State Services Commissioner – role and functions

Last updated: 8 August 2013

Read about the statutory responsibilities of the State Services Commissioner

The role of the State Services Commissioner

The State Sector Amendment Act 2013, which came into force on 18 Juy 2013, sets out for the first time in legislation the role of the State Services Commissioner, and is due for reprint shortly.

State Sector Amendment Act (some of the changes are already in force)

"4A - Role of Commissioner

Th Commissioner's role is to provide leadership and over-sight of the State services so as to ensure the purpose of this Act is carried out, including by -

(a)  Promoting the spirit of service to the community; and

(b)  Promoting the spirit of collaboration among agencies; and

(c)  Identifying and developing high-calibre leaders; and

(d)  Working with State services leaders to ensure that the State services maintain high standards of integrity and conduct and are led well and are trusted; and

(e)  Overseeing workforce and and personnel matters in the State services; and

(f)  Advising on the design and capability of the State services; and

(g)  Evaluating the performance of Public Service Leaders, including the extent to which they carry out the purpose of this Act; and

(h)  Supporting  the efficient, effective and economical achievement of good outcomes by the State services; and

(i)   Promoting a culture of stewardship in the State services."

View full details of the State Sector Amendment Act 2013 at
www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2013/0049/latest/DLM4598805.html?src=qs

The office of State Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) is central to New Zealand's politically neutral, professional and permanent Public Service.

The current office of State Services Commissioner descends directly from that of the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission was established in 1912 to employ all public servants, so protecting the Public Service from political interference and enabling the preservation of the political neutrality of the Public Service.  

The Commissioner's role is two-fold:

  1. As the holder of a statutory office, the Commissioner acts independently in a range of matters to do with the operation of the Public Service, State Services and the wider State sector.
  2. As Chief Executive of the State Services Commission, the Commissioner is responsible to the Minister of State Services for the Commission's capability and performance.

The Commissioner and Deputy State Services Commissioner are appointed by the Governor-General in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.   The Deputy State Services Commissioner has all the functions, duties and power of the Commissioner, subject to the Commissioner's control.

Reach of the State Services Commissioner

 The Commissioner has roles in both the State Services and the State sector.

 The State Services

"State Services" is the term for the organisations that serve as instruments of the Crown in respect of the Government of New Zealand. It consists of:

  • all Public Service departments
  • some departments that are not part of the Public Service ("Non Public Service Departments")
  • all Crown entities (except tertiary education institutions)
  • a variety of organisations included in the government's annual financial statements by virtue of being listed on Schedule 4 or Schedule 4A to the Public Finance Act 1989
  • the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
  • registered teachers employed by a free kindergarten association.

The State sector

Some of the Commissioner's responsibilities extend beyond the State Services to the wider State sector. The "State sector" is broader than the "State Services", and consists of the organisations whose financial situation and performance is reported in the government's annual financial statements. It consists of:

  • all the State Services (as described above)
  • some non Public Service departments that are not part of the State Services
  • tertiary education institutions
  • Offices of Parliament
  • Mixed ownership model companies
  • State-owned enterprises.

Mandate of the State Services Commissioner

 The State Services Commissioner's authority is received in four ways:

  1. from the State Sector Act 1988 and other pieces of legislation, including the Crown Entities Act 2004 and the Public Health and Disabilities Act 2000.
  2. by the Prime Minister and the Minister responsible for any part of the State Services directing the Commissioner to perform functions and exercise the powers that apply to the Public Service in relevant parts of the State Services.
  3. by the head of any part of the State Services requesting the Commissioner to perform functions and exercise the powers that apply to the Public Service in relevant parts of the State Services.
  4. by Cabinet agreeing that the Commissioner should perform a specific function.

What the Commissioner does

The Commissioner's core roles and responsibilities relate primarily to individual Public Service departments and their chief executives. The Commissioner:

  • appoints and employs Public Service chief executives
  • reviews the performance of Public Service chief executives
  • investigates and reports on matters relating to departmental performance.

These roles will also apply to any departmental agencies and their chief executives, once established.

The Commissioner has other responsibilities relating to the operation of the Public Service as a whole, the State Services or wider State sector.Refer to full details, including functions, inthe amended Section 6 of the State Sector Amendment Act 2013 at www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2013/0049/latest/DLM4598805.html?src=qs

The Commissioner has a variety of important roles with regard to employment relations. These include:

  • The State Sector Act 1988 requires the boards of tertiary education institutions to obtain the written concurrence of the Commissioner to the terms and conditions of employment for their chief executives.
  • The Public Health and Disability Act 2000 requires district health boards to obtain the consent of the Commissioner to the terms and conditions of employment for their chief executives.
  • The Crown Entities Act 2004 requires boards of statutory entities to consult the Commissioner about the terms and conditions of employment for their chief executives.
  • There is also a limited number of other agencies whose enabling legislation requires the Commissioner to be involved in setting the terms and conditions of employment for their chief executives.