State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, announcing five top appointments in the state sector, said he decided to deal with the vacancies as a package to remove uncertainty and maintain momentum in key roles and portfolios.
The Dominion-Post headlined the news as“Upheaval for public service”. Richard Harman in Politik, labeling it as the most comprehensive reshuffle of top public service management “ever”, argued the govt is saying the move reflects its desire that a more unified old-style public service be further developed. David Farrar, in Kiwiblog, noting the appointments were made by transfer, thought this is the first time this power has been used.
“It is very good to see these decisions made before most of the roles fall vacant. This means no need for an Acting CE, and gives good continuity and direction”.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commisioner Dr Jackie Blue has a different take on it. She blasted the process as unfair to top women in the public service, and contended the vacant positions should have been contestable.
Hughes’ moves are:
- At the end of Helene Quilter’s term as Secretary of Defence at the Ministry of Defence, which has been extended through to 30 June 2019, she will be succeeded by Andrew Bridgman, currently Secretary for Justice. He has been appointed Secretary of Defence in the Ministry of Defence for five years from 1 July 2019.
- Andrew Kibblewhite, who is CEO, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, has been appointed Secretary for Justice for five years from 1 February 2019.
- Brook Barrington, currently Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has been appointed Chief Executive, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, for five years from 1 February 2019.
- On the retirement of Martyn Dunne, the current Director-General for Primary Industries in the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ray Smith, currently Chief Executive, Department of Corrections, has been appointed Director-General for Primary Industries for five years from 1 November 2018.
- Following the decision of current Secretary for Internal Affairs, Colin MacDonald to step down and pursue new opportunities, Paul James, currently CEO at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, has been appointed Secretary for Internal Affairs for five years from 1 October 2018.
As one of the truly outstanding leaders within the state bureaucracy serving successive govts, Peter Hughes may have delivered his masterstroke in this reshuffle.
Yet some may wonder if this is all as straightforward as it looks. The coffee shops along The Terrace and Lambton Quay have been humming with speculation.
Shane Jones’ displeasure with some bureaucrats and Phil Twyford’s scorn for the “kids of Treasury”, (a comment which sent a twinkle across the face of Treasury boss Gabriel Mahklouf) underpinned the belief of those thinking there is more than meets the eye in such an “upheaval”.
The broader issue traces back to the huge range of inquiries, reviews, independent panels and working groups set up by the current coalition govt to probe matters and seek answers, where in normal circumstances ministers would be asking, and relying, on their ministries to provide the appropriate advice.
The long and proud tradition within the NZ public service has been to deliver advice of the highest quality without fear or favour.
That tradition would be eroded if ministers are not happy with the advice they are getting, or exhibit the tendency to accept only advice they want to hear.
You can expect the next series of public sector appointments – particularly for MFAT and Corrections – to be even more closely scrutinised .