Venial behaviour in the New Zealand public sector @JordNZ

One of the things I noticed after coming to New Zealand was the petty veniality in government departments.

I noticed it in the first week when I discovered employers pay for farewells. No chance in Australia. We take them out for lunch, and we have a wipe round to pay for their lunch. If it was a retirement function, such as for a long serving employee, the senior staff would pay for it out of their own pocket. The taxpayer never ever paid.

Then I noticed that public servants would charge lunches with each other to their government credit card. They would buy wine.

It got worse when I noticed who went on overseas trips. When it was a more exotic location, a much more senior manager felt the need to represent his country. I thought most overseas travel was a waste of time so we actively avoided it and never proposed a trip.

Enthusiasm in the minister’s office for going to a rather boring International meeting picked up no end when they discovered it was in Istanbul.

Then to my astonishment, I found that government employees would take holidays at the end of their business travel. If you tried that in Australia, you would be fired. It would never be considered.

If you were on an interstate secondment, you are entitled to take leave equal to the amount of time you accrued while on that secondment.

Clearly, it would give an appearance of bias when you are writing the business case if you could get it business class air ticket to the other side of the world and then take a long holiday on the way back.

New Zealand seems to employ a lot of contractors as policy analysts. I have never heard of such things in Australia. If you could not recruit and retain enough analysts to work through peaks and troughs in the workload, you were not a very good manager. If it was a real crisis, you found someone who was not busy from within the organisation and had them seconded to your team.

In more than a few places, these contractors seemed to be good friends of the manager. These contractors can be hired so quickly and in such number that a new manager has no time to talk to his existing staff about what they do, what they might do or what skill sets they might have.

I was talking to a British colleague once about how he would always refuse any attempts by people to buy him lunch or a beer. Like me, he would be up the back eating his own sandwiches while the senior executives tucked into 3 course lunches provided by various lobby groups.

Until I came to New Zealand, the taxpayer had never bought me lunch, a beer, or an air ticket. I was very careful to refusal offers of hospitality from outsiders. If an offer was made, I thought they were up to something.


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