Shane Jones want to give ministers more power over ministries.
Cabinet Minister Shane Jones, says he would like to “soften that line” between governance and the bureaucracy, including allowing ministers to appoint top officials.
In an interview on the provincial growth fund Jones, the Regional Development Minister railed against a bureaucratic system he characterised as a “treacle-riddled”, slowing down process around funding economic projects, without evidence of improved efficiency.
“I’m looking forward to fighting an election to change the way that politicians relate to the bureaucracy,” Jones said.
“I know we have this separation of governance and the bureaucracy, but I’m really attracted to the idea where the Aussies have softened that line, and key ministers bring in their s…-kickers to get things done. That’s always been my preference.” . . .
Among other things the State Sector Act gives the State Services Commissioner the power over chief executive appointments, without influence from the Beehive, at least in theory.
Unlike many other countries, public servants are required to act in a politically neutral way.
The Public Services Association warned in December that the influence of ministerial advisors, Beehive staff which are appointed to serve the interests of their minister, are undermining this neutrality.
Jones was quick to promote reports of his comments.
“Surely I’m not the only one who would like to see less bureaucracy in this country? Meeting high governance and probity standards should not come at the expense of efficiency and pace in my books,” Jones said on his public Facebook profile.
Is he suggesting we accept lower governance and probity standards?
The Taxpayer’s Union’s executive director Jordan Williams called the comments “bizarre”.
“Shane Jones is suggesting we abandon our Westminster-style independent public service and adopt a corrupt American-style political appointment model. It’s a recipe for unstable, crony, poor governance.” . .
Anyone who has had the misfortune to attempt to move something at anything more than snails’ pace through a government department will understand Jones’ treacle analogy.
Many will have sympathy with his desire to speed processes up.
But let’s not politicise the bureaucracy.
That’s a prescription which would poison the public service and do nothing at all to improve management, governance or productivity.