9 April 2015
A quiet revolution is underway in the provision of public services. Under the guise of its “Better Public Services” programme the Government is stealthily but deliberately changing the way in which public services are delivered, and also, and perhaps more importantly, the way the public service identifies and designs the services it provides.
The more public area of this process is the 10 Key Result Areas, which for the first time sets specific targets and performance goals for public sector agencies. Specific policy outcomes are being linked to services provided. By focusing, for example, on reducing the numbers of vulnerable children, or reducing the level of petty crime, the Government is really making clear the link between its policy objectives and its specific activities.
The implications of all this are as clear as they are dramatic. No longer will what is essentially displacement activity be tolerated. There has to be a clear purpose for the provision of public services, and a definable outcome. Just doing things the same because this is the way they have always been done is no longer an option. Of course, fiscal considerations are a driver, but they are by no means the only one. Government agencies are being more thoroughly challenged to think about the Government’s policy objectives and the best way to achieve these. What that has done has been to start to unleash a new responsiveness within the public sector, which has seen many more innovative solutions being proposed, and a more equal dialogue between Ministers and public servants on what can be achieved than has been the case in recent experience.
As Minister of internal Affairs I am responsible for Result Area 10, which relates to the provision of on-line government services. Our objective is to have 70% of transactions in ten major area of public interaction performed on-line by 2017. Presently, the figure sits at just over 46%, leaving us well on target to achieve the 2017 goal. Passport renewal is the shining example, with over 40% of renewals already carried out on-line, within a couple of days.
Now, of course there are dinosaurs who either resist, ignore, or remain suspicious of what all this means. Some, but by no means all, of the state unions remain in that camp, but that is no real surprise as some are still fighting the passage of the State Sector Act 27 years ago!
The worst and most arrogant dinosaurs are those quasi-government bodies who somehow think the Government’s policies do not apply to them, and that they can just carry on doing what they have always done. The worst, by a country mile and then some, is the New Zealand Transport Agency which, leaving aside its precious and downright silly pronouncements on road safety, regards itself as a complete law unto itself when building new state highways is concerned, as my constituents in Tawa and Takapu are presently finding out.
NZTA’s sublime arrogance in proceeding with a link road proposal the neither local people, nor local authorities want or think is even necessary is breathtaking in the extreme. But what is more repugnant is NZTA’s clumsy attempts at blackmail –threatening to withdraw funding from the widely supported Petone to Grenada road unless it gets its own way on the link road.
If NZTA cannot understand and respond to the depth of local feeling on this issue, then maybe it is time to unceremoniously dump its current entire board and senior management and replace them who fully understand – and support – the concept of Better Public Services.