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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

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National

LETTERS: ‘We are here to serve’

Friday 29 July 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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LETTERS: ‘We are here to serve’

Dear Editor, I write with respect to the recent comments about the timing of the launch of the MFEM (Ministry of Finance and Economic Management) Strategic Plan and conducting of Government business by the public sector.

As I explained in my comments on this matter in Cook Islands News on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, MFEM has been reviewing a number of its key organisational management documents for the past year and a half with a view to improving the quality and efficiency of services delivered by the Ministry.  In addition, MFEM has also been reviewing its organisation structure under its seven Outputs, with the primary goal of having an organisation that is relevant and fit for purpose. 

To implement public services in the way that our stakeholders expect and to achieve the most desirable outcomes for the communities that we serve – this requires all Public Sector Agencies to remain flexible, agile and nimble. The stark reality is that we are now living in a Covid-19 world, where the former systems, policies and strategies requires adaptation and revision to ensure that we better understand how to manage risk and change so we continue to deliver on the Public Sector vision of ‘A Public Service of Excellence’.  The landscape has changed, we have a labour shortage in both the public and private sectors and so we need realistic plans that help us pivot to better systems. A number of Ministries have committed to a similar process as MFEM, by also re-looking at their plans, structures and procedures.

As far as I am concerned, it is business-as-usual in the Public Service during this period of General Elections and I have conveyed this to CEOs, HOMs and Heads during our regular meetings. So having these important strategic policies in place to guide our work is part of that business-as-usual – which have been set by the National Sustainable Development Agenda (NSDA 2020+). It is important that we acknowledge the Public Sector for ensuring that they stay informed of societal conditions that may impact their ability to function optimally. 

The Elections Guidelines that I recently circulated to the Public Sector confirms the principles that I expect each Public Servant to abide by.  This includes maintaining the confidence of the public in the neutrality of the Public Sector by remaining impartial and politically neutral. Moreover, they must treat everyone, including political parties, fairly and equally and avoid the perception of discrimination based on their political views or affiliations. 

The MFEM Strategic Plan is, as I have clarified above, about giving MFEM the direction they need in order for their seven outputs to perform to the highest possible standards. I am sure that your readers will agree with me that the goals encapsulated in the Plan are not in any way reflective of bias towards any political party. So the approach adopted by MFEM in confirming their Strategic Plan by way of a public launch is an excellent one as it informs the public at large of the intentions of the Ministry over the next four years. If anything, the public launching of the MFEM Strategic Plan is in line with some of the Public Sector values of honesty, transparency and accountability. So rather than viewing this in a suspicious manner we should be in fact applauding our Financial Secretary and his Senior Management Team for the approach they have adopted in making their intentions known publicly.  

As to the timing of the launch, it is unfortunate that an excellent piece of work has been misinterpreted by some as being politically motivated. For myself, it was great to learn that the efforts which went into producing this important plan of action for MFEM had finally been completed and subsequently launched.

Since moving from the private sector to head the Public Service some 16 months ago, I’ve come to recognise that I lead a team of hardworking Heads of Public Sector Agencies who are both passionate and committed to serving the Cook Islands communities. It is my role to encourage them to succeed and provide them with moral and professional support when and where needed, including the tools for them to carry out their duties in a competent manner.  I invite your readers to also provide them with similar support as opposed to running them down for simply trying to perform their duties to the best of their abilities – as the public expects of them.

To conclude, as Public Service Commissioner I would like to reassure the political parties who are contesting this year’s General Elections that public servants remain ready and willing to serve whomever is the Government of the day. The bottom line is that we are here to serve our community.

Kia manuia.

Carl Hunter

Public Service Commissioner