State Services Commission
The State Services Commission (SSC) (Māori: Te Komihana O Ngā Tari Kāwanatanga) is the central public service department of New Zealand charged with overseeing, managing, and improving the performance of the State sector of New Zealand and its organisations.
|Headquarters||Lvl 10, Reserve Bank Bldg,|
2 The Terrace,
|Annual budget||Vote State Services|
Total budget for 2019/20
The SSC's official responsibilities, as defined by the State Sector Act 1988, include:
- appointing and reviewing Public Service chief executives,
- promoting and developing senior leadership and management capability for the Public Service,
- providing advice on the training and career development of staff in the Public Service,
- reviewing the performance of each department,
- providing advice on the allocation of functions to and between departments and other agencies,
- providing advice on management systems, structures, and organisations in the Public Service and Crown entities,
- promoting, developing, and monitoring equal employment opportunities policies and programmes, and
- any other functions with respect to the administration and management of the Public Service, as directed by the Prime Minister.
The State Services Commissioner is the chief executive of the commission and has a range of responsibilities for the public service, the State Services and the wider state sector. The position has previously been known as the Public Service Commissioner, Chairman of the Public Service Commissioner, Chairman of the State Services Commission, and Chief Commissioner of the State Services Commission. The current State Services Commissioner is Peter Hughes.
The State Services Commissioner plays a central role in New Zealand's public service. One of the Commissioner's most visible roles is in the employment, supervision and dismissal of senior executives in individual Government departments; by preventing Ministers of the Crown from becoming personally involved in employment decisions, this acts as a safeguard against politicisation of the public service. The Commissioner also has power to issue codes of conduct for parts of the public service, to investigate Government departments, and to advise the Government on the organisation of the public service.
The Commissioner has a statutory duty to act independently of Ministerial direction, except in matters concerning the appointment and dismissal of Departmental chief executives.
Regarding the appointment of Departmental chief executives, the Commissioner plays a key role. The Commissioner is responsible for:
- Notifying the responsible Minister or Ministers of the vacancy;
- Advertising the position;
- Assembling an interviewing panel which includes, at minimum, the Commissioner and his or her Deputy; the Commissioner may invite others in consultation with the Minister;
- Recommending the preferred candidate to the Minister, who will then refer the recommendation to the Governor-General in Council.
The Governor-General in Council may override the Commissioner's recommendation by appointing a different person to the vacant executive post.
A chief executive may not be appointed for any longer than five years. Under the State Services Act, the Commissioner negotiates terms and conditions of employment with each Departmental chief executive, subject to the approval of the Prime Minister and the Minister of State Services. The Commissioner may also recommend that a given chief executive be reappointed when the executive's contract expires, though the Government is free to ignore such a recommendation.
The Commissioner is empowered, with the agreement of the Government, to dismiss a Departmental chief executive, "for just cause or excuse". That is, the Government is by law forbidden from firing any chief executive or instructing a Commissioner to do so, but has the power to retain a chief executive against the Commissioner's advice.
Appointment, Dismissal and Term of Office
The position of State Services Commissioner is one of the few positions in New Zealand's public service where Ministers are directly involved.
The appointment and dismissal procedures and the term of office are set forth in the State Sector Act 1988, as amended from time to time. Section 3 of the Act specifies that the Commissioner is to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Section 13 limits the term of office to five years, though this term may be further reduced in the Order in Council in which the appointment is made.
Section 17 of the Act lists a small number of circumstances in which the Commissioner is deemed to have resigned. Otherwise, the Commissioner is well protected. The Governor-General has no power to dismiss the Commissioner. The Governor-General may suspend the Commissioner under Section 16 for misbehaviour or incompetence, but must then explain why to the House of Representatives within seven sitting days; and even then the Commissioner is safe in his position unless the House resolves within three weeks after receiving the Governor-General's explanation to remove him or her from office. Otherwise, the Commissioner is restored to office.
History of the role
At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, New Zealand's public sector was widely considered to be inefficient and wasteful. The incoming MacKenzie administration launched the Hunt Commission on the civil service. The Hunt Commission recommended the establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet to have 'absolute and undisputed power' in 'all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – ... appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – '.
Public Service Act 1912
The Hunt Commission and its recommendations lead to the Public Service Act 1912 and the role of the Public Service Commissioner. The Act and the new Commissioner removed Ministers' direct involvement in appointments and personnel administration, separating the 'political' and 'administrative' functions, both in conduct of the Government's business and in management of the Public Service itself.
State Services Act 1962
The State Services Act 1962 replaced the Public Service Commissioner with a multi-member Commission comprising a chairman and Commissioner. This point also marked a culture change towards a focus on political neutrality.
