Public Service no place for zealots

“Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day

Many people come to government to try to support a good cause. They don’t realise the one who has to determine which good cause is to be supported is the democratically minister of the day. And quite a lot of departments, not slinging off at their professionalism but say DOC, you get a lot of people who join DOC because they know they want to save a kakapo and if not a kakapo it will be the lesser spotted whatever. And if the lesser spotted whatever is not on the minister’s list of priorities they’ll find it hard to do.

A key part of the role of senior public servants is to explain to them well it is the minister who has to take the heat in public about that and the public servant really isn’t just employed to follow their own interests and if they want to follow their interests they can go and work in the private sector like anyone else. . .

. . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

This is an extract from Mark Prebble’s  discussion with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon.

He was referring to central government but Kiwiblog’s posts on why ECan was sacked  and ECan vs its own commissioners show what he says should also apply in local government.

Some of the officers have at times adopted more of an advocacy role than a neutral advisory role. …

The regional councillors have been replaced by commissioners. Very little has been said yet on the need for a change of staff as well but unless there is a change of attitude and/or personal the problems in ECan will continue.

3 Responses to Public Service no place for zealots

  1. David says:

    David, I’ve deleted your comment because I think it might be defamatory. You’re welcome to try again by discussing the issue without attacking a person. Ele.


  2. kismet says:

    I have decided that this problem (employees with an agenda) is rife at local government level. I’ve discussed it with councillors over the years – pointing out that a person is incapable of rational thought on an issue because of their bias, and they have usually been aware of the problem – the thing is nothing seems to be done about it. (I did hear of one employee getting a written warning over some blatant biased behaviour but that is about it – I am not sure he has even changed his ways particularly)


  3. gravedodger says:

    @Kismet Dont limit your very appropriate comments to local authority. Public service is an historical description of those who chose to take a job with any public funded authority. There has been virtually no separation of the job delivery and the ideology of the deliverer for some time now and we are the worse for that.
    All blacks do not always make good administrators and/or coaches and it is also true that education will never make a good manager or employee. We place far too great an emphasis on appointing a PhD to a position of influence when a person who left school at 16, for what ever reason, could be the leader required. I accept it is a lot harder to identify that lessor educated person.
    One thing education and/or occupation of a position of leadership is guaranteed to deliver is the well known outcomes of arrogance, I know best, superiority and isolated behaviour that manifests all to often.
    I have felt for many years the salaried leadership of Ecant has been far too ideologically driven and the elected seem to have either concurred, ignored or been too incompetent to recognise that fact and try to modify some of the outrageous behavior of that leadership.


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