Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Framework to further strengthen NZ public sector core of integrity

Auditor-General, John Ryan, has today released an integrity framework and guidance for New Zealand’s public sector.

Mr Ryan said while the nation’s public service carried globally enviable levels of trust, it was important that complacency did not arise as a result.

He said the integrity framework aimed to support senior leaders and those in governance roles to deliver on their stewardship responsibility to support the integrity of the public sector.

“It is designed to build on a public organisation’s own cultural and ethical values, emphasise the importance of ethical leadership and tone from the top, and leverage existing internal controls and business practices,” Auditor-General Ryan said.

He said that to maintain public trust and confidence, public organisations needed to show that they were trustworthy and were acting in the interests of all New Zealanders.

“We need to stay vigilant and ensure that this trust is maintained over time.”

“We also know that trust is not equally shared by all parts of society – for example, surveys suggest that Māori, Pasifika, and people with disabilities have lower levels of trust in the public service than the general population.

“…The public sector must be accountable for the management and delivery of public services and outcomes, for the direction and control of the work it does, the resources it manages, and for its behaviour and ethics.”

“Where there is a question about any one of these characteristics, trust can be eroded. Simply put, people care at least as much about how things are done as they do about what is done,” Mr Ryan said.

In developing the framework and guidance, Office of the Audior-General staff reviewed New Zealand and international research on organisational integrity. They analysed integrity models from New Zealand and other jurisdictions and recommendations from New Zealand integrity-related reviews.

“We have tested the framework by talking to experts and academics in the integrity and ethics fields and carrying out interviews and case studies with public organisations already working on these matters,” Mr Ryan said.

“My staff interviewed and held workshops with senior leaders, people leaders, and front-line staff in local and central government organisations. They also had discussions with agencies with a role to play in influencing ethics and integrity in the public sector. This has included Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission, Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ), and the Serious Fraud Office.”

He said the framework was partially informed by Māori frameworks, mostly in the “ways of working” component.

“My staff also used insights from kaupapa Māori research and some work I commissioned on Māori perspectives on accountability. However, I acknowledge that we have more work to do to fully integrate te ao Māori into the framework and to provide guidance on demonstrating integrity to Māori. This will be the focus of the next phase of work on the framework and guidance.”

He also acknowledged the role of Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission in leading, supporting and promoting integrity in the public sector.

“This framework is intended to be consistent with those standards and guidance and refers to them throughout, where relevant.”

“I urge chief executives, leadership teams, and governing boards to consider this framework in the context of their organisations. It is intended to serve as helpful guidance for all public organisations, including both central and local government.

“I hope that this will enable a more holistic and mature approach to supporting integrity and, in turn, continue to protect and improve the high trust and confidence that New Zealanders have in our public sector.”

Access the framework via this link.

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