Legislative milestone for public service reform

  • Jonathan Coleman
State Services

The State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill concluded its first reading debate in Parliament this afternoon, says State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman.

“This omnibus bill is one of the initiatives by the government as part of its Better Public Services reforms,” said Dr Coleman.

“It is progress towards a more innovative, efficient public sector that delivers better results for New Zealanders,” he said. 

Other parties have been consulted on the proposals in the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill, which amends the State Sector, Public Finance and Crown Entities Acts. 

The proposed changes provide a wider range of public sector management tools to support and encourage:

  • Government agencies collaborating more and organising themselves around results.
  • Government agencies sharing functions and services,  co-ordinating on purchasing goods and services, and developing systems together in order to leverage the scale and expertise of the state sector.
  • Greater financial and reporting flexibility and the provision of more meaningful performance information to Parliament.
  • Stronger leadership at the system, sector and departmental level to achieve the desired change in the performance of the state sector.

Delivering better public services is one of the Government’s four priorities for this term. 

“A claim made by the New Zealand First associate finance spokesman Andrew Williams today that this legislation will give the Prime Minister “complete dictatorship” over the State Services Commissioner is nonsense,” said Dr Coleman.

“The clause 6 (J) Mr Williams referred to is being carried over in identical wording from the current legislation, which has been in existence since 1988,” he said.

More information on the Government’s Better Public Services reforms, including the pre-introduction Parliamentary briefing provided to other parties and the Cabinet papers and decisions approving the legislative proposals, can be found at:  www.ssc.govt.nz/bps-background-material

Better Public Services legislation changes

The proposed changes to the State Sector Act 1988 will:

  • Strengthen the State Services Commissioner’s role in leading the state services.
  • Extend chief executives’ responsibilities to consider the collective interests of government and longer-term sustainability, rather than focusing on single departments or agencies.
  • Add a new organisational arrangement – Departmental Agencies - to the options available for delivering public services. These operational agencies will be set up within a department to carry out a specific function and their chief executive will report directly to a minister.
  • Improve governance across the system.
  • Ensure the State Sector Act is modern, flexible and generally fit for purpose.

The proposed changes to the Public Finance Act 1989 will:

  • Clarify chief executives’ responsibilities for strategic financial management and stewardship.
  • Improve financial flexibility to support innovation and different ways of working within government.
  • Provide more meaningful information to Parliament about what the government is spending and achieving.
  • Encourage more strategic reporting on future intentions, and reduce related compliance costs.
  • Specify the governance regime for Public Finance Act Schedule 4 companies.

The proposed changes to the Crown Entities Act 2004 will:

  • Support sector-wide leadership by strengthening the alignment of Crown entities.
  • Support leadership of particular functions across entities by expanding the scope for the use of whole-of-government directions.
  • Simplify, streamline, and improve planning and reporting provisions.
  • Formalise the role of the monitoring department and the Minister of State Services’ ability to request information.
  • Improve the operation of the legislation.