On August 20, the Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, announced the appointment of Stephen Sedgwick as the head of the NSW Government’s Better Services and Value Taskforce. The Taskforce, which was outlined as part of the 2009-10 Budget, is intended to target savings and improve service delivery across government departments. It will have a particular focus on Information Technology.
It is understood that the approach of the Review will strongly resemble that taken by Sir Peter Gershon, who performed a review of federal government ICT spending for Finance and Deregulation Minister Lindsay Tanner in 2008. Gershon found that some $1,000m could be identified as savings and his recommendations were almost universally accepted by the government.
The Taskforce will include the Secretary of NSW Treasury, Michael Schur and the Director-General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, John Lee. Schur and Lee have emerged as absolutely crucial to the structure and functioning of the Rees government.
Mr Sedgwick was the Senior Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, for three years from late 1985. His 30 year public sector career was exclusively in the federal arena. It included periods in the economic and social policy advising areas of the Treasury, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance.
He served as Secretary to the Department of Finance from 1992 to 1997 and then as Secretary to the various permutations of the federal employment and education departments under the Howard government (Department of Employment, Education Training and Youth Affairs, Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs and Department of Education Science and Training) until early 2002.
“Mr Sedgwick brings immense public sector and finance experience to this position,” Mr Roozendaal said.
Sedgwick will be supported by Mr Stephen Brady who has been appointed to head the new Expenditure Review Directorate in NSW Treasury. Brady is currently a Deputy Secretary in Treasury and has 15 years commercial and corporate experience.
The Taskforce will:
- Examine agency spending line-by-line, starting with a review of the Department of Education and Training (DET is second only to NSW Health in expenditure. Its 2009-10 budget allocation is $14.7b);
- Strategically review the performance of all state-owned corporations and;
- Rationalise whole-of-government spending in areas such as IT and legal services.
It is believed that the Review which, beyond Mr Brady and Mr Sedgwick, has made only a handful of operational appointments to the team, must identify savings for the 2010-11 budget process. Mr Roozendaal stated in his press release, that ‘as required, temporary independent members with relevant specialist expertise will be recruited on to review steering committees to provide advice on specific issues, including IT’.
Given that it is already the start of September, how many potential savings can be found and harvested to be part of the ‘election war chest’ is a key question. Sedgwick and Brady will be very keen to get the reviews off and running as quickly as possible.
The Taskforce will meet on a monthly basis and when required.