Wanted: a CEO who can bring lost prestige back to MFAT

The mega shuffle of public service CEOs  (which   Point of  Order   noted  in  a   June  13 post, State Services: What’s behind the “Upheaval”) throws up some  significant challenges for the States Services Commission.

Most interest is focused on a   replacement  for  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s CEO, Dr Brook Barrington, who will move to the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet early next year to become, in effect, the government’s senior public adviser.

The State Services Commission – and probably Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – will be reluctant to follow Murray McCully’s example in the last government of bringing in a private-sector replacement CEO.  MFAT itself has two good candidates: Bede Corry, currently deputy CEO, and Chris Seed, about to finish his term as high commissioner in Canberra.

Given Peters’ early pronouncement of Australia constituting NZ’s most important diplomatic relationship, Seed may have his nose in front.

But there  may be  other candidates.  Tony Lynch,  at present deputy secretary, Ministry of Defence, could be interested given his undoubted disappointment at missing the top Defence post which was handed to Andrew Bridgeman,  who moved on from  being CEO of the Justice Ministry.

Vangelis Vitalis, currently MFAT’S trade supremo, could be a candidate although his particular skills in  trade  negotiations  may be seen  as indispensable because several trade pacts are at  critical  phases  of  initiation, implementation or  revision.

What  the  government – Peters in particular – may be  looking for  in the  new  MFAT  boss  will be  the  qualities  which  will   restore the  ministry  to  the place  it once  enjoyed  at the  apex of the  public service.

Given  that the  post  of  CEO of the DPMC  is  regarded  as the closest  adviser to the  PM,  there is  still  considerable  debate about why Andrew  Kibblewhite  was  moved from  it  to take over  as  CEO of the  Justice  Ministry,  where  he will be  advising  the Minister of Justice  Andrew  Little.

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