Kiwis in line for top state roles

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Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie is poised to appoint five public service chief executives - and they will all be Kiwis.

Foreigners have in recent years been put in charge of four heavyweight agencies; health, education, Treasury and Inland Revenue; prompting calls from Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Shearer for more home-grown appointments.

Mr Rennie said that he was close to naming new chief executives at Te Puni Kokiri, Business, Innovation and Employment, Defence, Women's Affairs and Pacific Island Affairs and he was "very sure they will all be New Zealanders".

Mr Key had made it clear he wanted the commission to ensure New Zealanders could go right to the top in the state sector system, Mr Rennie said. "And I agree with that."

However, he defended his record, saying the percentage of jobs filled by overseas candidates was "small and not very different from past practice".

In four years as head of the commission he had made 17 or 18 appointments and only three had been overseas candidates.

Kevin Woods was recruited from Scotland to head the Health Ministry, Bob Russell, a Canadian, heads Inland Revenue and Lesley Longstone, from England, is Education Secretary.

Gabriel Makhlouf, also from Britain, was appointed deputy secretary at Treasury but was later promoted to chief executive.

Mr Rennie said that in general senior public service roles should be filled by locals because there was great value in people who understood New Zealand, its systems and communities.

‘That's why we are putting a lot of effort now into a much more concerted management of our senior leadership across the public service in a way that we haven't done before."

However, sometimes overseas candidates had the span of experience needed, he said.

Mr Shearer has said Kiwis should generally be considered first for top departmental appointments.

Over the past 10 years, only 14 per cent of the country's chief executives had been appointed from overseas.

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- The Dominion Post

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