Please see attached submission.
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
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
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
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
Major structural change, such as that alluded to above, requires strong
leadership. Without this, any change effort is likely to be limited and short-