Political parties’ access to information, including policy costings
During government formation negotiations
The State Services Commissioner manages agency involvement in the negotiations to form a government.
Inter-party negotiations to form a government are the business of politicians. However, the negotiating parties may want information and analysis from the State sector on issues that might form part of any coalition, support or other agreement. This includes policy costings information.
Agencies must follow a procedure when providing information
In the government formation process, all the State sector agencies must follow the State Service Commissioner’s procedure to provide information and analysis to negotiating parties. The process is mandatory. The State Services Commissioner works closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) and the Treasury to coordinate the process.
Refer information requests to the State Services Commissioner
Central agency chief executives play a key role in providing information and analysis to political parties in the formation of government period.
Agencies that receive direct requests for information or assistance from political parties (including parties represented in the Government) must refer the requests to the State Services Commissioner.
The State Services Commissioner coordinates the response
The State Services Commissioner, DPMC Chief Executive, Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of the Cabinet may meet with the political party to clarify the request and decide which agencies are best placed to provide assistance.
The Treasury is consulted on requests for costing political party policies.
Find out more about political party policy costings.
The process for political parties to access information
Once an information request is received by the State Services Commissioner and a decision has been made to grant the request, the State Services Commissioner will make a written request to the relevant agency or agencies for the information the political party is seeking.
Only State servants directly involved in providing information or analysis are privy to the exercise. Information can be provided to political parties by agencies in writing or at a meeting. Meetings are arranged through the State Services Commissioner. If the information request involves agencies that have a monitoring department, the request will be copied to the monitoring department’s chief executive. For example, an information request to a district health board will be copied to the Director-General of Health.
Using policy costings information
Policy costings are official information and may be requested and released under the Official Information Act 1982.
There is a convention between Ministers and the State services, that Ministers will not require nor use information on costings that has been provided during government formation in a way that might damage the political neutrality of the State services, and its ability to serve successive governments.
After government formation negotiations
When political party negotiations have concluded, but portfolio allocations have not yet been announced, in cases of great urgency chief executives may provide advice to the incoming government through the Prime Minister-designate.
The advice may be given only after the incumbent Prime Minister has given express consent and a process has been agreed with the State Services Commissioner.
If portfolios have been allocated but the incoming Ministers have not yet been formally appointed, chief executives may, with the approval of the incumbent Prime Minister and with the knowledge of the incumbent Minister and the State Services Commissioner, brief incoming Ministers on their portfolio responsibilities. The Secretary of the Cabinet will inform chief executives of the Prime Minister’s authorisation.