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Reform of the Australian Government Administration Report - Decisions deferred to Budget

by Staff Writers •
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As outlined in Part 1 of this article last week, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration was provided to the Prime Minister on 29 March, with the Government expected to announce its Reform decisions as part of this year’s Budget.  the medium believes that at least some of the reforms will require funding at a level significant enough to warrant budget consideration and/ or be attractive enough to the electorate to warrant saving for the budget announcement.

The Blueprint is therefore mandatory reading for those involved in Government ICT.  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is listed as an enabler in a number of key strategies, predominantly under the ‘Meets the Needs of Citizens’ Reform Area.

This reform area underscores the Federal Government’s recent efforts to establish a set of Gov 2.0 policies, culminating in the report by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, which was wrapped up on 31 December 2009.

The report, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0,was handed to Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner last year; because of its similar recommendations to the Blueprint for Reform, it too is now likely to be strongly tied in with the Budget process. 

Meets the needs of Citizens’ has two of the ‘interdependent reforms’:

  • Delivering better services for citizens; and
  • Creating more open government.

The first of these, Delivering Better Services for Citizens was analysed in part one of this article, the second, Creating More Open Government is discussed here.

The discussion of this topic aligns very closely with the Gov 2.0 agenda – both in the notion of more data transparency and the idea of collaborative consultation with citizens.

‘An important component of open government is enabling citizens to collaborate on policy and service design. ……….Advances in information technology are making a stronger relationship between citizens and government possible. Today it is often more convenient for citizens to use online mechanisms to communicate their views to government. The Blueprint recommends that the Australian Government become more open and that public sector data be more widely available, consistent with privacy and secrecy laws.’

In a third related thread, on 31 March 2010, Minister Tanner released the findings of a study Interacting with Government: Australians' Use and Satisfaction with e‑Government Services – 2009which said Australians used the Internet to interact with Government more than ever before in 2009.

The adoption of the Internet as the first port of call for Government contact is fairly recent; 5 years ago, said Tanner, the result would have been overwhelmingly in person. 

Minister Tanner indicated that the Rudd Government is committed to its 2007 election promise to improve service delivery to citizens, mentioning the value of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and recent redevelopment of the portal.

The two recommendations under Creating More Open Government firstly enable citizens to collaborate with government in policy and service design and secondly conduct a citizen survey:

2.1 Enable citizens to collaborate with government in policy and service design

Lead Agencies: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and Finance

  • Develop and implement new approaches to collaboration and consultation with citizens on policy and service delivery issues; and
  • Make public sector data available to the wider public in a manner consistent with privacy principles.

Both these points align directly with the Gov 2.0 Taskforce recommendations. 

PM&C is one of the few agencies to have utilized forums to gather public opinion.  The relatively low take up rate to date will be partly cultural, partly technological and partly procedural. 

Agencies will need to be ready to deal with the volume of comment they may receive on particular issues.  They will also need to deal with the possibility that such consultative forums may rapidly become the new vehicle for organized lobbying campaigns by vested interest groups. 

2.2 Conduct a citizen survey

Lead Agency: Australian Public Service Commission (APSC)

  • Conduct a survey of citizens’ views on their satisfaction with government programs, services and regulation to inform government business; and
  • These surveys desirably would be expanded to include all levels of government.

The APSC is to have its role reinvigorated and strengthened under the Blueprint.  Stephen Sedgwick was recently appointed to the role of Public Service Commissioner.  He went to the role fresh from his role as Chair of the NSW Better Services and Value Taskforce. 

The scope, nature and frequency of any such survey will no doubt have to be considered and prioritized relative to some of the other recommendations under the Reform agenda.

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