New Zealand’s top official Iain Rennie to step down in June

By on 18/02/2016
Iain Rennie, Former State Services Commissioner, in discussion at Global Government Forum's Global Government Finance Summit

New Zealand’s most senior civil servant is to step down from his role.

State services commissioner Iain Rennie will leave the public service on 30 June this year at the end of his current term, after 30 years in government.

Rennie was first appointed state services commissioner by the previous Labour government in 2008, and reappointed for a second term by the current government in 2013.

As head of the State Services Commission (SSC) – the government body tasked with overseeing, managing, and improving the performance of government organisations – Rennie is responsible for leading and overseeing the performance and integrity of the state services, employing most public service chief executives, as well as driving improvements of the state sector as a whole.

Throughout the eight years he’s spent at the helm of the SSC, Rennie has overseen a number of far-reaching government initiatives.

In 2011 he launched the Better Public Services reform programme, whereby departments and their chief executives had to commit to furthering ten overarching government priorities.

The programme, whose main aim was to foster greater collaboration between ministries following a tradition of extreme departmental autonomy, had achieved “tangible and positive” progress, according to a review of the SSC last year.

The review stated that chief executives are “increasingly adopting a collaborative system approach in their roles.”

Under Rennie, cross-departmental collaboration also became part of the ‘leadership success profile’, a publicly-available set of attributes used for talent management and succession planning among the government’s 500 most senior officials.

“We now have a more explicit reference than in the past to issues like collaboration and engagement, which is another lever we’re trying to use to embed the ideas about the importance of working across the system,” Rennie told Global Government Forum.

Collaboration is also listed among chief executives’ ‘core expectations’ – objectives they agree with Rennie at the start of each year.

Another initiative launched by Rennie has been the Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) reviews which are carried out for government departments by independent panels and published online.

The idea behind Rennie’s PIFs, which have been running since 2009, is “for chief executives to get constructive but frank feedback about the progress of their organisations,” he told Global Government Forum. “We’re trying to be mature about realising that these are public institutions, here to deliver for the people of New Zealand – who have to be assured that the stewards of those institutions are doing an honest job and seeking to improve those organisations.”

State services minister Paula Bennett, who announced today that Rennie will not seek a renewal of his current term, said Rennie had “made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s State services over his 30-year career and will leave our system of public administration in a strong position to deliver essential services to New Zealanders into the future.”

The Public Service Association (PAS) – New Zealand’s largest trade union, representing nearly 62,000 workers in central government, state-owned enterprises, local councils, health boards and community groups – also wished Rennie well for the future.

PSA national secretaries Erin Polaczuk and Glenn Barclay described Rennie as a “firm, calm voice for state services and the people they employ” adding that “they’ll be sorry to see him leave.”

They said: “We’ve always enjoyed a positive relationship with Iain Rennie, and he’s guided the public service through some difficult times.

“We have had our differences from time to time, but we’ve always found him to be ready to listen and engage with our members’ concerns.

“We wish him well in whatever he chooses to do next, and we hope his successor will continue to engage with the PSA on matters like equal pay, high engagement and transforming the places our members work.”

Recruitment for Rennie’s replacement is likely to begin next month.

See also:

New Zealand’s Iain Rennie responds to accusations that officials failed to act impartially

Interview, 29 October 2015: Iain Rennie, state services commissioner, New Zealand

Interview, 18 December 2014: Iain Rennie, State Services Commissioner, New Zealand

Interview, 31 May 2015: Gabriel Makhlouf, Treasury, New Zealand

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World – the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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