6.65 The neutrality of the public sector must be protected throughout the pre-election period and the government formation process.
6.66 Before and after an election, the incumbent Ministers should ensure that any requests they make for advice or information from their officials are for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes (see paragraph 6.12 for detail on policy development in the pre-election period).
6.67 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.
- During government formation negotiations, negotiating parties may seek access to the public service or other agencies in the public sector for information and analysis on issues that might form part of a coalition or support agreement. The Public Service Act 2020 requires negotiating parties to first make a request to the Public Service Commissioner for access to the public service agency. If the Commissioner approves the request, the agency must follow standards set by the Commissioner when complying with the request. This process is set out in Schedule 3, clauses 17-20 of the Public Service Act 2020. All agencies in the public sector are expected to observe the Public Service Commission guidance (see the Public Service Commission website).
- 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 Public Service Commissioner.
- If portfolios have been allocated but the incoming Ministers have not yet been formally appointed, chief executives may, with the approval of the incumbent Prime Minister and with the knowledge of the incumbent Minister and the Public Service Commissioner, brief incoming Ministers on their portfolio responsibilities. The Secretary of the Cabinet will inform chief executives of any such authorisation from the Prime Minister.
- After Ministers have been formally appointed, each agency 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 3.18 – 3.23 and the Public Service Commission website.
6.68 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 8.136 - 8.151).