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Alii, Bonjour, Ekamorwir Omo, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Gude, Halo Olketa, Iokwe, Ia Orana, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Lenwo, Malo ē lelei, Mauri, Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Tālofa, Talofa Lava, Taloha Ni, Greetings!

As the Chair of our Public Service Fale Working Group, it is a great honour and privilege to welcome you. I am humbled that the Working Group has agreed for me to be the chair and introduce our first newsletter.

In these uncertain times, I want to acknowledge all of you in your roles as leaders in the Pacific as we face this global pandemic. We stand together as a region and as a Pacific family. As Public Service Commissioners, your service and leadership, especially at a time like this, is important for the health and wellbeing of our peoples. I also encourage us to make sure we are looking after ourselves so we can continue to provide the leadership asked of us. As always, my prayers and thoughts are with you all and your families.

COVID-19 is unchartered waters, however, we are all born navigators and I know that we will get through this together. I believe in the natural resilience, resourcefulness and strength of our Pacific people. This is an opportunity to work together and support one another, and the Public Service Fale can further enable that.

The Fale is the latest step in a long journey that many of you have walked for years. We’ve come a long way from the first Pacific Public Service Commissioners Conference in Suva in 2004. We have been building capacity and gaining momentum since the formation of the Working Group in 2016 to where we are now with the establishment of the Public Service Fale in 2020. There is a collective and shared commitment to working together by connecting our region to build and develop leadership capability.

We are connected to each other by our ocean and the greatness of the Pacific Ocean and its people. In 2017, our Pacific leaders adopted a Blue Pacific Identity to recapture the collective potential of the region’s shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants. Blue Pacific is all about Pacific peoples owning and developing our own agenda and to recognise our needs and our potential.

The Fale and the work that we do, is another waka with which the Blue Pacific can be realised through strengthening systems for sustainable development, economic growth and security for our region and our people.

As you can see from our newsletter, we have adopted the manu symbol as a representation of the Fale. The manu (bird) is a great metaphor for aspirations, dreams, and aiming high. We see the manu’s strength and leadership as coming from the collective … unity and focus on a common goal. The Fale’s common goal is to do good with others – to commit to strengthening the public services of our respective nations by working together.

One theme that has come up repeatedly in my conversations with Pacific Public Service Commissioners is that these can be lonely, solitary roles. Public service commissioners are often required to take courageous stands to protect the integrity of public institutions. I understand that this was one of the original rationales for the first Pacific Public Service Commissioners conference – to build connections so that Pacific commissioners could find strength in each other.

Our seafaring ancestors used the manu to guide them to land and safety, and thus the manu became a symbol of hope and security whilst navigating the ocean and unchartered waters. I hope that Pacific Public Service Commissioners, working together and supported by the Fale, will become that symbol of hope and strength.

This newsletter is one small part of realising our vision of Pacific Public Service Commissioners working together. I encourage you to use this platform to share your successes and strengths, and to update the collective about what is happening in your nation. I invite you to reach out to the Fale and each other when you face challenges. We know that Pacific cultures are based on relationships, respect, and reciprocity – the more we all engage with the Fale and with each other, the stronger we will all be together.

Finally, I look forward to the work we are embarking on, and to the many positives outcomes that will result for our region, our islands, and our peoples.

I le ava ma le fa’aaloalo tele lava,

With great respect

Hon. Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban

A message from Hon. Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban

welcome message from Hon Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban

Working Group meeting summary

The first Working Group meeting of this year was to be held in Wellington, New Zealand from 17–19 March. However, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it was decided that the in-person meeting would not proceed. Instead, the meeting was replaced with a series of videoconference sessions and written responses to agenda items via email correspondence.

Overall, the Working Group were happy with the progress the Public Service Fale had made since its establishment, and agreed to continue to steer the Fale’s work programme. The Working Group reviewed the Fale’s responses to 25 requests for assistance, received from Pacific Public Service Commissioners. These were requests for support and advice on a range of important issues including, COVID-19 (which prompted information sharing), conflicts of interest, disciplinary procedures, performance appraisals and practice, and human resources regulations. Alongside this, they also reviewed a draft operating model from the Fale which outlined a process from receiving requests for assistance, scoping and prioritising, through to gathering information and providing support. It was agreed that the Fale will continuously seek feedback from the Working Group, particularly about how they will respond to incoming requests for support.

