In an election year, agencies have particular responsibilities for supporting the incumbent government’s priorities, the continuity of government business and a smooth government transition, in addition to maintaining political neutrality.
As soon as the election is announced, agencies must make decisions about business that must be progressed before the election and the timeframes for any related Cabinet papers. Agencies must work to ensure that all pressing business matters are dealt with well before the election and that all other agency business continues as much as possible, within the constitutional constraints, over the election period.
2020 has been an extraordinary year given the demands placed on all New Zealanders by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will have impacted on the business plan agencies had in place for the year.
Leading up to the election
It is important that agencies make their significant business decisions in time to include these in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU).
Other matters to consider include:
- regulatory or annual processes that require Ministerial decision or Parliamentary action
- processes with statutory deadlines
- the passage of legislation
- preparing the first draft of the briefing for the incoming Minister (BIM)
- managing any significant appointments to avoid the pre-election period
- advertising and communications that could look like public funding of political advertising: see Cabinet Office Circular CO (20) 1.
After the election
After election day and before the new government is sworn in agencies must take into account the effect of the caretaker convention in conducting agency business; in particular, government policy.
Post-election, agencies must direct all requests from political parties negotiating to form a government (including incumbent Ministers of those parties) for information, analysis or policy costings to the State Services Commissioner and follow the State Services Commissioner’s process in providing political parties with information.
The briefing to the incoming Minister can be finalised when there is a clear indication of who will be appointed.