By John Tamihere
Who delivers government policy and who is really accountable?
The work life expectancy of an average Member of Parliament in New Zealand is 6 years. The work life expectancy of a senior civil servant on a very high salary is 21 years.
In New Zealand we have a constitution that says whoever wins the election controls the Treasury benches and all the organs of the state. That is believable only on one level.
My view is this: The way Government policy is applied in this new century is bankrupt. I say this from an experience base that has been shaped after working with government, being a Member of Parliament and a Cabinet Minister.
You have to look at the history of our bureaucracy that was shaped, and is still presently wired in terms of upholding the great British Empire. In days of old, the best brains of the country were taken to Westminster. From Westminster came the best plans and the best thinking for communities that were still struggling with numeracy and literacy.
Accordingly, the best brains went from Westminster to Washington or Wellington.
In this new century, we now have a highly literate, numerate, well connected, and communicating society. We no longer need legions of bureaucrats populating office towers as central government planners who then send their messages to regional offices, who then send their messages to local offices to determine health, housing, welfare, ACC – you name it!
But when government programmes fail miserably, the blame will often fall on those who failed, rather than those who have received so much resource to fix that failure.
There are so many faceless bureaucrats that I felt this was an opportune time to list a few of the country's top officials, their ministries, salary bands (taken from the 2015-2016 Senior Pay Report) the number of Fulltime Employees from the 2016-2017 Report and their total budgets allocated in the 2017 Budget. This list does not include the army of consultants who cost the taxpayers millions on top of that.
There is a total of 28 government departments/ministries that have 55,216 FTEs and a budget of $78.8 billion.
If your mind is not boggling after looking at those numbers, there is something seriously wrong.
Those departments are actually non-contestable monopolies. That is why deep and searching scrutiny must prevail.
In my opinion there is enough money in our system to fix most of our ills, but regretfully it has been wired the wrong way, through the wrong people, and these people are rarely accountable. They are always faceless. If another baby is abused under government care, it seems to me there's a blasé attitude of, "It's okay".
Well it's not okay and whenever there is yet another abused baby, the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Children's Matters must provide transparency and accountability. This must happen in all the deaths that have been suffered through the failure of the family, the failure of that family's community to protect that baby, and ultimately the failure of the government agency. But guess who is responsible at the end of the day? Never those that are paid handsomely to oversee an alternative result. Instead, the name of the dead baby and the baby's family are written in the public arena. The bureaucrats are never known.
When two Work and Income New Zealand workers were killed by a mental health beneficiary, what does MSD do? Hires security guards - demeaning beneficiaries even more and costing the taxpayer.
Why not spend that money on more social workers or health workers to help WINZ staff? I'll tell you why not! In my opinion the CEO of WINZ and MSD has lost touch with his clients and he's lost touch with the public. Was the minister from the previous government over this?
That's why we need greater transparency, greater productivity and greater accountability. You can only get that by breaking down the bureaucratic empires that were shaped over 200 years ago. Let's call time's up now and bring them screaming and yelling into this century to support the provision of local solutions to solve local problems.