The Working Group agreed on pathways to three shared projects across the Pacific:

  1. The development of a Pacific-wide Code of Ethics followed by a model standard Code of Conduct
  2. Leadership development and building capability
  3. Approaches to remuneration.

These shared projects will allow all Pacific Public Service Commissioners to share learnings and experiences with each other.

Finally, the Working Group agreed on the theme and sessions for the upcoming Public Service Fono 2020. The meeting concluded with a strong sense of commitment from the Working Group to continue the work, discussions, and sharing of information to strengthen public service across the Pacific region together, even amidst these challenging times. The Working Group agreed to meet in mid-June 2020 for their next meeting, via video conference.

Meet the Commissioners

Introducing Taies Sansan – Papua New Guinea’s Department of Personnel Management Secretary

“To shape the future of our nation, we need leaders in the public service that are ethical, capable and values-based”

Ms Taies Sansan

In December 2019, Taies Sansan was appointed as Papua New Guinea’s Department of Personnel Management Secretary. The official appointment came after Ms Sansan had been acting in the role for almost two years. Ms Sansan joined the Department of Personnel Management almost 20 years ago, and has been praised by former Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill for her ethical conduct in the office.

When officially appointed in December 2019, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape emphasised that this was a merit-based appointment, evident by the years of hard work and proven experience. Of the 18 years Ms Sansan has been with the Department, she has spent 13 in senior management roles. The roles and areas she has worked and thrived in vary from corporate planning and records management to policy and workforce development.

Ms Sansan holds a Master’s in Business Administration, majoring in Human Resource Management, and a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Political Science and International Relations. Ms Sansan is passionate about enhancing capability in leadership, human resource management and public service reform. She also emphasises the importance of supporting and sharing knowledge with future generations and graduates, so they are equipped with the skills they need to be effective and ethical leaders.

Welkam and haere mai, Taies. We look forward to seeing and learning about the amazing work you continue to do in your important role.

If you are a Commissioner who has been appointed to your role in the last 12 months, please get in touch with the Fale team.

Country updates

We would like to trial using this newsletter to encourage the sharing of information between Pacific Public Service Commissioners. It is important that we continue to share information with one another, as these stories can inspire others and provide valuable insights into common priorities. We invite you to share a couple of items about your work. For example, this could include a current or new project, a milestone, or new development in public service reform. We will write to each of you in the coming weeks to ask for contributions for the next issue.

These contributions have previously been discussed and are success stories we feel would be valuable information for each of you. A special thank you to Tonga and the Republic of the Marshall Islands for allowing us to open the first Public Service Fale newsletter with these stories.

Republic of the Marshall Islands

As we all know, COVID-19 has impacted the way we work and communicate with one another. It has resulted in shifts to remote and online alternatives; an unprecedented and challenging change. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) have been focussing on testing and improving their digital system’s capability, with exciting success.

Not only are members of the RMI Public Service Commission (the Commission) now able to easily access their work system and documents online, the Commission have also successfully held the first of many online video meetings. The three RMI Commissioners were able to log into the meeting from the comfort of their homes which shows progress in enabling remote access for people.

The Commission’s goal is to scale up these successes and work towards supporting all Commission employees to work remotely, with the intent to extend similar services to some, if not all, Government agencies. The Commission hope to use their key learnings to further progress their digital capability building. Although the RMI Government have not announced a national lockdown, like many other countries, they are displaying excellent future planning and being proactive in the face of COVID-19, should a lockdown occur.

Tonga

Tonga have shared with us the exciting work they are doing to improve wage bill outcomes through HR policy and performance management systems. They have established a nurturing relationship with the World Bank Group. Together, they have been working on reforming the remuneration and performance management system across Tonga’s public service.

