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.