Context and Approach
The State Sector Amendment Act 2013 charged the Commissioner with promoting a culture of stewardship in the State services. It followed the adoption of the Better Public Services (BPS) reform programme and the commitment to deliver the Government's ten Better Public Service Results (the BPS Results). This requires a fundamental reshaping of the way state services work and how services are delivered. Agencies must innovate and execute change to deliver joint outcomes and realise opportunities to deliver more value for money. It has required a significant change in the way the State services operate and some major changes for SSC.
SSC's purpose is “leading a State sector New Zealand is proud of” and the outcome it seeks, shared with the other Central Agencies is “a higher performing State sector that New Zealanders trust, delivering outstanding results and value for money”. The Commission is the Head of Profession of human resources and has a leadership responsibility for organisation development across the State sector. It is tasked with ensuring the Chief Executives are selected and rewarded not solely on their ability to deliver their agency's goals and targets, but also their ability to improve sector and system level capability and outcomes, as stewards of the State services as a whole and not simply leaders of their individual agencies.
In his response to the 2013 PIF Review, the Commissioner addressed this challenge by committing to prioritise “strengthening the leadership within the State services, including talent identification, leadership development and succession planning” and “improving the way [they] recruit, develop performance expectations for, remunerate and appraise performance of Chief Executives”.
This Follow-up Review explores the progress the Commission has made in delivering these priorities. In conducting this Review I spoke with over a dozen Chief Executives from across the State services. They lead a broad cross section of both policy and operational agencies and range from newly appointed Chief Executives to some of the longest serving.
Those who have been Chief Executives throughout the two year period since the 2013 PIF Report have all experienced improvements in their engagement with the Commission and value some of the services and tools that the Commission provides, such as PIF Reviews, the Continuous Improvement programme and the introduction of the Career Boards. There are also areas where Chief Executives are seeking improvement where process and/or outcomes could be more effective.
I also spoke with relevant Ministers and their offices to explore their views of how the Commission is delivering on the Government's expectations and on the current model of engagement for Ministers with the Commission. Ministers note that the proof of delivery is shown by progress on the BPS Results and thus far the trend is positive. However, they consider that there is still a way to go to change the way public services are delivered so that they are driven by results that are customer-centric rather than provider-centric. It requires the State services to operate as a cohesive system rather than as a collection of individual agencies. They recognise that the reform needed is substantial. Stronger and more visible leadership is expected from SSC to build capability and deliver system change so that all leaders are acting as stewards of the State services.