Today we launch BusinessDesk’s Public Sector Explorer. Built on a database painstakingly assembled by a team of our journalists, the tool is the first of its kind in New Zealand.  

It was created as part of BusinessDesk’s ongoing Public Sector project – an investigation into the quality of our public sector, funded by the NZ on Air Public Interest Journalism Fund.  

What is the Public Sector Explorer? 

The explorer is a database and a network. It contains biographical and employment information on more than 800 public sector leaders from over 130 agencies. 

The current and former employers of these public servants are also included in a related database of ‘entities’. Each person or entity has its own page outlining the information we have for them.  

That information is then used to connect individuals with each other and individuals to entities via an interactive network visualisation.  

We’ve created the explorer to give more visibility for taxpayers on the people who run the public service. 

How are connections made between people? 

There are two main ways we connect people: shared employment – they worked for the same employer at the same time, and story connections – they both appear in the same story from the BusinessDesk archive. 

How are people connected to entities? 

As above – either by working at one (now or in the past) or by appearing in the same BusinessDesk story as an entity. 

How strong are these connections? 

For employment connections, we only know if two people overlapped at the same employer. They might have worked in the same office, or they might have been in different departments and in different parts of the country. 

Similarly, stories could reveal a strong connection between two people, or the connection could turn out to be more incidental.  

The strength of story connections can be explored by clicking on the connecting vector in the network visualisation and reading the story. Employment connection vectors link to the entity page of the employer that people have in common. And you can explore individual employment histories to see how and when two people overlapped in their work history.  

Connections in the Explorer are ‘potential’ connections. In aggregate, the Explorer gives a higher-level view of the interconnections within the public sector and captures hidden connections that exist between public sector leaders. 

How was the database compiled? 

We began with official lists of tier 1 and 2 executives at over 130 government departments and agencies. 

From there, our team of researchers and journalists added publicly available employment history and biographical information. In some cases, biographical details were provided directly to us by the individuals or their employers. 

Is it up to date? 

The data was compiled in the final quarter of 2021. We have done our best to ensure it is fully up to date and we're committed to maintaining the database for currency and accuracy. Given the breadth of the project and the inevitability of role changes, we expect there will always be a job of updating to be done. 

If you know of a change that we have not captured, please let us know at [email protected].  

Is this the final product? 

No. We will continue to add people and new ways of connecting them in the future development of the Explorer. We will also be monitoring staff changes within the public service to ensure the data remains current. If you have an idea for how we could improve the Explorer, please let us know at [email protected]

What if I find an error? 

Once again please let us know at [email protected].