- Title page
- State Services Commissioner's Foreword
- Purpose of this document
- Part 1: State Services Commissioner's role
- Part 2: Scope of State Services Commissioner's interest
- Part 3: Variations between Crown entities
- Part 4: Preliminary thoughts on the minimum standards of integrity and conduct
- Part 5: Key Questions
State Services Commissioner's Foreword
Amendments to the State Sector Act have changed the scope of the State Services Commissioner's mandate. An important change is the power to set minimum standards of conduct for many of the agencies which make up the State Services, and to apply those standards by way of a code or codes of conduct. The legislation does not specify either the character or the content of a code of conduct. My intention is to engage with Crown entities to identify integrity provisions which may already be in place, and explore whether setting additional standards may contribute to increased trust in government and confidence in the State Services. This discussion document is intended to give focus to that engagement and to elicit an understanding of the approaches entities take to integrity and conduct.
Although behavioural obligations may differ according to a Crown entity's function, I believe that there are underpinning ethical requirements which apply throughout the State Services. These are:
- to fulfill lawful obligations to the Government with professionalism and integrity
- to perform official duties honestly, faithfully and efficiently, respecting the rights of the public and colleagues
- not to bring the State Services into disrepute through private activities.
However, I have not developed a view on how these requirements should be recognised or whether behavioural obligations should be implemented in a uniform way.
In some Crown entities a compliance approach may have evolved which emphasises the importance of external controls on behaviour. This, typically, may involve a code of conduct comprising formal, detailed rules and procedures. In other entities, an integrity approach may be followed with an emphasis on learning values, and developing decision making skills which apply those values in daily practice. This is likely to involve value codes, integrity training and an ethics network. The likelihood is that many Crown entities have a mixture of these processes specified for staff, but have less formal requirements for Board members.
I am keen to understand how Crown entities manage conduct and integrity matters before giving consideration to setting minimum standards as provided for in the State Sector Act.
Ethical considerations impact on a number of aspects of a Crown entity's business. This discussion document identifies "14 issues" which would appear to have particular relevance. These reflect consideration of a range of questions including:
- What obligation does a Crown entity have to maintain a sound working relationship with Ministers and prospective Ministers?
- Should there be limits on the ability of particular Crown entities to make public comment about Government policy?
- What are the requirements for fairness and responsiveness in providing services to the public?
- Are there activities in which Crown entity board members and staff should not become involved, if public confidence in the State Services is to be maintained?
- Should there be limits on offering and accepting hospitality which may strengthen business relationships?
- Should the expectations held of staff differ from what is expected of board members, and how is awareness of these expectations developed?
The approaches Crown entities take to these issues will help me decide what I should do next.
Over the next nine months the State Services Commission and departments with entity monitoring responsibilities will engage with Crown entities (possibly aggregated into groups reflecting responsibilities or types of entities) to gather information which will help me understand what is in place. From this I hope to be able to determine how a code or codes might contribute to maintaining or strengthening integrity in the State Services.
I look forward to exploring with Crown entities how best we can give effect to the Government's expectations that everyone working in the State Services, regardless of the agency they work for, demonstrates high standards of integrity and conduct.
State Services Commissioner