New Zealanders have high expectations of their Public Service for providing timely, easy-to-access information and services and assisting in achieving real improvements in their lives. The Public Service’s record of delivering better services and outcomes underpins the very high levels of trust and confidence that New Zealanders place in it.

Data and research, including international indices, confirm this. Our Kiwis Count survey measures trust based on personal experience. The measure of overall public trust in the Public Service has risen over the last 10 years and jumped to an all-time high of 69 percent in the last quarter of 2020, with a high level of 63 percent being maintained throughout the first half of 2021. International indices report a similar story of very high levels of public trust in the government in New Zealand. The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index currently ranks New Zealand second internationally for public service effectiveness. The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index measure ranks New Zealand third in the world for ensuring public institutions embed strong governance principles, build long-term vision and establish trust with citizens.

This annual report outlines the Public Service’s efforts over the past year to be worthy of the increased trust and confidence of New Zealanders. It is a record of our agility in responding to complex issues driven by New Zealanders’ needs.

Underlying the Public Service’s performance is a reform programme that has been in progress over several years. This programme has resulted in the Public Service departments learning to work more as a single unified system rather than a group of independent agencies. This reform effort has continued alongside an innovative Public Service response to COVID-19 which has drawn on the new ways of working developed through the reform.

A key enabler for greater progress over the past year has been the enactment of a modernised statute governing the Public Service. For the first time in legislation, the Public Service Act 2020 (the Act) sets out a formal purpose for the New Zealand Public Service and compiles a list of the principles and values that must guide our work so that everyone – both public servants and members of the public – can know what is expected from a world-class Public Service. The Act provides us with new tools to support the direction of the changes that we have been making to better meet the needs of New Zealanders.

Trust in the Public Service - A line graph showing that trust in the public service has moved from 41% in March 2012 to 63% in June 2021, with a peak of 69% in December 2020

Public trust in the Public Service was at an all-time high of 69 percent in the last quarter of 2020, with a high level of 63 percent being maintained throughout the first half of 2021.

This annual report describes significant achievements we have made during the 2020/2021 year. However, its field of view is wider than a single organisation. The annual reports of Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission (the Commission) are unique in that they report on not just the activities of our individual department but also more generally on the Public Service for which Te Tumu Whakarae mō Te Kawa Mataaho | Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) has overall leadership responsibility.

This report is divided into seven sections.

In the first section, we discuss the improvements in outcomes and services achieved across the Public Service and the particular contribution that we have made towards these improvements over 2020/2021. International research and our Kiwis Count survey show that the greatest driver of trust in the Public Service is the responsiveness of services to meet the needs and expectations of citizens.

The second section addresses other important factors that are major contributors to public trust and confidence. The ethical culture and conduct of the Public Service is crucially important to its credibility and standing. New Zealanders tell us that they expect, and experience, high standards of integrity from public servants. This section covers the actions to develop a strong common Public Service and to ensure high standards of conduct and integrity.

The third section covers the Public Service’s role in supporting the Crown in its relationship with Māori. It discusses how the Public Service is developing the capability to support the Crown (current and successive Government’s) to build relationships with Māori. This is an example of the Public Service ensuring that we are delivering on our constitutional role and adapting to New Zealanders’ changing expectations of how we operate now and in the future.

The fourth section explains who we are: the strategies that will ensure that the Public Service workforce reflects New Zealand society and is skilled, developed and led in ways that will earn the respect and confidence of New Zealanders.

The fifth section reports on the implementation of the Act. This is the key enabler for our work over the past year – and into the future. We report on how the provisions of the Act have been used to support a unified Public Service through workforce development, joined-up working and leadership.

The sixth section focuses on how we are supporting our Pacific neighbours. The Public Service Fale is a business unit located within the Commission that is governed by, and serves, 16 Pacific Public Service Commissioners to strengthen Public Service leadership and governance for the benefit of Pacific citizens.

The seventh section reports on the Commission as an organisation. We continue to develop our organisation’s capability to deliver and perform to our best. This includes modelling best practice for the Public Service and enabling the Commission to lead and serve as a high-performing organisation and a great place to work.

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