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Introduction to Review of the State Sector Act 1988

4 When the SSC launched its review of the SSA in 2009, its intention was to ensure that the Act is fit for purpose, meets the current and ongoing needs of the State services and accurately reflects current practice.

5 Subsequently, the report of the BPSAG provided the catalyst for major shifts in the public management model in order to improve the quality and direction of public services. The report provided the overarching and unifying themes and objectives for an omnibus Bill that would lead to substantive amendments to the SSA, the Public Finance Act 1989 (PFA) and Crown Entities Act 2004 (CEA).

6 Importantly, though, the BPSAG report did not provide a prescription for the amendments to the SSA: not all the report’s recommendations were incorporated into the SSA. For example, the SSA as amended does not formally designate the State Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) as the Head of State Services; but it does formally establish the Commissioner’s role of providing leadership and oversight of the State services.

7 Making substantive amendments to the SSA, PFA and CEA is significant for New Zealand’s public management model. Collectively these Acts constitute foundation legislation for the organisation, operations and accountabilities of the State sector. In particular the SSA, together with the PFA and convention, establishes among other things the formal relationship between Ministers and the Public Service, and is thus a major source of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements  2 .

8 Placing the review of the SSA in historical context, it was a century since the passage of the landmark Public Service Act 1912 which laid the foundations for a non-political, unified, career Public Service. The most substantive reforms since then were the passage of the State Services Act 1962 and the current SSA in 1988. The most significant change in 1988 was a move away from a centralised employment model, granting to chief executives of Public Service departments independence over all the employment decisions affecting individuals in their departments, a greater level of autonomy for the management of their departments and consequentially an increased level of accountability for their own performance and that of their departments.

9 Since its enactment in 1988, there were eleven amendments to the SSA designed to align its provisions with the new employment regime for the Public Service, or to address specific issues of the day. Annex 1 provides a short summary of the more significant elements of the amendment Acts.

10 This paper follows the sequence of the SSA. Each part of the Act is introduced with a statement of the important matters under review, and an indication where applicable of the ancillary or second order matters. Each issue is then discussed in order of its location within the Act.

11 The SSC wishes to record its appreciation to The Treasury as joint partner and project management leader for the preparation of the Bill, and to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for its significant contributions throughout the legislative drafting.


2 Cabinet Manual 2008 - page 2 and paragraph 3.6, page 37

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