The spirit of forgetfulness

Insights Newsletter
26 May, 2023

As we get older many of us are a bit forgetful. Keys, glasses, schools and Crown entity subsidiaries. Who has not left one on a shelf next to the front door, only to find it missing when they pop out to the shops?

I am not sure if the Public Service Commission (PSC) has problems with keys and glasses, but they definitely have a problem with the last two. Their website boasts “Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission leads the public sector in the service of our nation”. (I always thought the leader of the state was the elected Prime Minister, but maybe age is getting the better of me?)

Anyway, the organisation proudly boasting of its leadership of the public sector also has a webpage where it “maintains an up-to-date list of all central government organisations”. (link below in “All Things Considered”)

Except they do not. Rather endearingly they tell us they do not on the same webpage that declared their list up to date. More precisely, they note there are “Approximately 150 Crown entity subsidiaries” and “Approximately 2,416” school Boards of Trustees.

I leave expertise on education to my New Zealand Initiative colleague Michael Johnston, but find the schools themselves hard to miss: classrooms, a playground, and hordes of children stand out in ways glasses and keys do not. You would definitely bump into one if it were on that shelf by the front door.

Crown entity subsidiaries are harder to see, though no less important for all that. The last time the PSC tried to count them (2018) they found “approximately 150” was at least 166.

Crown Entity subsidiaries are a bit of a mix. They include Truffle Investment New Zealand Ltd - I am not making that up – whose website is one of those with flash animation that tell you very little. Another is Massey Ventures Limited whose “role is to commercialise intellectual property and innovative research within [Massey] University. To … turn their innovative ideas into real-world commercial opportunities.”

You do not have to be a PSC believer in the state sector trinity of Commissioner, Leadership and the Holy Spirit of Service to think these companies might be important. At the very least, the leader of the “public sector in the service of our nation” could know how to count them?

In any case, I found my glasses, my keys are in my pocket and I have a bit of time. Think I might invest in a truffle.

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