The process by which Archives New Zealand and The National Library are subsumed into the Department of Internal Affairs continues at full pace, with the release of the Integration Plan. You sometimes have to quietly appreciate management speak. Calling the process an integration seems less ominous than a merger. Maybe there is less baggage with that terminology.
The plan itself looks to be quite fast passed. I did note that implementation starts in November, so that will mean that the inevitable redundancies from the process will start at just in time for Christmas. I feel for the staff.
The Questions and Answers on the new Integration site were fairly interesting. Of particular interest to me was this:
There will be no change in the standing or functions of statutory officers.
The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian are statutory officers. Concern has been expressed that such officers should not be employees of a Chief Executive, but must be completely independent. It is argued that the changes announced by the Government will lead to a reduction in necessary independence, and make the Chief Archivist and National Librarian subject to undue influence. It is argued that the positions are similar to that of the auditor-general or the ombudsman, and should be treated in the same way.
The Chief Archivist and National Librarian are statutory officers, but not officers of parliament, as are the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman. At present, they are employees of the State Services Commissioner. Under the Government decision to integrate, it is very likely that the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs will appoint people to these positions. The Chief Executive would be the employer, rather than the State Services Commissioner, in the same way that the Chief Executive would be the employer of all staff in the new Department.
The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian will act independently, and not be subject to the direction of the Chief Executive in matters of their statutory authority.
They will be accountable to the Chief Executive for their effectiveness, efficiency, and managerial actions.
The positions will then have the same status as other statutory officers now within Internal Affairs, for example such as the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the Chief Executive of the Local Government Commission and the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management. Examples in other departments include the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Surveyor-General, the Registrar-General of Land and the Valuer-General, who are each employed by the Chief Executive of Land Information New Zealand.
It would be unlawful for the Chief Executive to interfere in the statutory decision-making of any of these officers, and unlawful for the statutory officer to accept such interference.
The intention of the three Chief Executives in advising Ministers is to ensure the legislation required by integration does not:
- alter the nature of the services associated with Archives New Zealand or the National Library.
- constrain the current levels of independence of the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian.
- diminish the ability of key stakeholders to take action to protect the independence of the National Librarian and the Chief Archivist.
- change the role of the Alexander Turnbull Library.
- change the role of Ministerial Advisory Groups.
The following information was added on 9 June 2010:
Clarification has been sought on the exact scope under which the Chief Archivist and National Librarian would act independently of the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. The decisions that have been made to bring about the integration of the three departments have made clear that the legislative changes will give effect to: the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian being appointed by the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs; the appointees being responsible to the Chief Executive, without predetermining reporting structures and without compromising the statutory roles they are responsible for performing; the intent that current statutory independent functions will be retained, including protection from improper influence.
Legislation will need to be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year and the implementation of the integration. Inevitably that legislation is likely to be fast tracked. When it does come down the stakeholders will need to go over it with a fine tooth comb to ensure that it does what the above response states.
Looking for a positive in the whole process, it may mean that The Chief Archivist and National Librarian will have more time to put their energies into their statutory roles, and have less administration to worry about. I am thinking that the best thing we as external observers can do is to engage in a positive manner to ensure that our concerns are dealt with properly.