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Submission to APS Review REDACTED

I am writing this submission as a committed public servant who would like to

see the APS improve its capability to provide high quality and impartial advice to

the government and to contribute to the effective use of public funds. Suggested

recommendations for the review are outlined below.

Recommendation: That the review avoid making broad, aspirational

recommendations and instead recommend specific and time-bound actions

and assign responsibility for these actions.

Given the rare opportunity provided by this review to formally reflect on the

core functions of the APS, it is critical for the recommendations to be meaningful

and influential.

Recommendation: That the Department of Finance undertake a review of

Departmental outcome frameworks and the extent they are facilitating the

achievement of better outcomes for the Australian public and a high

performing APS.

The current focus of most Commonwealth Departments has been to progress

achievements against outcomes that directly link to impacts on the community.
While this may be a laudable goal, and also appropriate given the need to be

accountable for expenditure of public funds, in reality, this approach risks

politicising the critical process of reporting and evaluation (including

communication with the public, such as annual reports).

For example, in some cases, outcomes (in the broad sense of the word) stated in

Departmental corporate plans have become political in nature (e.g. protecting

Australia’s borders, responding to climate change), which has resulted in low

quality reporting.

Poorly designed outcome frameworks can also risk the integrity of the APS and

contribute to erosion of public trust in government.

The frameworks that underpin reporting in Departmental annual reports are

important accountability tools that can drive performance improvement. The

APS has justifiably moved away from reporting on outputs, but the shift to

reporting to outcomes may have gone too far, as the achievements of long-term

policy outcomes are for the most part outside of the direct control of the APS.
The value of reporting against long-term policy outcomes as a measure of the

performance of the APS will therefore be limited.

Outcomes that are within an agency’s control, such as delivering on the core

functions of policy development, program implementation and regulatory

administration would deliver more meaningful and appropriate reporting.
If reporting frameworks are not designed as a vehicle for meaningful reporting

then an important opportunity and critical tool for driving improvements in

public sector performance is lost.

Submission to APS Review REDACTED

Lastly, central agencies such as the Department of Finance have a key role to play

in driving improvements and collaboration throughout the APS, particularly in

relation to accountability given the conflicts of interest inherent in positions of

leadership. Driving accountability from within an agency is particularly difficult

given these conflicts of interest. On the other hand, there appear to be few

incentives for any APS Department to lead in becoming a high performer due to

the risks of providing frank and fearless advice to government.

Recommendation: That the review make recommendations that target

lifting the capacity and capability of SES in the APS.

The fast pace of globalisation and technological change is making public policy

more complex than ever before. The Senior Executive Service are not operating

at a high-level and are ill equipped for building a resilient and high-performing

APS for the future. Capability standards and recruitment practices require urgent

review and action. Legal or structural mechanisms for protecting the

independence of the APS are also required, as there seem to be no limitations or

public consequences for political appointments to senior positions in the APS
(and terminations).

Major structural change, such as that alluded to above, requires strong

leadership. Without this, any change effort is likely to be limited and short-


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