Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Minister urged to heed Public Service Commission advice

The Public Service Association has urged Minister Nicola Willis to heed the advice of the Public Service Commission to not use “blunt instruments” to reduce expenditure if it wants to avoid impacting essential public services.

In its briefing to the Minister for Public Service, the Commission stated, “we do not recommend blunt instruments (i.e. caps or hiring freezes) as an effective means of re-prioritising resources”.

“This is sensible advice which the Minister should take on board – but right now across the board spending cuts of between 6.5% and 7.5% coupled with hiring freezes, will have an impact on the public services New Zealanders rely on,” said PSA National Secretary, Duane Leo.

“A blanket directive is to all intents and purposes the very blunt instrument that the Public Service Commission is suggesting Minister Willis avoid. She had this advice when she became a Minister, but now seems hell bent on ignoring it in this reckless cost cutting drive.

“As the commission warns, the Minister could end up with perverse outcomes such as not having the resources and capabilities to deliver on its own priorities and may end up having to hire more contractors and consultants.”

In the same briefing, the Commission told the new Minister, “people and their skills are the greatest asset the Public Service has – but more can be done to use them effectively”.

“We agree with the commission that there are better ways of getting more out of the public service,” said Mr Leo.

“For example, it suggests the pooling of skills into an ‘in-house consultancy hub’ which could be drawn upon for major projects without having to hire external consultants.

“This kind of smart workforce planning can help agencies deal with different peaks – retaining expertise for when they need it while allowing other agencies to draw on this pool of talent. That can also help build more rewarding career paths for workers.

“This should be the approach of the Government rather than looking at head counts in isolation of the good work the public service does across the country in supporting New Zealanders.

“One thing we agree on with the Government is the need to hire fewer external consultants. But that can’t be achieved by taking an axe to the public service as it scrambles to find money for tax cuts it can’t afford.

“We need to invest in the public service, not run it down, if we are to keep supporting an increasing and ageing population, and deal with our big challenges like climate change and the infrastructure deficit,” he said. 

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