Prime Minister & Cabinet Secretary, Terry Moran, has singled out recent initiatives in both Federal and State Governments as examples of best practice in bridging the gap between policy and service delivery.
In a recent speech to the Institute of Public Administration, Moran outlined his four point vision for strengthening public service performance. While clear in his praise for existing services, Moran emphasised his priority for “reforming and reinvigorating the Australian Public Service”:
“We will need to do better in four fundamental areas”, he said:
- The quality of policy advice to Government must improve;
- The focus on service delivery must be strengthened;
- The APS must work tirelessly to put the citizen at the centre of programs and policies; and
- It must strive to attract and retain the highest quality people.
Moran underlined the importance of technology in achieving the Government’s aims. “Last year, for the first time, the Internet replaced contact in person as the most common means by which Australians contacted government. It is a profound shift, and helps to explain why the Government has established a Government Web 2.0 Taskforce to advise it on how public sector information can be made more accessible to, and usable by, Australian citizens online.”
Moran went on to outline the need to bridge the gap between policy and service delivery. “This is exacerbated by confusion between the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States and Territories in relation to service delivery”, he said. “For example, I doubt that the [Federal] Health Department has many senior officials with a close understanding of how a hospital is run. Therefore, we may need to give public servants -- including senior officials -- experiences of front-line policy implementation. If that means deputy secretaries spend a week staffing the Centrelink claims desk in Murray Bridge, or perhaps in a Medicare office, we will all benefit from their experiences”.
Moran provided examples of innovative service delivery in both the Federal and Queensland Governments.
- “The Centrelink drought bus shows how innovative service delivery -- in this case to communities in drought and flood-affected areas -- can reach out to larger numbers of citizens. Over time the services the bus offers have expanded beyond specific drought and flood relief to include advice on tax, health issues and even depression. Centrelink understands that people in need rarely have problems that can be confined to the responsibilities of one service deliverer.”
- Moran outlined how Medicare stepped forward to manage payments for aspects of the Government’s recent stimulus package. “One especially innovative measure accompanied the plan to install energy efficient insulation in up to 2.9 million Australian homes. If the plan had followed standard government practice, the homeowner would have paid the installer of the insulation then applied to a government department for the rebate. But the rebate would typically have taken up to two months or longer to arrive, thereby putting people out of pocket and discouraging sign-up to the scheme. Instead, the Energy Efficient Homes Package requires installers to pay the cost of installation, but offers them swift reimbursement – the benchmark is 48 hours. And they are reimbursed by Medicare. Normally, Medicare has nothing to do with installing pink batts in homes, but it was chosen because it knows how to process payments fast.”
- The Queensland Government QGap program delivers 100 services through 70 outlets in rural and remote Queensland. “Services are offered at one counter in a community -- it might be a post office, a local clerk of the court, a newsagent or another small shop. The agent enters a franchise agreement with the state and is paid per referred query. The system is cheap, the public interacts with a local person not a faceless bureaucrat, and it gives a local business more work, thereby helping it to remain in the town.”
“I cannot overestimate the value of such citizen-centred approaches, and the need to expand them across the public sector. We need to put people at the heart of everything we do.” Moran observed.