The new National government aren’t exactly walking the walk when it comes to belt tightening. In the first three months of this year, National Ministers spent $739,000 on travel, more than double the $336,000 Labour ministers spent in the same period in 2008. This follows news that they have also doubled the number of ministerial staffers earning over $100,000 a year and approved hiring of consultants on rates of up to $2000 a day. Not exactly leading by example are they?
While I’m on the topic of Beehive staff and consultants, Colin James has written a very thoughtful piece on the political neutrality of public servants. He makes a lot of good points, including that the time for clarifying whether ministerial advisors are public servants or not has well and truly come. As a former ministerial advisor myself, I never regarded myself as a public servant, my accountability was directly to the minister I worked for. It’s a grey area that definitely needs clarifying.
James also has concerns about the arrangements for the hiring of purchase advisors and the recent decision to place a minister-appointed ‘minder’ within the Department of Labour to look after the Immigration Service. The way both of these decisions have been made, in my view, contradicts the spirit, if not the letter, of the State Sector Act and the Public Finance Act. I’m disappointed the State Services Commissioner hasn’t seen fit to object.
[Correction: Treasury have apologised for getting the figures wrong on travel, so the first part of this post is incorrect. The stuff about Beehive staff and consultants is still accurate, so the general message is still valid. CH]