State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has today expressed concern about any prospect of a register of political affiliations for State servants. Mr Rennie’s concern follows reported comments from a Select Committee hearing that TVNZ may consider requiring staff to formally declare any political allegiances or political party membership, subject to the findings of TVNZ’s current inquiry.
Around 165,000 State servants in a wide range of roles all around the country, including TVNZ employees, are subject to the State Services Code of Conduct.
The Code of Conduct requires State Servants to be politically neutral at work and to not allow their personal interests or relationships to affect their professional responsibilities.
In their private lives, State servants generally have the same rights as any other citizen when it comes to their personal political opinions and affiliations. This includes the right to hold political views and the right to freedom of association.
“All State servants must balance their professional roles and responsibilities with their private views and keep their job out of their politics and their politics out of their job,” Mr Rennie said.
“It would not be appropriate for any organisation in the State Services to monitor or keep a register of their staff’s political views or affiliations,” he said.
State servants must ensure their actions are not affected by personal interests or relationships at any time. Any personal interests or relationships that have the potential to cause a conflict of interest must be actively managed.
The State Services Commission issues detailed guidance on the State Services Code of Conduct, “Understanding the Code”. The guidance acknowledges that political involvement could, in some circumstances, be seen as a conflict of interest that would need to be managed, depending on the functions, responsibilities and seniority of the role.
The guidance states “Although political affiliations are similar to other interests requiring management to avoid conflict, it is not appropriate for organisations to maintain any register of such affiliations”.
“Any State servant who feels they may have an actual or potential conflict of interest should discuss this with their manager as soon as they become aware of it,” Mr Rennie said.
The State Services Commission recently issued guidance on the 2014 election, reminding all State servants of the need to remain politically neutral in their professional roles.
The State Services Code of Conduct and detailed guidance are available on the SSC website at http://www.ssc.govt.nz/code
A list of agencies covered by the Code of Conduct is available at http://www.ssc.govt.nz/code-organisations
Media enquiries: Lisa-Marie Richan, Director, SSC Communications and Head of Profession 021 244 1361