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Friday, February 24, 2006

Blueprint for public sector reform

The NSW Audit of Expenditure and Assets Report by Michael Vertigan and Nigel Stokes provides the detailed basis for the initiatives announced yesterday by the Premier and has now been posted on the Government’s website.

The Report does not specifically discuss costs or benefits of FOI and privacy functions but it presents wide ranging suggestions about how government performance across the board could be improved.

Chapter 6 on restructuring government confirms that the changes announced yesterday are just the first step in a major reorganisation. While the Report includes a reference to the large number of independent or watchdog agencies in NSW it doesn’t specifically recommend any changes in the number or functions of the watchdogs at least.

The Report questions the need for separate bodies and boards for many government functions in NSW, an issue pointed out to the Government by the then Auditor General Tony Harris in a 1997 Performance Audit, Corporate Governance. His recommendations for review were never acted on.

Chapter 7 is the roadmap for efficiency reforms in the NSW public sector.

One of the surprising elements of the Report is that it feels the need to reiterate the importance of ideas like integrated planning and budgeting, focus on results, and the need for meaningful and monitorable performance measures.

All this suggests NSW has fallen a long way behind in public sector management. These ideas have been the bread and butter of public sector reform over the last 15 years and are well entrenched in public service elsewhere.

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