Must know government language

Brush up on the essential public sector terminology and gain credence amongst decision makers.

Term Definition
as-a-Service (aaS)

While as-a-Service is predominantly an ICT industry term, government has embraced it enthusiastically. 

Delivery of a functionality by a vendor on a contractual basis. [X]-as-a-Service generally means that the functionality in question is being delivered through a network rather than being provided locally or on-site, and is almost always delivered through a cloud computing platform. Common examples include: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). The broader concept is sometimes referred to as "Anything-as-a-Service" (XaaS).

Back-office agency

An agency that primarily deals with administrative matters or policy generation. These tend to have much lower staff headcounts than service-delivery centric agencies, and correspondingly also have lower overall annual budgets. However, the nature of their function means that a larger portion of that budget is likely to be spent on ICT. Generally speaking, governments will attempt to minimise the cost of their back-office functions to the best of their ability in order to free up funds that can be invested in service-delivery functions, and as a result back-office agencies are often the targets of efficiency dividends and other cost-cutting measures.

Business-as-Usual (BaU) funding

Funds received by agencies (usually through budget processes) for their ongoing, day-to-day operations. By and large, BaU funding is either tied up in existing procurement arrangements or not addressable by the marketplace - invariably, the single largest component of BaU funding is internal staffing costs. Agency BaU funding frequently comes under pressure from reform or cost-cutting initiatives such as efficiency dividends.

Capital Expenditure (CapEx)

One-off spending towards acquiring an asset that will increase productivity. In the government sector, capital spending primarily refers to physical infrastructure or other major asset purchases rather than ICT projects, though there has been a move over the past decade towards reclassifying major ICT procurements as capital investments.

In the budgeting process, CapEx is generally excluded from the headline surplus or deficit figure (sometimes referred to as the Operating Result), though it still contributes to overall net debt.

Caretaker period

In the lead-up to an election, Australian federal, state and territory governments follow 'caretaker' conventions. During the caretaker period, unless responding to an emergency, governments are expected to refrain from making any significant policy decisions, senior personnel appointments, or high-value contract arrangements. There is also a higher level of scrutiny applied to public sector activities to ensure that the government is not inappropriately using public service resources to improve its electoral chances. In Australia, caretaker periods usually begin when an election is called and/or when parliament is dissolved at the end of its term or in the lead-up to an election.

New Zealand does not have a caretaker period before elections, but applies caretaker conventions after elections until the new ministry is sworn in. Caretaker conventions can also apply mid-term if the government's authority is in question (e.g. if the government has lost the confidence of the House of Representatives).

Consolidation budget

A budget released in a year which does not feature an election - whether before or after the budget. Consolidation years allow governments to focus on their reform agendas without the distraction of an election, and typically feature elevated New Policy Proposal ICT funding compared to a pre-election or post-election budget.


In a hierarchical structure - such as the machinery of Australian governments - devolution refers to decision-making (such as procurement practices or setting policy) taking place at a lower level of government rather than through a centralised or Whole-of-Government authority. Australian governments' Westminster organisation means that agencies are comparatively devolved (independent or siloed, depending on how one views them), and as a result a significant degree of decision-making takes place at the individual agency level.

Front-line service delivery agency

An agency which directly provides services to the public. Front-line service delivery agencies tend to have high staff headcounts and high operating expenses as a result. In Australia, which entities are considered front-line service delivery agencies varies depending on the level of government - e.g. education, justice, transport and health are most prominent at the state level, whereas the at the national level the major service delivery arms are in human services, border protection and defence.

Front-line service delivery agencies tend to receive more budgetary leeway than back-office agencies due to the importance and popularity of their functions - e.g. public sector staffing caps often allow for higher growth in key front-line positions such as sworn police, teachers or nurses.

General Government Sector (GGS)

Government entities that provide services to the public and which are (typically) funded directly through the jurisdiction's budget process. This includes most core government agencies (such as Departments), and excludes for-profit entities such as government corporations.

Life journey mapping

An approach to reforming government services that views them from the perspective of the end user at a given point in time ("life event"). A life journey mapping approach will identify the steps citizens need to take during key life events - such as the birth of a child, starting a business, or the death of a loved one - and simplify the process for them by bundling these steps into a single, straightforward action.