Scrutiny of the Public Service helps us lift our game

It's useful to be reminded, every now and then, that we need to work hard every day to earn the public's trust and confidence.

As a sector we've got some big and important goals in our sights, such as building better public services that are more joined up, achieving better outcomes for people, putting the customer at the centre, and growing our leadership talent.

But the way we do our jobs, day in, day out, also really matters. That's what the politicians and media and public are mostly watching out for. That's how they judge us.

That scrutiny never ends, and that's exactly as it should be.

Take for example the case of Joanne Harrison, the former Ministry of Transport manager convicted and jailed for stealing from the ministry, which has continued to attract headlines.  A heap of accusations have been thrown about, and some tough questions have been asked of public servants.

It can be really hard for those involved, but we have to learn from it and do better next time.

The Harrison case is raising questions about a number of things - the standards the Public Service sets for itself, how we handle improper behaviour, how we treat whistle-blowers.  By doing so it is putting a spotlight on our core values, such as trust and integrity.

Reviews that have been set in motion by Parliament's Speaker, the Secretary of Transport and myself are looking at different aspects of this case.  The reviews are important because what they're about essentially is ensuring that New Zealanders have trust and confidence in their public services and us, as public servants.

Some of you will have seen that the performance of the Public Sector got a thorough going-over in the annual Trans Tasman review of government departments published this month.  It is only one group of commentators' perspective, but we should listen to what it says.  The review says some agencies are doing well.  Others, including my own agency, the State Services Commission, are said to have the challenge of rebuilding the public's confidence.

For my part, I welcome all the feedback we get wherever it comes from.  We are here to serve New Zealanders.  And as public servants we all have to keep on getting better at meeting their expectations.


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Last updated: 
22 June 2017