State Services Commission, ISBN 978-0-478-30314-8, 2007, updated September 2009. A new code of conduct for the State Services, 'Standards of Integrity and Conduct', came into effect on 30 November 2007. The code for the State Services supersedes the 'Public Service Code of Conduct'.  This publication, 'Implementing the Code of Conduct', provides resources for State Services organisations, together with links to other relevant material. To print/download this publication, use the PDF version attached above. See also:

'Understanding the Code of Conduct - Guidance for State servants

Questions and answers about the code

State Services organisations covered by the new code

Media statement from the State Services Commissioner on the launch For further information email:


The importance of trust in the State Services

New Zealanders' trust in and respect for government is based on the integrity of our institutions, including the organisations across the State Services. The State Services collectively implements the policies of the Government, providing and administering a wide range of public functions and services. State servants are guardians of what ultimately belongs to the public, and the public expects State servants to serve and safeguard its interests.

Every State servant has a part to play in acting with integrity to maintain New Zealanders' confidence in the State Services. New Zealanders expect that State servants will behave ethically, and be conscientious and competent in their work. Misuse of a position or of powers, or a failure to meet expectations, causes people to lose trust in government. They then do not seek the help they are entitled to; do not provide information necessary for delivering effective services; resist paying tax; and become increasingly resentful of the State Services. A perceived integrity failure in one part of government can impact negatively on the opinion people hold of the State Services as a whole. It is therefore essential that all State servants seek to strengthen public trust in the State Services and that they reinforce in their behaviour the spirit of service.

The New Zealand State Services is one of the most honest and transparent in the world. New Zealand is recognised internationally for its public administration being largely free of corruption. Adherence to published standards and an expectation of high ethical behaviour contribute to this rating, and engender a level of public trust that the State Services Commissioner seeks to strengthen with a code of conduct .

"We all work for the Government and have an obligation to the public to behave in a trustworthy way. Sharing high standards of integrity provides a unifying sense of values which must strengthen the State Services and improve New Zealanders' trust in them."

The State Services Commissioner's role as leader on integrity and conduct

The State Sector Act 1988 enabled the State Services Commissioner to set minimum standards of integrity and conduct for Public Service departments, and consequently the Public Service Code of Conduct   was issued in 1990. This described the core principles of public service and set out the standards of conduct required of public servants.

The State Sector Amendment Act 2004 extended the Commissioner's mandate to provide advice and guidance on integrity and conduct to employees across the State Services (defined to include departments, corporations, agencies and other instruments, but excluding SOE, TEIs and CRIs), and to set minimum standards of integrity and conduct for most organisations in the State Services (i.e. the Public Service, Parliamentary Counsel Office, Parliamentary Services, and most Crown entities). This includes the power to issue a code of conduct setting minimum standards that can be added to, or made more detailed, to reflect an organisation's circumstances.

A purpose of the State Sector Act 1988, is to ensure that employees in the State Services are imbued with the spirit of service to the community, and that employees in the State Services maintain standards of integrity and conduct. It provides for the appointment of departmental chief executives who will imbue the spirit of service, and imposes a duty on them to ensure that all employees maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest. The Crown Entities Act 2004 imposes a similar requirement on Crown entities to perform with a spirit of service to the public.

The code - what it does and does not do

Standards of Integrity and Conduct seeks to reinforce a spirit of service and sets common standards of behaviour required from the diverse range of people and roles across the State Services. It offers a framework within which to make informed judgements when faced with competing interests and conflicting values - when the 'right answer' is not readily apparent.

The code applies to organisations in the Public Service, to Statutory entities and to many other Crown entities within the Commissioner's mandate.

The code does not provide detailed explanations of appropriate behaviour in every situation. Instead, the standards reflect values that, with judgement, have universal application in all State Services organisations. It is the responsibility of all State servants to comply with the code and to maintain the high level of trust between the State Services and the public, Ministers and Parliament.

The six elements that are essential to supporting trustworthy behaviour are:

  • Agencies of the State Services have standards of integrity and conduct that meet the minimum standards in the State Services Commissioner's code of conduct.
  • Agencies of the State Services promote their standards of integrity and conduct.
  • Standards of integrity and conduct are integrated into the behaviour of State servants.
  • Managers model the standards of integrity and conduct in their behaviour.
  • The consequences for behaviour that breaches the standards of integrity and conduct are known by State servants.
  • Agencies act decisively when breaches occur.

Trustworthiness exhibited by State servants

In 2007 and again in 2010, the SSC undertook the New Zealand State Services Integrity and Conduct Survey to measure the trustworthiness of State servants. ( ) .

The survey reflects State servants views about the trustworthiness of their colleagues, based on the '6 trust elements'.

The overall findings from the survey are positive and in line with the high regard for the New Zealand public sector shown by international surveys of corruption. Almost all State servants reported that their agencies have written standards of integrity and conduct.

While many agencies have a focus on integrity, there is room for improvement under all six elements essential to supporting trustworthy behaviour. There is a continuing need to promote standards of integrity and conduct. More must be done to integrate these standards into State servants' behaviour. The survey identified the role of senior managers in communicating the importance of integrity and modelling good behaviour as a particular area for improvement. When senior managers are explicit in promoting a strong ethical culture, they motivate their staff to act with integrity. Agencies must act decisively when breaches of standards occur and State servants must be clear about the consequences of breaching standards.