One issue that was identified was that the previous annual remuneration increment system was not linked to a person’s performance. This had flow-on unsustainable impacts and led to inefficiencies across the public service. The review of the previous system found there was a need for more accountability and transparency in the use of the public purse.

The remuneration reform has resulted in a successful shift to a performance pay regime, clearer job descriptions with annually updated key performance indicators (KPIs), annual reviews with supervisors and rewarding for performance. The next steps in this process includes improving job titling and quality of job descriptions and strengthening the links between performance at different levels, eg individual staff KPIs, organisational performance, and chief executive officers’ performance.

The reforms were all Tonga Government initiatives, locally funded and implemented by Tonga's public servants. Tonga has shown that reforms can be done and although development partners can provide support, the success is due to the local ownership and acceptance. An important principle for Tonga has been the people-focus, which is at the heart of these public service reforms.

From the Public Service Fale

Tēnā koutou. Ka nui tōku mihi ki a koutou katoa and Warm Pacific Greetings.

My thanks to our Chair, Hon. Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban for her leadership and for inviting me to contribute as a Pacific public service commissioner to this inaugural newsletter.

First, I would like to acknowledge that this is a challenging time for all of us, with pandemic planning and new ways of working remotely and digitally. Like you all, in New Zealand, we’ve entered a new “normal” and although difficult at times, all the collective efforts will be worthwhile should we manage to contain the spread of COVID-19. United we stand, in the face of a global pandemic; connected and as one. We will all get through this together.

I wholeheartedly endorse the metaphor of the manu, as many nations (and public service commissioners) flying together in formation, and as a symbol of hope and safety for navigators. This is especially relevant at this time, as we navigate together and support one another with COVID-19 response planning. Already we have ventured into our partnership with the sharing of resources not only from New Zealand, but from other nations from the Pacific.

This collective and open way of working is not a novel idea. I would like to acknowledge the history and legacy of Pacific public service commissioners who have long seen the need to work more closely together and have helped drive us to where we are today.

It was a great privilege to spend time with you at the 2019 conference in Wellington. New Zealand is a Pacific nation, and I have always thought of myself as a Pacific public service commissioner, like you. I look forward to working more closely with you all and walking together as we share similar journeys in building stronger public services in our respective countries.

I really believe in public service. Strong public institutions and high quality, effective public service matter: good schools; sound environmental management; respect for rule of law; and more importantly than ever, strong public health systems. I am strongly committed to the ideal of service, dedicating one’s life to the improvement of the societies in which we live. I know that this ideal has a strong tradition across the Pacific and I’m looking forward to learning more about these strengths and the Pacific way of doing things.

While the Public Service Fale will be based at the State Services Commission in Wellington, it will be Pacific-led. The Working Group will shape and steer the work programme. My aim is for the Fale to support you with achieving the aspirations you have for public services in your nations. If you ever feel that the Fale is straying from our Pacific-led goal, I invite you to raise this with me directly.

Finally, I want to again acknowledge the global pandemic we are all facing, the challenges that come with responding to and preventing COVID-19 in your nations, and all the unseen work that you do to keep the wheels turning. COVID-19 and the safety precautions taken has meant that we have had to change the way we work and communicate, but I assure you that the commitment to the journey we are on together is as strong as ever. Thank you for your patience and understanding at this challenging time.

As Public Service Commissioners, the responsibility we take on can be heavy at times. At a time like this, it is especially important that we keep things moving for our people. This is a time to unite and ensure we are all doing the best we can to get through this together. The Public Service Fale is a mechanism we can use to join forces, share information and support each other in light of COVID-19.

Pacific public service commissioners have enormous experience and knowledge. My expectation is that the Fale will support and broker the sharing of this knowledge, so that we can be stronger together.

The words of Tongan and Fijian anthropologist Professor ‘Epeli Hau’ofa sum it up beautifully: “We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands but in the greatness of our oceans”. We can and will achieve more by sharing with each other and aspiring to the greatness of the Pacific.

Ngā mihi maioha,

Peter Hughes

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