IT pushes up exec leasing rate

All 28 'leased' and otherwise contracted senior executives currently in the Work and Income agency are involved in IT, as are the nine at Land Information NZ.

All 28 “leased “ and otherwise contracted senior executives currently in the Work and Income agency (WINZ) are involved in IT, as are the nine at Land Information NZ (Linz).

However, only seven of Winz’s come from executive leasing firms, says acting chief executive Dame Margaret Bazley.

“A further 21 people provide services through specialist computer organisations with whom the department has specific contracts for service.”

Winz says all of these 21 are genuine companies, not one-person concerns working in de facto individual leasing arrangements. Possible use of this tactic was raised last week by SSC minister Trevor Mallard.

Management of IT has been fingered as one of the chief reasons for what the State Services Commission considers a concerning trend to executive leasing in the public service.

SSC last week presented results from a survey that asked government departments and associated Crown entities how many executives are retained on leases set up by an executive leasing company and being paid $750 a day or more. That excludes most IT contractors, but higher-paid managers are still working on lease in IT projects.

Asked why leased executives were being used, departments identified as one of three leading reasons “a need for additional management resource around the introduction of IT initiatives where in-house capability is not sufficient”.

The other two reasons were coverage for absence of skilled staff and “as a last resort” when the particular expertise required is not available through any other source.

Winz spokeswoman Nikki Douglas identifies the last as a reason for the department’s high executive leasing rate. “We run a lot of short-term IT projects that need highly specialised skills. For these, we had to enter into leased contracts; people of the right calibre were not available to us in any other way,” she says.

One disadvantage of executive leasing, the report says, is the lack of transfer of these skills. “There is little, if any, emphasis on skill transfer to the hiring department. Indeed, it could be argued that the department contributes to the skill set of the executive rather than the other way around.”

A table accompanying the report shows leased executives in Winz totalled 41 over the year to May 30, 2001, of whom 38 were in IT.

At Linz, with its huge and controversial Landonline development, all of a total leased executive roll of nine are in IT.

But Linz human resources manager Sharron Berg says Linz is getting some expertise transfer to permanent staff, and, possibly as a result, the number of leased executives has been trending downwards for the past three years. “Though obviously that can change,” she says.

Linz, like Winz, says it cannot get people with high levels of skill in certain areas any other way.

“Their link is to their agency rather than a particular employer, and they just don’t make themselves available on the open market,” Berg says.

The Ministry of Economic Development manages with fewer leased executives, but its total of eight over the same period is still markedly above the typical figure of one to three.

However, none of MED’s eight leased executives are IT people, says spokesman Michael Pearson.

The other major leaser in the SSC lists is the Department of Corrections, with 13, but only one of those is in IT, says spokeswoman Karen McLean.

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