March 16, 2004

once upon a time, there was ethics

or were ethics, who knows.

anyway, about 16 years ago the 4th Labour government did away with ethics in the public service. At least in any centralised way. Instead, each department (or other government entity) was responsible for producing specified outputs for a certain amount of funding. The point was to let the government departments (or entities) get on with doing what they knew how to do. Examples include: imprison an offender, educate a child, save a native species, or collect taxes. There was a lot of fuss and bother about exactly what an output might be, but they pretty much sorted it out in time.

Traditionally, the public service's morals had been the purview of the State Services Commission, which had administered them through a complex and extensive set of hr policies and rules. These were shed 16 years ago in favour of advice and leadership. Commentators at the time were worried that the old public service ethics would fade away without the nourishing state sector rules.

Turns out the fading has been very slow, though there is some evidence that it has been occurring.

So what of paying some employees more than others based on race? Is this the poster child for the loss of centralised ethics in the public service? After all, the ferocious equalitarianism of the old public sector would never have let people be paid more simply because they were pakeha. This new flexibility has allowed the evil of racism to flourish. Funny that the National Party is now seeking to reintroduce centralised moral enforcement to a public service it has heartily advocated decentralising.

p.s. It isn't so much that nice guys come last, more that they come first - in a different game.

Posted by carla at March 16, 2004 09:25 PM
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