Checklist for Implementation

State Services agencies must:

  • comply with the minimum standards of integrity and conduct set out in the State Services Commissioner's code of conduct
  • have in place policies and procedures that are consistent with the standards set out in the code of conduct.

The checklist below outlines the tasks that organisations may need to undertake when implementing the Commissioner's code of conduct. Some of the tasks will be vital for all organisations, while others may be more or less relevant, depending on the organisation's particular circumstances.

The checklist is organised to reflect the six trust elements.

I Agencies of the State Services have standards of integrity and conduct that meet the State Services Commissioner's minimum standards

  • Ensure policies, procedures and training give effect to the Commissioner's standards. Rewrite any internal policies that are inconsistent with the code of conduct, and where necessary write new policies for the organisation that reflect the standards that are set out in the code.
  • Ensure organisation-specific codes of conduct that apply additional or detailed standards are consistent with the Commissioner's code. Consider treating the Commissioner's code as the foundation code upon which the organisation can build.
  • While employees are legally obliged to comply with the code whether or not the code is mentioned in their terms and conditions of employment, organisations should consider specifying in employment agreements that staff are subject to the standards.
  • Consider the extent to which contractors, work-placement students, volunteers, secondees, and any other people working in the organisation will be covered by the code, and confirm if the standards are to apply to them. As a general rule, if contractors, work-placement students, and other people working in the organisation are in a position to compromise the integrity of the organisation or the State Services, they should be subject to the code.
  • Public Service departments should replace references to the Public Service Code of Conduct in policies, employment agreements, organisation codes and other documents, with references to Standards of Integrity and Conduct .

All agencies should be alert to the requirements set out in the Cabinet Manual about Integrity and Conduct across the State sector. ( ) In particular paragraph 3.50 "Employees in the State sector must act with a spirit of service to the community, and meet high standards of integrity and conduct in everything they do. In particular, employees must be fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy.

II Agencies of the State Services promote their standards of integrity and conduct

  • Ensure that staff know they are legally required to comply with the code of conduct and understand what is expected of them as a result. The organisation must ensure that everyone to whom the code applies has access to it or is given a copy of it. Organisations should place orders with the State Services Commission for printed copies of the code, and any A3 poster versions they require
  • Assist understanding and compliance with the code by:
    • drawing attention to the code
    • displaying the code in work areas, tea rooms, meeting rooms, etc.
    • ensuring the code is available on the organisation's intranet, and that staff are informed of this
    • including with the intranet version of the code other resources such as guidelines, questions and answers, the process for reporting breaches, etc.
    • asking staff to sign a form or to send an email acknowledgment to say they have read and understood the code.
  • Ensure that training:
    • informs staff of the standards of behaviour expected of them in the specific context of the organisation
    • makes staff aware of the relationship of the code to existing codes, integrity policies and practices of the organisation
    • includes the code in induction courses, and in other training sessions as appropriate.

III Standards of integrity and conduct are integrated into the behaviour of State servants

  • Ensure integrity-rich behaviour is built into the culture of the organisation. Clear processes for registering conflicts, declaring gifts and benefits, and proper use of organisational resources should, for example, be the accepted and expected way things are done.
  • Include 'achieving high standards of integrity and conduct' in performance review processes.
  • Ensure that integrity standards are identified in selection criteria for jobs and that selection processes address the analysis and review of ethical behaviour.
  • Send the code to candidates prior to job interviews. At the interview, ask whether candidates have read the code and have any questions about it. Explore how standards can best be complied with, in carrying out the job specifications.

IV Managers model the standards of integrity and conduct in their behaviour

  • Ensure the chief executive's and/or board's endorsement of the code is referred to at induction courses and at training sessions on the code.
  • Managers at all levels and/or board members demonstrate their awareness of the code standards by modelling them in their own behaviour.
  • Leaders throughout the organisation encourage regular discussion of the standards as they apply to the work of the particular organisation.
  • Leaders throughout the organisation require direct reports on actions taken to promote the code.

V The consequences for behaviour that breaches the standards of integrity and conduct are known by State servants

  • Ensure that the processes for reporting behaviour that breaches the code are known and are accessible, by including this information on the intranet, in a staff manual or in other conduct-related documents.
  • Promote a sense of responsibility among all staff to alert managers to breaches of the code.
  • Ensure there is feedback to staff who report concerns about possible code breaches, acknowledging their commitment to reinforcing the code's standards.
  • Include the contact details for the State Services Commission's integrity and conduct help desk with other information on this issue; phone (04) 495 6722 or email:

VI Agencies act decisively when breaches occur

  • Ensure staff know how to report unacceptable behaviour.
  • Ensure that processes are in place to investigate alleged breaches of the code of conduct as soon as the organisation becomes aware of them.
  • Raise awareness of the organisation's Protected Disclosures policy.
  • Contact the State Services Commission and/or the monitoring department of your organisation (if a Crown entity) in the event of a likely serious breach of the code. The Commissioner may wish to investigate under section 57C of the State Sector Act, and the responsible Minister may need to be advised.
  • Have in place a records system to maintain information on integrity and conduct issues that arise in the organisation. Use this data for review, planning and communication, and to monitor code compliance.
  • Follow the guidance of the Office of the Auditor General, that suspected fraud is reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Statutory entities are Crown agents, Autonomous Crown entities and Independent Crown entities



Copyright: Crown copyright

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