Senior ministers Nicola Willis and Judith Collins are standing by the Government’s decision to cut public service spending and roles, as Parliament begins a week of intense scrutiny of this year’s Budget. This marks the first time Parliament has designated a week to examine ministers’ spending choices, providing an opportunity for sustained questioning on specific portfolio areas.

During the scrutiny week, all ministers are required to attend select committee hearings in person, with priority given to Opposition questions. This ensures that ministers cannot evade tough questioning and must justify their decisions with concrete explanations rather than relying on rhetoric.

Public service minister Nicola Willis defended the Government’s public sector “change programme” which involves reallocating funds from the “back office” to the “frontline.” Despite concerns raised about potential impacts on online child safety programs and data gathering, Willis emphasized the importance of maximizing the value of public spending.

Additionally, Willis provided an update on her plan to introduce performance-based pay for public service officials, linking incentives to the Government’s targets. This initiative aims to reward top officials for their performance and align their efforts with government priorities.

Meanwhile, Minister for Science Judith Collins faced inquiries about cuts to the science and innovation sector, including the termination of national science challenges and the cancellation of various projects and funds. Collins emphasized the need for a strategic approach to science funding and highlighted the importance of regulatory settings to support research and development.

Collins also discussed the establishment of a Science System Advisory Group to address key challenges facing the science sector and ensure effective use of funding. She stressed the importance of striking a balance between research and implementation, as well as creating a conducive regulatory environment for scientific advancements.

In her role as Minister for Space, Collins underscored the potential for growth in the space sector as a diversification strategy beyond primary industries and tourism. She emphasized the need to explore new avenues for economic development and innovation to strengthen the country’s resilience and competitiveness.

As scrutiny week progresses, committee members are expected to maintain focus on budget-related topics and adhere to time constraints for questioning ministers and departmental heads. The structured format aims to enhance accountability and transparency in government decision-making, ensuring that public funds are allocated effectively to deliver tangible outcomes for New Zealanders.