26 September 2023

PS review on show and comments invited

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An Interim Report on the review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector has been released for early comment and submissions.

Acting Premier, Stephen Miles said the author of the report, Peter Coaldrake, had made a number of preliminary observations which he would further address in the final report, with recommendations, which is due in June.

“As Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk said when she announced the report ‘it is always good to look at things with fresh eyes, the 21st century has brought rapid changes, not least in terms of technology and we need to address that’,” Dr Miles said.

In his interim report, Professor Coaldrake (pictured) noted that the role of the public sector had been weakened in recent times by the rising influence of Ministerial offices and the widespread use of external consultants.

He said that in the consultations, he found one frequent overreach was when Ministerial officers appropriated the authority of their Ministers in directing Public Servants to undertake certain tasks.

“These staffers are often faced with pressure to provide a ‘quick answer’ to Departments bound by internal processes that impinge upon efficiency,” Professor Coaldrake said.

“What we have seen across multiple jurisdictions over the last few decades, including at some level here in Queensland, is the hollowing-out of the expertise of the public sector.”

He said this was particularly pronounced in the economic and infrastructure sectors in the age of “public-private partnerships.”

As a result, the salary cost to the taxpayer had been greater, and the public sector had lost valuable expertise.

Professor Coaldrake also found that the slow progress of women through the leadership ranks of the public sector was disappointing, with appointments to Senior Executive Service, Deputy Director-General and Director-General roles still overwhelmingly male.

“Amongst Director Generals, women remain a tiny proportion,” he said.

In addition, apart from the specialist Indigenous Affairs portfolio, First Nations appointments in the public sector were rare.

“At the more senior levels, representatives of the State’s culturally diverse community are also hard to find,” Professor Coaldrake said.

“A modern workforce also needs to be continually evolving its digital capabilities, both to deliver the services its clients expect and to continue to be an employer of choice for the most able candidates.”

The alternative was to lose the best workforce entrants or early-career employees to private sector firms.

Professor Coaldrake’s 26-page Interim Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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