23 Jul 2019

Departments review policies after SSC report into political leanings survey questions

2:18 pm on 23 July 2019

Questions about political leanings in surveys by Inland Revenue, the Department of Conservation and Statistics NZ were inappropriate and had the potential to undermine political neutrality, the State Services Commission has found.

Hand with pen over application form on blure water glass background

Photo: 123rf

The State Services Commission investigated after an Inland Revenue tax survey asked people to say where they sat on the political spectrum - from left to right.

Deputy Commissioner John Ombler looked more broadly at the public service and found the Department of Conservation and Statistics New Zealand had also asked questions about respondents' political leanings.

Government departments are supposed to be politically neutral.

Mr Ombler said it was disappointing to see the "ill-judged" and "inappropriate" questions, that had the potential to undermine the principal of political neutrality.

However, the three agencies had since reviewed their policies and he was satisfied the questions were asked in the spirit of academic rigour rather than political motiovation, he said.

The Commission has written to all public agency chief executives requiring them to ensure all public surveys are checked for political neutrality.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins has also been given an assurance this principle is well understood within the public service.

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