New Zealand’s public service often pops up as a success story in the UK and international media. The widely celebrated Better Public Services (BPS) reform agenda, formally launched by the New Zealand Government in 2012, is laudable in its aims. For the first time, the Government has published 10 priority outcomes (or ‘results’), in areas such as welfare dependence and vulnerable children, most of which require significant cross-agency collaboration. The ambition is to incentivise state services to act ‘less as a collection of individual agencies, in pursuit of their own objectives, and more as a system focused on priority outcomes’. In line with this, each result has a named minister and chief executive who are accountable for its achievement. Progress against performance targets are reported to the Cabinet and to the wider public on a regular basis. This introduces a level of transparency and scrutiny unheard of in many countries. Alongside this, major efforts have been made to roll back some of the far-reaching changes introduced in the 1980s. New Zealand took New Public Management reforms further than any other country in the world. Performance of departments is measured by outputs and managed by a ’contract’ between minsters and chief executives […]

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