A development goal of the State Services Commission is that by June 2010
citizens will find the "right doors in the right places". This
means government agencies work together to coordinate the availability
of services across the country using co-location, joint services and management
of different physical and electronic channels.
The State Sector Act 1988 provides that there shall be an officer called the State Services Commissioner, appointed by the Governor-General in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Under the State Sector Act 1988, the State Services Commissioner is required to:
In a number of cases, the Commissioner has delegated authority to others to fulfil a particular responsibility. For example, negotiating conditions of employment for Public Service staff has been delegated to Public Service chief executives, and negotiating conditions of employment for education sector staff has been delegated to the Secretary for Education.
In broad terms, the role of the Commission is to:
Three of the 36 departments are known as ‘central agencies’. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury, and the State Services Commission (SSC) combine to perform a ‘corporate office’ role for the Public Service. Just as many private sector companies have a corporate office, so the Public Service has these organisations to carry out many of the functions associated with the management and coordination of what is a large enterprise.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has an interest in anything that may have implications for the Government as a whole. It advises the Prime Minister about general policy and constitutional matters and coordinates policy work in the State sector.
The Treasury advises the government about economic and financial matters, and especially the development and management of its Budget, and has interests in all issues that have expenditure and revenue implications.
The State Services Commission advises the government about the organisation of the State sector, the effectiveness of its operations, management of change, personnel and information management, and industrial relations matters. The State Services Commissioner acts as employer of all Public Service chief executives.
A number of very important principles guide the Public Service. These are:
Serving the government of the day
Public servants must ensure not only that they maintain the confidence of their current minister, but also that the same relationship can be established with any future minister.
Free and frank advice
Professionalism and integrity
New Zealand’s Review of the Centre, set up by Ministers in 2001, was to review how well the public management system responded to the needs of citizens and Ministers. Introducing 2002 work on The Review of the Centre, the then State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham said New Zealand was moving into a new phase of public management, starting to do some of the “harder yards”. In a more demanding, rapidly changing world, the Public Service needs to get closer to citizens and the community, to understand their needs more, and to focus more on achieving results. This has some very specific implications for the Public Service and the wider State sector.
One agency cannot do it alone – agencies have to work together,
and with communities outside Wellington, to address complex, and ever-changing
issues, through collaboration, experimentation, and evidence-based policy
The Review was an important process. It allowed the Government to consider and take ownership of aspects of the existing system and current developments, to place its own emphases and priorities, and to begin some changes as well.
Existing initiatives such as the Values and Standards work were endorsed; moves to be more collaborative, and to strengthen Public Service capability, such as the Executive Leadership Programme, were given more focus and strength. Former State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham said this was done through the government’s greater emphasis on the collective interest and capability building; and initiatives were begun in areas such as innovation.
Development goals - focus
"A well performing State Services can make a huge difference - to New Zealand's success as a country and to the people that make up our communities. More than 190,000 people work in the State Services. This is 13 percent of the workforce so it is important that we are all focused on a common set of goals" Mark Prebble said.
"Over the last couple of decades there have been a series of reforms of the State Services. The positive aspects of these reforms are known - including increased transparency, accountability, efficiency and better service in many areas. More recent reforms have placed greater emphasis on results and the way in which government agencies work together.
"The conclusion of the work programme of the 2001 Review of the Centre, and the recent passage of new State sector legislation have signalled a change in direction for the State Services and enabled the formation of an overarching set of goals.
"The Development Goals have been agreed by the Government. They are designed to encourage coordination amongst the multitude of government agencies that make up the State Services and outline the future direction for the sector.
"This direction is focused on improving the overall performance of the State Services to ensure the system can meet the needs of New Zealanders, whilst serving the government of the day.
"The work on improving the State Services will never be complete, however the goals signal our direction for the next four years.
"A high-level Advisory Committee on State Services, primarily comprised
of chief executives, will provide momentum and support for the associated
goals work programme. The Advisory Committee will meet quarterly, and
will be chaired by the State Services Commissioner," Mark Prebble
These goals do not outline what the State Services will achieve (such as support for families), as that is a matter for government policy. Rather, the goals are aspirations for how the State Services will be arranged and perform. Some of the goals impact more on Public Service departments and Crown agents, and others are wider in scope.
The State Services Commission, with support from the other central agencies
and agreement from the Government, launched the Development Goals in March
A system of world class professional State Services serving the government of the day and meeting the needs of New Zealanders.
For New Zealanders to lead healthy and satisfying lives, they need quality services delivered by highly professional government agencies. For government agencies to be world class, they need the best possible systems and the best possible staff, operating with high levels of integrity.
This goal cannot be achieved by agencies working in isolation. For the
State Services to work well for New Zealanders, then agencies must work
The six goals work together to support each other and collectively contribute towards strengthening the degree of trust New Zealanders have in the State Services.
If the State Services is considered a great place to work (goal 1) and offers constant development of staff (goal 2), then good people will want to work and stay in government agencies. If State Services agencies are well connected to each other and to citizens (goal 3), and better coordinated to improve their overall performance (goal 4), then New Zealanders will get better services from agencies which meet their needs (goal 5). This good service, provided in an open and honest way, will improve New Zealanders' trust in the State Services (goal 6).
Goal 1: Employer of choice
By June 2010: Measurable improvement in the proportion of talented job
seekers aspiring to join the State Services.
By June 2010: All government agencies have a strong commitment to developing
skills and knowledge across all staff.
By June 2010: The operation of government has been transformed through
the use of the Internet.
By 2010: Measurable results are evident from the joint pursuit of joint
By June 2010: Right doors in the right places - government agencies work
together to coordinate the availability of services across the country
using co-location, joint services and management of different physical
and electronic channels.
By June 2010: Measurable improvement in New Zealanders' trust in the
agencies of the State Services.
This is central to strengthening integration, building capability and providing stronger leadership on values and standards in the State sector. It also makes provision for better developing future leaders of the State sector.
The Public Finance (State Sector Management) Bill was developed in response
to the recommendations of the 2001 Review of the Centre.
The new statutes encompass:Amendments to the Public Finance Act , including incorporating the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Strengthening these fundamentally sound acts by improving the flexibility for the Executive in managing public finances, while retaining and improving accountability mechanisms to Parliament.
Creation of a new Crown Entities Act. Improving Crown entity governance
and accountability is central to achieving better alignment between agencies
and government objectives. It also strengthens whole of government - with
the better integration of Crown entities into the rest of the State sector.
There are approximately 2,630 Crown entities in total - about 2,500 School Boards of Trustees, and about 130 Crown entities of other forms (excluding subsidiaries). The relationship of Crown entities with the Crown ranges from close to distant.
Crown entities are normally established under their own empowering legislation.
Improving the governance of Crown entities is important to improve performance. Establishing a clearer relationship between Crown entities and Ministers will enhance accountability, which in turn will lead to improved performance and achievement of Government's outcomes.
A major recommendation was to improve the governance of Crown entities, with particular attention to improving the clarity of relationships between Ministers, departments and Crown entities, and strengthening those elements of the public management system that enable whole-of-government action.
Classes of Entities
Crown Agents (Agents): statutory Crown entities that have a close working
relationship with the government of the day - e.g., District Health Boards
are Crown Agents.
Responsible Ministers and Crown entity governing bodies.
Accountability of the governing body is to the Responsible Minister. Appointment and dismissal provisions differentiate among categories of Crown entity. For example, the governing body members of a Crown Agent are appointed by a Minister and serve at the pleasure of the Minister.
Crown entity governing bodies are subject to generic provisions setting out their individual duties, good employer and EEO provisions, and collective duties.
Enhancing people and culture
Financial Management and Reporting for Crown entities.
The Statement of Intent becomes the centrepiece of the accountability relationship to government.
Investment, borrowing and derivatives provisions establish a consistent approach between entities and powers appropriate for their circumstances.
A letter of expectations from the Responsible Minister will clarify and
strengthen the Board's understanding of the Minister's expectations of
the Board and the entity. Crown entities will continue to prepare an annual
report, including a Statement of Service Performance.
A central and shared aspect of these four roles is State Services leadership.
As members of the senior team, the Deputy Commissioners are expected to
contribute to the overall performance of the State Services Commission
(SSC). In addition each position has three main areas of
The Deputy Commissioners are accountable for providing exemplary and
inspirational leadership to the SSC and the State Services, building a
culture of professionalism, ambition and energy in pursuit of the development
of the State Services. They must develop excellent relationships with
chief executives of Public Service departments and Crown entities. As
individuals they must maintain the highest standards of personal integrity
and model and promote such standards throughout the SSC and the State
The branch provides expertise for the SSC in the assessment of interactions of New Zealanders with the State Services. This requires the development of a research function and an oversight of regional liaison issues, including liaison with local government and non-government organisations.
Find out more!
The State Services Commission site has sections on Public Service standards, the Review of the Centre, the role of the State Services Commission and much, much more.
Updated 6 December 2005