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Compulsory Operational Audit of the Public Service

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John Darley, MLC (5AA 9.37-9.44) Proposal for a compulsory operational audit of the public service

(Byner: Let’s talk about an issue that is going to be very important. We’ve just had an election and the Liberals won … the Ministers are being sworn in today … one of the things the Government’s got to do quickly is to have an audit … and draw a line under what’s happened under a previous regime .. it’s got to be done independently so that when the results are announced, there’s no suggestion that … you’re just bullying up the figures to do things you want to do that you didn’t want to tell us during the election … my next guest is going to be a very influential member of what happens in policy in this state … his name is John Darley … you have been trying to get a root and branch review of the public sector for how long?) About twelve months … I introduced a bill into the Parliament for a compulsory operational audit of every agency and department of Government. Now, the bill is not about slashing or burning the public service. It’s all about ensuring that we have the appropriate number of resources to provide the services that the Government needs to provide and how it operates is this: we need to identify every individual activity within each Government Department or agency and we ask three questions: Is the activity still required? Is it performed in the most efficient and effective manner? And is it performed in the most effective location? By doing that, not only do you identify where the resources are required, but you also cut out … automatically any useless red tape … I’ve spoken to Rob Lucas about this in recent times about what happened when the Liberal Government was in power before. They had an audit committee and I asked whether they got down to that level and he admitted no, they came up with basically the efficiency dividends imposed by Treasury which in my view, are fairly arbitrary. Now the point is … staff, when they’re given the opportunity to have a say as to which jobs they do and how they do it, the appreciate that opportunity. (Byner: What was the reaction of the previous Government when you wanted this review? What was said to you?) When it came to the Upper House, the Minister responsible at that time opposed it … they just opposed it and that was it. I subsequently spoke to the Minister for the Public Sector and … I said, “Why did you oppose this bill?” And he said, “Oh well, tell me about it” and I explained it to him and he said, “That was a good idea”. Now in terms of the Liberal Party they supported it right up to the third reading stage and they were concerned that immediately prior to an election the unions would take them on and say, “All you’re doing is slashing and burning the public service”. (Byner: So where to from here? Are you going to suggest this … review again?) Yeah. That bill is currently being prepared for reintroduction to Parliament this time. (Byner: Okay, how long would it take to do this?) It depends on the size of the agency but it’s all done agency by agency and the review is undertaken under the control of the CEO … [unclear] in the three departments that I headed up and that was the Valuation Department, Plans Department and State Services … people working in those departments appreciate the opportunity to say, “Look, we know we’re doing things that we don’t need to do, so let’s get rid of it, let’s rationalise it, let’s improve the way we do things”, and end up with an appropriate level of people working in the area to provide the services the Government needs to provide. (Byner: … just quickly, the current Valuer General with whom you have some very strong disagreements about going back to this five year rolling valuation which the Tonkin Government got rid of in ’79, what’s the situation there?) Oh … that is a classic really … the document that she prepared and submitted to the Treasurer for approval, it is full of red tape and unnecessary, useless operations. My understanding is, in my discussion with [unclear] when I brought it to his attention, he said, “Well, if that’s what she’s going to do, well she won’t get the money to do it”. (Byner: Alright John, we’ll wait with great interest.)

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