State Sector Act 1988
The State Sector Act 1988 reverted to having a single State Services Commissioner, adding the position of Deputy State Services Commissioner. Ministers were granted some role in the appointments of departmental chief executives. There was some concern at the time that this would revert the system to a pre-1912 state.
Following the Review of the Centre in 2001, the State Sector Amendment Act (No 2) 2004 and the Crown Entities Act 2004 extended the role of the Commissioner beyond the Public Service to the wider State Services (such as Crown entities, but not Crown Research Institutes), and beyond State Services to the wider state sector.
List of past Commissioners
|Name||Took Office||Left Office||Title|
|Donald Robertson ISO||1913||1919||Public Service Commissioner|
|William R. Morris CMG ISO||1920||1923||Public Service Commissioner|
|Paul D. N. Verschaffelt CMG||1923||1935||Public Service Commissioner|
|John H. Boyes CMG||1936||1938||Public Service Commissioner (Joint)|
|Thomas Mark||1936||1941||Public Service Commissioner (Joint until 1938)|
|John H. Boyes CMG||1941||1946||Public Service Commissioner|
|Richard M. Campbell CMG||1946||1953||Chairman of the Public Service Commission|
|George T. Bolt CMG||1953||1958||Chairman of the Public Service Commission|
|Leonard A. Atkinson||1958||1962||Chairman of the Public Service Commission|
|Leonard A. Atkinson||1963||1966||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Adrian G. Rodda CMG||1967||1970||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Ian G. Lythgoe CB||1971||1974||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Dr. Robin M. Williams CB. CBE. MA. PHD HONLLD||1975||1981||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Dr. Mervyn Probine CBE-MSC PhD (LDS) FIP FRSNZ.||1981||1985||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Dr. Roderick Deane KNZM||1985||1986||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Don Hunn CNZM||1986||1987||Chairman of the State Services Commission|
|Don Hunn CNZM||1988||1988||Chief Commissioner of the State Services Commission|
|Don Hunn CNZM||1989||1997||State Services Commissioner|
|Michael Wintringham CNZM||1997||2004||State Services Commissioner|
|Dr. Mark Prebble CNZM||2004||2008||State Services Commissioner|
|Iain Rennie CNZM||2008||2016||State Services Commissioner|
|Peter Hughes CNZM||2016||Present||State Services Commissioner|
The State Sector Act establishes the position of Deputy State Services Commissioner, who is appointed on the same terms and conditions as the Commissioner.
Ministers of State Services
(for political parties)
|No.||Name||Portrait||Term of Office||Prime Minister|
|1||Keith Holyoake||20 December 1963||9 February 1972||Holyoake|
|2||Jack Marshall||9 February 1972||8 December 1972||Marshall|
|3||Bob Tizard||8 December 1972||10 September 1974||Kirk|
|4||Arthur Faulkner||10 September 1974||12 December 1975||Rowling|
|5||Peter Gordon||12 December 1975||13 December 1978||Muldoon|
|6||David Thomson||13 December 1978||26 July 1984|
|7||Stan Rodger||26 July 1984||9 February 1990||Lange|
|8||Clive Matthewson||9 February 1990||2 November 1990|
|9||Bill Birch||2 November 1990||29 November 1993||Bolger|
|10||Paul East||29 November 1993||16 December 1996|
|11||Jenny Shipley||16 December 1996||12 September 1997|
|(10)||Paul East||12 September 1997||8 December 1997|
|12||Simon Upton||8 December 1997||10 December 1999||Shipley|
|13||Trevor Mallard||10 December 1999||19 October 2005||Clark|
|14||Annette King||19 October 2005||2 November 2007|
|15||David Parker||5 November 2007||19 November 2008|
|16||Tony Ryall||19 November 2008||13 December 2011||Key|
|17||Jonathan Coleman||14 December 2011||8 October 2014|
|18||Paula Bennett||8 October 2014||26 October 2017|
|19||Chris Hipkins||26 October 2017||Incumbent||Ardern|
- "Total Appropriations for Each Vote". Budget 2019. The Treasury.
- "State Sector Act 1988". New Zealand Legislation. Parliamentary Counsel Office.
- "Four Year Plan 2015-2019". State Services Commission. 22 June 2015.
- State Services Commissioner – the Office, State Services Commission, Last updated 28 June 2002 (appears to have been updated more recently though)
- Kirk, Stacey (3 May 2016). "Education boss Peter Hughes named as new State Services Commissioner". Retrieved 30 September 2016.
- Role of the State Services Commissioner, State Services Commission, Last updated 31 March 2008