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

by Staff Writers •
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The Report of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration was originally scheduled for release on 29 March 2010. 

Instead of a Report, a document entitled Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration“ was provided to the Prime Minister for consideration on this date.  It is understood that the Government will now announce its Reform decisions as part of this year’s Budget. 

For seasoned government watchers, this is likely to signal that implementation of at least some of the reforms are expected to:

  • Require funding at a level significant enough to warrant budget consideration;
  • Be attractive enough to the electorate to warrant saving for a the budget announcement; or
  • Both of the above.

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

The Blueprint is broken into four areas “where performance can be improved”.  These are that Australian Government administration:

  1. Meets the needs of Citizens;
  2. Provides strong leadership and strategic direction;
  3. Contains a highly capable workforce; and
  4. Operates efficiently and at a consistently high standard.

Within the four areas are nine interdependent reforms which are supported by twenty-eight specific recommendations. 

Each reform area has been allocated one (or more) lead agencies.  The Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) feature in the client service delivery strategies.  [The likely area within Finance to have involvement in the implementations in these reform areas is the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) but it is not mentioned by name.]

It is the first of the nine areas (Meets the needs of Citizens) that is most likely to require major funding and or create budget-worthy announcements.  It therefore deserves the greatest scrutiny with regard to its implications for ICT support. 

In an era of rapid technological advancements, customers expect greater service quality from the public sector, just as they expect it from business.  At the same time, advances in information technology enable governments to not only deliver services in a more citizen-friendly manner, but to incorporate citizens’ ideas and perspectives into service delivery’.  (BlueprintExecutive Summary)  

 ‘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, is analysed further in this article, the second, Creating more open government will be examined in Part Two, to be issued next week.

1.     Delivering Services for Citizens

Under this reform area are four specific recommendations, each of which is substantial in its own right. 

‘The Blueprint proposes a systematic evaluation of how services are delivered from the citizen’s perspective, in order to develop a whole of government strategy.Opportunities for new and aligned technological solutions must be pursued, while better models for partnering with the community and private sectors need to be developed’.

Improved links with the States and Territories and local government could initially be developed by co‑locating many of the existing state offices of Australian Government Departments. Co-location would provide a more coordinated interface with other levels of government.

Engagement with business should also be reformed. Standard Business Reporting arrangements should be extended and agencies should review their processes and operations to reduce the regulatory burden on business.’

1.1   Simplify Australian Government services for citizens

Lead Agencies: DHS and Finance

1.2   Develop better ways to deliver services through the community and private sectors

Lead Agencies: DHS and Finance

1.3   Deliver services in closer partnership with State, Territory and local governments

Lead Agencies: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)

1.4   Reduce unnecessary business regulatory burden

Lead Agencies: Department of the Treasury and Finance

Next week in Part 2 we will cover the major reform of open government but in the meantime, ponder this:

  1. If major new and innovative ways of meeting citizen’s needs must be at least announced (if not part implemented) prior to the next election to show the electorate that the Government is serious about Australian Government administrative reform,
  2. If the Government has determined it should delay any such announcement until the 2010-11 Budget announcement in May for maximum impact and because serious funding will be required;
  3. If the government has thus far been silent on where the promised Gershon reinvestment is going to be made;
  4. If one of the two lead agencies in the ‘Meets the Needs of Citizens’ is Finance, the driver of the Gershon identification of savings.

Then, how likely is it that the harvested Gershon related savings will be deployed into projects in this area? 

Comment on whether you agree or disagree with this hypothesis.  And really go out on a limb and suggest which ‘Meets the needs of Citizens’ projects are likely to be identified for such funding and perhaps an immediate start?

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