14 June 2013

The Guardian published a column by the President of the Australian Institute Public Administration  (and former DPMC secretary) this week. He commented on economic and public sector reforms “…being two sides of the same coin”.  Although economic success in Australia has been achieved with systems that are cheaper than much of the OECD, including New Zealand, UK, Canada and the United States, he advocates a “new wave” of reforms.

He wants more long term strategic thinking and the empowerment of officials to talk about major decisions. Public cynicism is inevitably a consequence of the current practice of “…spin doctored announcements”.  Structural changes are proposed that would increase local accountability for service delivery as the way of improving the quality, efficiency and responsiveness of those services. This may require functions being “…decanted out of cumbersome departments and poured into smaller agencies.”

He suggests following the UK practice of using non executive board members to contribute governance skills, This would replicate the UK practice where 67 board members have been appointed to 17 departments over the last three years. He also proposes a much greater focus on the professional development of public sector managers.