Gordon Campbell on public service contracting, and the veto 12 Apr 2012
- Around 64,000 fewer recorded crimes News
- Report card on Better Public Service targets published News
- Improvements sought for forestry scheme News
- Attorney-General extends condolences News
- Eric Watson only one of Hanover directors not to settle Business
- Final deadline for flag designs is 16 July 11:59 PM Living
- Network for Learning board reappointments News
- Local Government Amendment Bill – call for submissions News
- The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to visit News
- NZ educators among the world’s best News
It is always dangerous to base a story on personal experience… So this is being offered mainly out of curiosity, to see whether anyone out there has had coalface experience of what this anecdote is about. Here goes.
While seeking an interview for a story with a government department last week, I suggested (to the media officer setting it up) the names of four managers who had publicly commented on aspects of the issue over the past two years, as possible candidates for the interview. No dice. None of them, I was told, were still working for the department. Later on, the interview over, I sought extra data… and the media officer told me she’d get it to me on the Tuesday after Easter. Except by then (only one and a half working days after the interview) her automated out-of-office reply message reported that she too, had gone from the department.
Disconcerting, but I eventually got the data. Yet the same story also required stats from another department. Unfortunately in the time between this department’s media staff receiving and actioning my request they’d been re-structured, the researcher was gone, and the request had to be re-started afresh.
The issue I’m talking about here is not so much job losses in the public service – which are a serious and separate issue – but something more basic. Namely, the way that the short term contracts and stop/start processes now afflicting the public sector are affecting its performance, and what used to be quaintly called its morale.
This is not the same thing, either, as the loss of in-house experience and institutional memory, or the erosion of technical expertise – serious though those trends are, as the Pike River inquiry has been making clear. I’m talking about a malaise where the job security sufficient to see schemes of even one year’s duration through to completion has become somewhat rare and problematic. Staff are being churned at a rate that seems to defy any prospect of heightened efficiency. In several departments there are stories – again anecdotal, just like mine – of new staff being brought in on ridiculously short contracts of say, two months duration, and then let go again. Imagine trying to run anything where the key staff come in cold, and are then let go again in eight weeks time just as the next recruit (if you’re lucky) is ushered in the door for their induction course and briefing session.
I have no idea of how to quantify the extent – much less the opportunity cost – of this phenomenon, but it seems widespread. Almost everyone I know currently working in the public service seems able to recount examples. In the process, the penchant for getting rid of permanent staff and bringing in short-term contractors is not only costing huge amounts in inflated consultancy costs – as Keith Ng has gone a long way to quantifying in this must –read column – it is simply making the public service all but unmanageable. In some cases, managers barely get to know their key staff before their contracts run out, and they are replaced by newbies, or are not replaced at all, pending the next review of funding and/or consideration of the next potential departmental merger.
On the side, the churn in public service staff and independent contractors must be making a mockery of the unemployment figures in Wellington and elsewhere, as people hover between bursts of short term employment. The only people making hay out of this are the “change managers” brought in at huge cost (nearly $10 million so far and counting in the case of MFAT’s bungled reforms) and the recruitment agencies. For a fee, the agencies do the screening of this constantly churning pool of candidates, with some agencies collecting a bonus for any of the people they refer who last as much as six months in the same job.
We are watching the demolition of the public service, at the behest of people ideologically opposed to any notion of service to the public being provided by central government. (These people are takers, not providers.) So….has anyone out there had experience of the impact of the short term contract syndrome?
The Veto Against Children
Private members bills occupy a unique place in our constitutional arrangements. In a one chamber system notably lacking in checks and balances, they enable individual MPs to originate Bills outside of the party machinery, and then seek to get the support of the majority within Parliament to get them passed.
Labour MP Sue Moroney was well on the way to doing just that – with every indication that she’d get a parliamentary majority for her Bill to extend paid parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks, over time. This proposal was to be phased in gradually – and was not due to be implemented in full until after the country’s books are expected to be back in surplus.
No such luck. Before it could be given its first reading in the House – much less before it is sent to select committee where its merits and affordability could be objectively assessed – National has announced it will veto the Bill at its third reading, should it get that far. The government has simply decided to try and pre-empt Parliamentary debate by rendering it futile – and as Finance Minister Bill English made clear on RNZ this morning, Parliament can expect that any legislative measure that involves extra costs will meet the same fate, unless it entails spending on issues and/or cronies that the government deems worthy of support.
The veto exists for a purpose. It is meant to be a measure of last resort – and was never intended to be deployed to pre-empt and skew a public debate and parliamentary vote that looks like being embarrassing for the government.
This particular use of the veto is about political management, not financial management. Yes, the same government that found $1.8 billion to bail out investors and speculators in South Canterbury Finance has shown itself willing to intimidate Parliament from the outset in its attempts to debate, analyse and vote on a measure that involves spending a relatively paltry $150 million (by year four) to assist families, and to give children a better start in life.
2 Jul 2015 Canterbury Earthquake
The regeneration of Christchurch will be the city’s focus for the next five years as local leadership progressively takes... more
2 Jul 2015 News
Government Welcomes Successful WTO Trade Policy Review Trade Minister Tim Groser today welcomed the conclusions of the 5th World... more
2 Jul 2015 Business News
TPP too big to fail, says visiting US trade deal specialist Petri July 2 (BusinessDesk) - Too much political capital has been... more
24 Jun 2015 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain, led by A2 as potential bidder unmasked; dividends appeal By Jonathan ... more
24 Jun 2015 Lifestyle
The Remarkables June 24 2015 The Remarkables ski area to kick off 2015 season this Saturday The Remarkables ski area in Queenstown... more
23 Jun 2015 Lifestyle
SOUNZ For immediate release SMCO-SOUNZ Composer Workshop selected works announced SOUNZ and Auckland based St Matthews Chamber... more
24 Jun 2015 Property
New Zealand Government Hon Anne Tolley Minister for Social Development 24 June 2015 Extending Canterbury accommodation... more
22 Jun 2015 Migration
NZ migration rises to new annual record in May, closing in on Treasury's upside scenario June 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand... more
24 Jun 2015 Travel & Tourism
Article - BusinessDesk Air NZ sees annual earnings rising by as much as 60% By Paul McBeth June 24 (BusinessDesk) - Air New... more
19 Jun 2015 Travel & Tourism
Analysts divided on impact on Air NZ's earnings of Jetstar's regional routes challenge June 19 (BusinessDesk) - Analysts are... more
2 Jul 2015 Sport
Kiwi Artem Sitak braves soaring temperatures and a lengthy battle to make it into the second round of doubles at Wimbledon.Kiwi Davis... more
2 Jul 2015 Opinion
Its hard to see how Rio Tinto’s one month delay in announcing its intentions about the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is a good... more
24 Jun 2015 Column
Column - Gordon Campbell Gordon Campbell on telling the poor to ask for more The government’s
2 Jul 2015 Appointments
New Zealand Government Hon Dr Nick Smith Minister for the Environment New EPA board appointments Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith ... more
2 Jul 2015 Appointments
New Chair and Commissioners appointed to the Maori Language Commission The Maori Development Minister is pleased to announce that... more
23 Jun 2015 Recruitment
Apprentice of the Year Competition Carpentry apprentices go head to head in national competition Entries for the Registered Master ... more
26 May 2015 Press Releases
NZ employees rate work-life balance as top priority, while job seekers eye cash, survey shows May 26 (BusinessDesk) - New... more