Provision of information by the state sector during transitions

6.59 The neutrality of the public service and other agencies in the state sector must be protected throughout the pre-election period and the government formation process.

6.60 Before and after an election, the incumbent Ministers should ensure that any requests they make for advice or information from their officials is for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes.

6.61 At different stages of the election period or government formation process, different procedures apply for providing information and briefings to negotiating parties or to the incoming government:

  1. During government formation negotiations, negotiating parties may seek access to the public service or other agencies in the state sector for information and analysis on issues that might form part of a coalition or support agreement. Departmental officials may provide information to political parties for the purposes of government formation negotiations only when authorised to do so by the (caretaker) Prime Minister, and must follow guidance issued by the State Services Commission. This process is coordinated by the State Services Commissioner, working closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury. All agencies in the state sector are expected to observe the State Services Commission guidance. (See the State Services Commission website, www.ssc.govt.nz.)
  2. When the government formation negotiations have concluded, but portfolio allocations have not yet been announced, in cases of great urgency, chief executives may provide advice to the incoming government through the Prime Minister-designate. The advice may be given only after the express consent of the incumbent Prime Minister has been obtained and a process has been agreed with the State Services Commissioner.
  3. If portfolios have been allocated but the incoming Ministers have not yet been formally appointed, chief executives, with the knowledge of the incumbent Minister, the State Services Commissioner, and, where appropriate, the Prime Minister may, in some circumstances, brief new Ministers on their portfolio responsibilities.
  4. After Ministers have been formally appointed, each departmental chief executive must ensure that, as soon as possible, the Minister receives a briefing covering organisational issues, major policy issues, and issues needing immediate attention. For further guidance about briefing incoming Ministers, see paragraphs 3.10 - 3.15 and the State Services Commission website, www.ssc.govt.nz.

6.62 Incoming Ministers have access to the Cabinet records of previous administrations for continuity of government purposes (subject to certain conditions and to the rights and duties set out in the Official Information Act 1982). (See paragraphs 8.75 - 8.85.)