Shergold Urges Community and Public Service Collaboratio
11 February 2016 at 10:51 am
A Prime Minister’s Public Service Advisory Committee, that included community organisations and leaders from business, should be established to support a more open, collaborative and outward-looking public service, according to academic Professor Peter Shergold AC.
The Federal Government asked Professor Shergold, a former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Not for Profit expert, to lead an independent review of government processes around large public programs and projects.
Professor Shergold’s report, Learning from Failure: Why large government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved, was presented to government in August 2015 but was only released to the public this week by the Australian Public Service Commission.
As part of his 28 recommendations he said public sector reform should be conceived as a continuous process, driven from within but supported by outside expertise. In his report Professor Shergold coined the term “adaptive government”.
“A Prime Minister’s Public Service Advisory Committee could be charged with driving this approach. It should itself embrace membership from the private and community sectors. There exists a profound appetite amongst many public servants for change. They need to be encouraged to go further,” Professor Shergold said.
He said the committee should report to the Prime Minister, through the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service.
“Its terms of reference should be to assist the Australian Public Service Commissioner to drive a more open, collaborative and outward-looking APS. Its members should help identify innovative approaches and imagine new ways of developing or delivering policy – measures that can enhance public sector productivity and raise public service standards,” he said.
“The committee would not require a large administrative secretariat. Its deliberations should be integrated into the existing work program of the APSC. However, it should have the capacity to generate its own agenda.
“Membership of the Public Service Advisory Committee must be carefully chosen to bring together the right mix of pre-eminent leaders, who have had diverse experience outside and inside government, but also share a real commitment to enhancing Australian governance.”
Prof Shergold said diversity – in the sense of welcoming the views of the private and the community sectors – needed to be enhanced.
“The APS must open itself to a wider diversity of perspectives,” he said.
“Adaptive government involves directing performance towards the achievement of outcomes in an increasingly competitive environment. To the extent that performance-based outcomes can be agreed and measured, the process allows contracted providers much greater flexibility in how they undertake delivery.
“This does not mean less oversight. Monitoring will still be required to assure not only that outcomes are being achieved, but that the process by which they are pursued has the integrity and accountability that public spending demands. Nevertheless, done properly, there will be less need for prescriptive red tape.”
He said adaptive government also called for greater organisational flexibility.
“It demands more willingness to experiment – starting small, testing what works and, in the worst case, failing quickly. It is premised upon facilitative leadership, in which collaborative partnerships are formed with others to deliver results. It requires much more agility than the traditional structures and workforce systems of public administration allow. It demands wholehearted acceptance of the virtual world by which government can better engage with citizens,” he said.
Professor Shergold recommended that staged decision-making for large projects should incorporate the allocation of seed funding to agencies to develop a business case and proof-of-concept, which can be tested before the project moves to a further stage.
He said the government should fund an innovation competition to encourage experimental, innovative community and business proposals for improving the delivery of programs and services.
As part of continuing effort to reduce red tape, he said greater efforts needed to be made to engage with communities and businesses to understand how contractual conditions and administrative guidelines can be less prescriptive, making it easier to work with government.
“A highly prestigious Public Sector Fellowship should be established to provide financial support each year for ten exceptional leaders from the business, community and academic sectors to contribute to significant initiatives in the APS for up to 12 months,” he said.
In 2014 Professor Peter Shergold was appointed Chair of the Aged Care Sector Committee tasked with building a working partnership between the Federal Government and the aged-care sector.
He also carried out a review that was part of the Service Sector Reform Project in 2012 to improve how government and the community sector worked together to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians.