New Zealand Law Society - Bill to create a more collaborative public service introduced

Bill to create a more collaborative public service introduced

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The Public Service Legislation Bill was introduced on 18 November 2019. The bill is an omnibus bill which repeals the State Sector Act 1988 and makes related amendments to the Public Finance Act 1989, provides a modern legislative framework for achieving a more adaptive and collaborative public service by expanding the types of agencies that comprise the public service, unified by a common purpose, ethos, and strengthened leadership arrangements. Following the Committee of the whole House stage, it is intended that this bill will be divided into two bills; the Public Service Bill, and the Public Finance Amendment Bill. Minister for State Services Chris Hipkins is in charge of the bill.

A review of the State Sector Act found that the current system narrows each department’s focus to its own particular outputs, incentivising officials to focus on their own agency rather than encouraging a wider, collaborative public service identify. A collaborative and cohesive public service is necessary in order to address complex issues that span agency boundaries, and to provide wraparound services based on New Zealanders’ needs, rather than agency convenience.

To address this problem the bill:

  • establishes the purpose, principles, and values of an apolitical public service, as well as its role in government formation (clause 10)
  • recognises the role of the public service to support the Crown in its commitment to its relationships with Māori (clause 12)
  • provides a more flexible set of options for organisational arrangements to support the public service in better responding to priorities and joining up more effectively (Part 2 – subpart 2, clauses 36 to 39)
  • increases interoperability across the public service workforce and preserves the future public service as an attractive and inclusive place to work (clauses 71 to 74)
  • strengthens leadership across the public service, and provides for system and future-focused leadership by:
  • requiring the Commissioner to establish a public service leadership team (clause 57)
  • providing for the designation of chief executives as system leaders, responsible for leading and co-ordinating work in a particular subject-matter area across the State services system (clause 54)
  • establishing a new type of chief executive called a functional chief executive, who will not lead a separate agency but will be responsible for specific functions within a department (clause 49)
  • requiring the Commissioner to work with public service leaders to develop a strategy for senior leadership and management capability, for the purposes both of leadership development and to meet system needs (clause 59)
  • providing for the appointment of a second statutory Deputy Public Service Commissioner (clause 45)
  • requiring the Commissioner to produce a briefing on the state of the public service at least once every 3 years (clause 15 of Schedule 3).
  • requires chief executives (either individually or as a collective representing a sector) to produce long-term insights briefings (clause 8 of Schedule 6).

Section 89 comes into force on a date set by Order in Council. Section 110(1) comes into force on 1 January 2021. The rest of the Act comes into force on the day after the date of Royal assent.