MFAT restructuring

Stuff reports:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade () has confirmed it is cutting around 300 staff as Finance Minister Bill English says it’s crunch time for the public sector.

MFAT’s chief executive John Allen this afternoon said it would be cutting 305 staff.

My sympathies go out to those affected. It is never nice to go through such a major restructuring. However in my experience MFAT staff are very capable and competent, and the majority will find good opportunities elsewhere.

The news came as English said Kiwis were about to see the public service change.

English said the Government had last year told public sector chief executives to look at their own operations and ”tell us how they could be improved to deliver better services with little or no new money”.

The reality is that we are borrowing money to fund the Government, and this is not sustainable. There is a path back to surplus, but it can only be achieved by restraining Government spending. The alternative is to go down the path that Greece did, or to try the failed policies of tax more and spend more.

Allen said 600 MFAT staff would have to reapply for their jobs in new specialist roles. The ministry has 1340 staff, half of which are offshore

That is a huge restructure.

He also confirmed changes to remuneration including offshore allowances. Staff would be asked to make a “nominal contribution” to their living costs overseas.

They should not end up out of pocket for being posted overseas. But if for example it is calculated they are saving say $200 a week in living costs by not being in NZ, then that could be the basis of a contribution. It shouldn’t be based on what their actual overseas expenses are at that punishes those sent to expensive cities.

Allen said the proposals created more flexibility, deepened expertise, and ensured appropriate representation – including non-resident ambassadors and smaller posts.

He confirmed they were also considering outsourcing some functions. That included a 24/7 call centre based in Wellington.

That’s quite a good idea. Rather than have each Embassy have a call centre, you have one global number for travellers in need of assistance?

The restructuring was expected to save $20-25m annually.

Excellent.

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