of Madeleine Setchell, who lost her job as a head of communications at the Environment Ministry after three days. This was due to what was seen as a potential conflict of interest because her partner is the press secretary of National Party leader, John Key.

“Public servants need to know when and how they tell their employer about any political activity by their partner or a family member,” says Brenda Pilott National Secretary of the PSA.

“The need for clarity and transparency in this area has been highlighted by the way the Madeline Setchell case has been handled by the Ministry of Environment and the State Services Commission.”

The Madeline Setchell case also highlights the need for the issue of political activity by a public servant’s partner or family, to be addressed in the new Code of Conduct that will cover workers employed across the state sector from November 30.

“The code, and guidelines on how it’s implemented, cover the need for public servants to maintain political neutrality. But are not clear about what happens if the public servant’s partner or a family member is politically active,” says Brenda Pilott.

“We need to address that gap in the code and guidelines and the PSA will be raising the issue with the State Services Commission.”

Brenda Pilott says the commission also needs to clarify what the rules are for people applying for jobs in the public service about declaring their personal political activity or that of a partner or family member.

“The commission needs to make it clear what process the job applicant and the employer follows when this issue arises,” says Brenda Pilott.

“It’s essential that we end the confusion that now exists for public servants and for people applying for jobs in the public service concerning the political activity of their partners and family members.”

“Otherwise we run the risk of excluding people, with the skills and knowledge the public service needs, because of a perceived conflict in their personal lives,” says Brenda Pilott.

The PSA is pleased to hear the leader of the Opposition, John Key, state publicly today that he is committed to maintaining a politically neutral public service.

“Mr Key is now on the record in stating he is committed to upholding the principle of a politically neutral public service,” says Brenda Pilott. The PSA will be holding him to that.”


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