Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is calling for a royal commission of inquiry into the public sector, saying it needs a complete overhaul.
He made the appeal on Wednesday night at the launch of a booklet called Rethinking the State Sector Act, published by the Public Service Association and the Fabian Society.
Sir Geoffrey says many departments and ministries do not cooperate with one another and lack the capacity to be effective. He says morale in the public sector is low, and too little attention is given to the appointment of chief executives.
"The system needs to be overhauled. New Zealand's got a lot of serious problems that it's going to have to face up to in the future and those problems require the best-quality governance that we can possibly have - and the public service is a vital part of that."
Sir Geoffrey says a royal commission is needed to establish some clear principles for the public service to adhere to.
However, the Government has firmly rejected the idea. "I think that's a smokescreen and a waste of time thrown up by our political opponents," says State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman.
"We're very clear about what we want from the state sector: we want better public services, they are delivering those, and it's a matter of people just getting on and taking that challenge up."