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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.106

    23 August, 1999

    More Winz Whirlpool

    whirlpool2.gif - 11262 Bytes

    "I do not think any department should charter airlines..."
    State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham

    "I share the public's irritation and intolerance of ill-considered and inappropriate public expenditure and I expect it to stop."
    Prime Minister Jenny Shipley

    "The public service needs a break from the kind of excess she represents. Taxpayers are sick of egotism and extravagance at their expense..."
    Steve Maharey, Labour spokesperson on social services

    "Losing her performance bonus is only a small price for Ms Rankin to pay for this sloppy management."
    Muriel Newman, ACT spokesperson on social services

    "Overall, Winz is doing a good job in helping hard-to-place jobseekers get off a benefit ... We still have confidence in Ms Rankin."
    Winz Ministers Roger Sowry and Peter McCardle

    "By merely reprimanding her over the chartered planes, State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham has delivered a very weak message about what is acceptable behaviour for departmental chief executives..."
    Green Party co-Leader Rod Donald

    Last month saw the public censure of Winz chief executive, Christine Rankin, for her part in the Wairakei plane charter affair. State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham says there was a lack of financial management and "apparent lapses" by Winz in understanding what was acceptable expenditure on a conference.

    He says the incident has not only eroded public confidence in Winz, but all government departments and agencies. Wintringham: "The cost measured in the damage of credibility has spread beyond the Department of Work and Income. Clearly these events have overshadowed government policy..."

    Wintringham says Rankin could lose all or part of her $37,500 performance bonus over her part in the affair. He also has required Ms Rankin to submit a plan addressing the shortcomings he found in Winz's financial management.

  • The Dominion remarks in an editorial: "She keeps her job, and so she should. She has had a salutary lesson and been exposed to public criticism over this and other aspects of the department's style (which were not part of Mr Wintringham's inquiry). She knows Winz will be under close scrutiny from now on, and the only convincing answer to politicians baying for her blood will be superior performance..."

  • The public probably could have expected the affair to end there. Instead, the media and opposition parties have opened a floodgate of further stories about spending decisions taken by Winz, and also how the agency is measuring the successes of its operations. The media has also gone on to raise similar questions on spending decisions by Defence, Social Welfare and Internal Affairs.

    The Secretary for Justice, Colin Keating, has spoken for many government leaders when he says that the latest incidents mean that the public service will need to get back to basics and regain the trust of New Zealanders.

  • Amidst the media whirlpool dogging Winz, the announcements were made about the restructuring of the Community Employment Group, the government agency that has been most responsible for funding community-based, self help and local development projects for the unemployed. Their work in recent years has focussed on unemployed Maori, women and disadvantaged rural communities.

    As expected, CEG's field workers will now operate directly under the offices of the 13 Winz Regional Commissioners. The Regional Commissioners will have the final say on the grants and contracts offered to local community groups. There will be a restructured and scaled-down national office servicing the needs of the network of Community Employment field workers. And Winz says that the savings made on the restructuring will be "invested in front-line activities".

  • In this special issue of The Jobs Letter, we continue our essential summary of events in recent weeks … and the emerging debate on "the public service we need".

    A personal statement on her censure
    ... as it unfolded
    ... from the Daily Newspapers
    Regional Management to go in restructure ...

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    The new structure of Community Employment within Winz will see 16 national and 6 regional jobs go from what existed in the old Community Employment Group (CEG). There will be 9 new national and 10 new regional positions (6 full-time equivalents) established, which Winz says "will provide opportunities for some of the displaced staff..."

    Summary of the Winz decisions on the Community Employment role:
    — The current Community Employment national and regional management structure will be disestablished and Community Employment Advisors now report to the 13 Regional Commissioners.
    — The Community Employment National Office support structure will be reduced by 11 positions, 4 of which will transfer to the National Office functions of Evaluation, Service Delivery-Operations and Contracts. The IT, HR, Finance and Communication activities will be transferred to their respective functional areas.
    — A new National Office position of Community Employment Practice Manager will be established, reporting to the Deputy National Commissioner, and accountable for a team of four National Community Advisors. The Practice Manager will be responsible for national co-ordination, promotion of best practice and development and monitoring of Community Employment field practice.
    — The current front line establishment will be increased to incorporate a Team Co-ordinator role reporting to the Regional Commissioner where Community Employment Adviser numbers are sufficient to warrant a co-ordination and support role.
    — Team Co-ordinators and Community Employment Advisors, whilst having a direct line of accountability to the Regional Commissioner, will have "a dotted line" of accountability to the National Office Practice Manager.

  • What will happen to the money?
    Winz says that "contract management capability" is still being developed at a regional level. Community Employment grant funding, currently held centrally, will be centrally managed by the National Commissioner's office until such time as systems and regional capability are in place. Winz envisages this will transfer to a regional level over a four-month period.

    The delegated authority for operating funds and grant approvals will then transfer to the Regional Commissioner. The grant process will continue to have three steps from the Community Employment Adviser, to the Regional Contracts Manager and then the Regional Commissioner.

    Winz says that where "the capacity for high risk or high dollar value grants" remains, the decisions will need to be signed off at a national level.

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