Part 1: State Services Commissioner's Annual Report on the State Services
Provided under the State Sector Act 1988
For the year ended 30 June 2008
Since the introduction of the Development Goals for the State Services in 2005, the State Services Commission, together with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury, has been working with agencies across the State Services to build a shared understanding of what it means to have 'a system of world class professional State Services serving the government of the day and meeting the needs of New Zealanders'.
As the new State Services Commissioner, I want to stress my commitment to lifting the overall performance and delivery of the State Services through the Development Goals programme, with a particular focus on New Zealanders' experience of their interactions with government.
There are four areas I would like to highlight for attention in the coming year. If there is a common theme, it is improved measurement of our performance and sharing the results so that there is a collective benefit to State Services agencies.
New Zealanders' experience
In April 2008, the State Services Commission released the results of the first national survey of New Zealanders' experience of government services.
'Public Satisfaction with Service Quality 2007: The Kiwis Count Survey' asked 6,500 New Zealanders what they thought of government services. Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported that they were satisfied with their most recent experience of government services.
These results are very encouraging, and State servants should be proud of what they have achieved. However, this is only the first survey. The value for the State Services is in the improvements we make between this survey and the next in 2009.
- findings in this first survey will provide government agencies with information they need to focus on making the improvements that will have the greatest impact on New Zealanders' satisfaction with government service delivery.
- expect that agencies will use the Common Measurements Tool to continue to track their progress in between the surveys and to share that information with other agencies to lift their overall performance and New Zealanders' experience of their State Services.
Value for money
In a tightening fiscal environment, it is imperative that State Services agencies are even more scrupulous in the prudent and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Increased expectations from Ministers and scrutiny by Parliamentarians and the media is a reminder that we are responsible for using taxpayers' money wisely.
Over the last few years the core Public Service has experienced a significant increase in resources and the Government is looking to see a return on that investment. State Services leaders will need to focus on improving value for money.
A significant opportunity to realize efficiencies across the State Services is through the use of online shared services. Rather than duplicate investment and effort in information and communication technologies, agencies are expected to use the systems like the Government Logon Service and the Identity Verification Service, together known as igovt, which have been developed to exacting standards suitable for New Zealand's security and policy environment.
The inclusion of Value-for-Money as a Development Goal signals this as an area of focus and agency progress will be measured against the milestones.
Employer of choice
Research in the private sector has indicated a direct link between employee engagement and service excellence. Having more engaged staff within State Services agencies is likely to improve New Zealanders' experience of government services.
In addition to improved service delivery, more engaged employees will also have other benefits across the system. There will be a reduction in turnover and the costs associated with it, leading to improved efficiencies. Similarly, attracting talented individuals to roles in the State Services will be easier, reducing recruitment costs across government.
The State Services Commission will continue to promote employee engagement surveys for government agencies and I expect that more agencies will use the tool and share their results and lessons so that we can identify areas of best practice.
One of the other areas that I want to focus on in my time as State Services Commissioner is the development of leadership across the State Services. This will require the State Services to be more attractive to leaders currently working in the private sector, while ensuring that we develop the leadership talent of all of those currently working in the State sector.
I am committed to seeing the representation in management roles of women, Māori, Pacific, and Asian people increase towards their levels of representation among Public Service employees.
Trusted State Services
New Zealand continues to enjoy a very high reputation as having a public administration system that is transparent and free from corruption. Transparency International placed us equal first this year in their global survey. The World Bank Governance report issued in late June was similarly complimentary.
Again, to return to a constant theme, we should be encouraged by these results - but we should also be committed in our resolve to continue to improve and to deliver State services that meet New Zealanders' high expectations.
These expectations need to be met as we move towards a general election later in 2008. There can be an increased sensitivity in the relationships, expectations and interactions amongst State servants, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and political parties.
In this election year, as in every year, State servants and State Services agencies must be conscious of the need to be politically neutral and to maintain the trust New Zealanders have in their professional, apolitical State Services.
State servants must be careful, however, to ensure that the ordinary business of government continues in an election year. A heightened awareness of the need to be seen to act with political neutrality does not mean that the day-to-day business of government ceases. I would remind State servants that they take additional care to ensure that their activities, including responding to Official Information Act requests, appointment processes, advertising and promotion campaigns, and the release of discussion documents are not seen, in any way, as anything other than the business of a professional, apolitical State Services.
The Kiwis Count survey found that overall 29 percent of New Zealanders agree that they trust public services, and just under half (49 percent) are neutral about their trust in public services.
Interestingly New Zealanders trust individual public servants and services more highly than public services overall with 67 percent indicating that in their last service experience the public service could be trusted to do what is right.
Less than 25 percent of respondents expressed distrust in public services, signalling a clear imperative for State Services to work to building New Zealanders' trust in their public services.
I expect that agencies will use the Common Measurements Tool to measure the drivers of trust in their agency's interactions with the public and to share those results so that we can make a significant improvement in levels of trust in the State Services.
State Services Commissioner