The State Services Commission has today released documents including requests and responses for information from the State sector to political parties engaged in forming a coalition government.
Under New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system introduced in 1996, political parties can negotiate to form a government after a General Election. Officials in 1996 also developed a process allowing parties to seek information from the State sector to support those negotiations.
In line with the Cabinet Manual: the State Services Commissioner co-ordinates the process of officials providing information to political parties for the purposes of government formation negotiations, following the incumbent Prime Minister’s authorisation.
“My focus during this period of negotiations is to maintain the political neutrality of the State services while also ensuring negotiation parties receive the information requested,” says State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes.
“I wrote to all political party leaders at the outset, advising them the information requested would be released in a transparent process demonstrating open government.
This election, the State Services Commissioner revised procedures to reinforce the integrity of the process.
The improvements provide greater confidentiality for political parties. The changes included a new process where the incumbent Prime Minister only approves initial “threshold” access to the State sector, for any party that requests it. The Prime Minister however no longer approves subsequent individual questions. This preserves confidentiality.
Following this year’s General Election, there were eight separate requests with 33 questions from three negotiating parties.
“New Zealand’s Public Service has an enviable international reputation for integrity and political neutrality but we need to work hard to maintain it, and this process is part of that.”