Appendix 2: Guidelines for Costing Party Political Policies
Costings of the policies of any political party should be provided by State servants only at the written request of the Minister of Finance or a Minister responsible for a portfolio. A request from a member of a Minister's staff is not sufficient authority in itself.
Any request for costings made to a government department other than the Treasury is to be referred to the Office of the Minister of Finance in the first instance. The agency's Chief Executive is responsible for receiving any request, assigning any tasks, and seeing that the costs and any accompanying material conform to the guidelines, and that any response is made in writing (under the signature of the Chief Executive, or where appropriate, its authorised senior officer) to the Minister who made the request.
If a request covers the work of more than one department, the departments concerned need to be absolutely clear about the allocation of tasks to co-ordinate effort and resources, and work in close co-operation with each other. The procedures to be followed should be conveyed in writing.
Requests for costings of policies or proposals of political parties are to be documented in full. All workings, correspondence, sources, procedures and decisions must be recorded, together with a record of the resources used in preparing a political costing. Only those directly involved in the actual costings should be privy to the exercise.
Costings should be limited to factual data readily available in the Treasury or other agencies and should contain:
- no additional commentary, such as the merits or otherwise of the policy proposal
- no value judgements, or subjective assumptions
- no unsubstantiated or unreasonable technical assumptions - it should be clearly stated if the assumptions could lead to more than one possible costing
- a clear explanation of all sources, and of any assumptions made.
If there is any doubt as to the nature or basis of the request, clarification must be sought from the Minister of Finance or the Minister concerned.
All responses should be drafted on the understanding that they may be requested and released under the Official Information Act 1982.
In some instances it may be appropriate to have the costings done by a qualified external expert. This should be made clear in reporting to the Minister concerned.
The convention between Ministers and agencies in these circumstances is that Ministers will not require or use information on costings in a way which might damage the neutrality of the State services, and its ability to serve successive governments.
Note: These rules should not be applied where agencies are required to provide costings:
- to assist Ministers to make a decision about whether or not to exercise the Financial Veto under Standing Orders 3266-330: these will be required as part of the normal business of government. See: http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/cabinet/circulars/co07/2 or
- during a period of negotiation between political parties to form a government following an election. Requests for costings arising during this process should be dealt with in terms of the SSC guidance on Negotiations Between Political Parties to Form a Government: Guidelines on Support from the State Sector. The 2017 version of these guidelines will be available on the SSC website in due course.
The Treasury will release further information in due course. Agencies that require additional advice or guidance on costing political party policies should contact their Treasury Vote Analyst or the Fiscal and State Sector Management Team.