We obey the law. This means we must act within the letter and spirit of the law. We recognise that the purpose of many of our organisational policies and procedures is to give effect to the requirements of the law. When making decisions, we must act within the scope of the power or discretion conferred on us, and within our delegated authority. The exercise of executive powers must comply with both New Zealand law and any international conventions given effect through statute.
It is important we show an objective and balanced approach to our legislative responsibilities. We respect the traditions of liberal democratic government and the rule of law. We do not act arbitrarily or oppressively in giving effect to law. Actions that are unreasonable or unjust can be unlawful. We must maintain accurate, complete and accessible records of the decisions and actions we take.
Many organisations have responsibility for administering and enforcing particular pieces of legislation. This responsibility must not blind us to the equal importance of other laws.
Those of us working internationally must be aware in particular of the obligation to support the New Zealand commitment to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and report to the appropriate authority any incidents involving the bribery of officials.
We recognise that a consequence of working in the State Services is that sometimes we have higher integrity obligations than other people do. We are legally required to comply with the standards set out in the code of conduct.
We are aware that public trust is influenced by the perception that the public has of our organisation. This means responding objectively if we become aware of any unlawful activities in our organisation. We appreciate the importance of modelling the standards set by the code of conduct and taking responsibility to support our organisation take decisive action when we learn that standards are being breached.
All organisations have a statutory duty to use resources efficiently, effectively and economically 13 , and to account publicly for their stewardship. Our organisations should have appropriate procedures to ensure that capital assets, operational funding and staff resources are committed responsibly and that there is clarity about proper discretionary spending, including travel and allowances, and the acceptable use of office equipment, organisational facilities, and vehicles.
We must keep firmly in mind that our organisation's resources are publicly owned and are funded by public money, whether or not that funding comes through taxation, levies or similar arrangements. We follow careful processes for procuring and using our organisation's resources and in disposing of assets that are no longer required. The reputation of our organisation is important to us. When we promote awareness of the services for which we are responsible, we must be mindful also of the part we play in government as a whole.
All organisations have ICT systems that enable speedy communications, remote access, efficient research and simplified record-keeping. Electronic contact with users of our services and colleagues is increasingly expected of our networked State Services. These resources must not be misused.
It is never acceptable for us to access official information for personal purposes or to give that information to others, without clear authorisation from our organisation.
In keeping with the practice of most employers of choice, occasional and moderate personal use of our organisation's telephones, web-based resources and other office equipment is acceptable. These resources, however, are provided for the work of government. We must never put ourselves in a position where our office equipment is being used to operate a private business. Our responsibility is to ensure any unofficial use of organisational resources is reasonable and lawful.
Particular caution is necessary when accessing the Internet. Many web resources are helpful in broadening our awareness and understanding of issues relevant to our work. There is a wealth of information that can enhance our personal development and improve the contribution we can make to our jobs. However, many websites may be characterised as anti-social. These websites are often structured around violent, prurient, intimidating or extremist content. Except for enforcement and approved research activities, it is unlikely that accessing such material using organisational resources can ever be acceptable.
When assessing whether personal use of our organisation's resources is acceptable, we must take a conservative view of what is occasional, moderate, reasonable and lawful. We must be transparent in the way we use these resources, and always be mindful of public expectations and perceptions.
The way we carry out our trusteeship role in respect of public property will have an unavoidable effect on public confidence in the State Services.
- Controlling Sensitive Expenditure: Guidelines for Public Entities:
- Guidelines for Government Advertising:
- Procurement guidance for public entities:
The proper management of information is central to the integrity of the State Services. We have a duty to handle official information appropriately and ensure that personal privacy rights are preserved. We must all be familiar with legal obligations relating to the protection and release of official information. Statutory privacy principles must always govern the handling of personal information.
It is a breach of trust for us to make use of information that we have learned through our work, or to disclose it in any way, unless we have permission to do so. We should always be very circumspect about discussing our organisation's information when we are not directly engaged in organisation business, and be aware that, unless we have authorisation or it is a matter of public record, we do not disclose official information at external meetings (despite any claim to "Chatham House" rules) or in any academic activities we undertake.
We are required to give New Zealanders access to personal information about themselves, and to make any official information available on request unless, as specified by law, there are good reasons for withholding it.
The availability of official information has become a foundation of our democracy. We must recognise the importance of giving effect to our organisation's procedures when responding to information requests, and be alert to the interest that our Minister also has in information held by our organisation. When we receive requests to release politically sensitive information, we must notify our Minister well in advance of any release.
Public perception about the integrity of an organisation will be shaped by the way it manages information. The Official Information Act requires organisations to give reasonable assistance to applicants so that they frame requests with "due particularity". This means we should not be evasive in compiling responses, nor answer in a way that will result in an applicant receiving information presented in a misleading way. The obligation for honesty is pervasive.
We must appreciate the importance of a well-informed electorate at the time of a general election and our responsibility for facilitating speedy responses to information requests. We must not delay responding to information requests in the lead-up to an election, in a misguided sense of obligation to our Minister. Ombudsmen have been emphatic that we must recognise that one of the important purposes of the Official Information Act is to support the effectiveness of a general election. The purpose described in section 4(a) is:
To increase progressively the availability of official information to the people of New Zealand in order-
(i) to enable their more effective participation in the making and administration of laws and policies; and
(ii) to promote the accountability of Ministers of the Crown and officials,-
and thereby to enhance respect for the law and to promote the good government of New Zealand.
- Ombudsmen's Office Guidelines on Official Information:
- How to Comply with the Privacy Act:
- Cabinet Manual:
We have an obligation to consider how we can carry out our functions in better and more successful ways.
Our organisations are required to perform efficiently, effectively, economically and with a spirit of service to the public. We must be aware of the sustainability implications of what we are doing.
We must always act in the public interest. This requires us to understand the communities we serve and appreciate the important duty we have to rise to public need when circumstances demand. Our work involves delivering the quality services that the Government expects of us, and contributing to the results that New Zealanders are entitled to. We must consider the part we can each play in improving the effectiveness of our organisation and take responsibility for improving our own performance. Personal improvements in efficiency will contribute to improvements in the overall efficiency of our organisation.
Improvements flow from attention to what we do and how we do it. This involves our decision-making and performance management systems. We must be able to measure how effective and efficient we are if we are to improve on what we do. Ways of doing this include programme evaluations that focus on results, client surveys, analysis of complaints, and use of research.
13 State Sector Act 1988, section 32(d); Crown Entities Act 2004, section 50