15 Jul 2013

Strength of state sector bill questioned

10:34 pm on 15 July 2013

The Labour Party has warned new state sector legislation does not put enough responsibility on ministers for the actions of their departments.

Jonathan Coleman.

Jonathan Coleman. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

Phil Goff.

Phil Goff. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman is confident the law will increase co-operation in the public service, but Labour's state services spokesperson Phil Goff isn't so sure.

The State Sector and Public Finance Bill passed its third reading last Thursday, and Labour did vote for it.

Phil Goff said on Monday that Labour agrees with the bill's aim of making the public service more cohesive and effective, but questions whether it will happen in practice.

"It's one thing to talk about breaking down silos, but in recent times with reorganisation and the Food Safety Authority and the old Ministry of Agriculture, we've seen the exact opposite happening. Problems with meat exports to China, problems with the DCD contamination (in milk) - where one ministry simply isn't talking to another."

Mr Goff said ministers need to be made more accountable for their departments.

But State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman believes the bill will encourage departments to do things differently.

"We want people to be able to take risks, do things outside the normal ways of thinking in the normal boundaries. So it really is about changing the culture, but with these tools people are going to see we're serious - because it won't just be talk, it will be actually moving the people and money around the public service."

Dr Coleman said that means getting better results for people who depend on public services.