Australia ranks fifth on public service effectiveness

The Australian Public Service is the fifth-most effective civil service in the world, according to an index released last week.

The United Kingdom sits at first place on the ranking table produced by Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government and the Institute for Government. It is followed by New Zealand, Canada and Finland.

The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index bills itself as the first comprehensive, international index of civil service effectiveness.

It assesses the performance of central civil services in 38 countries. Its creators hope to help citizens hold governments to account, but also assist governments to see where others perform better and learn from them.

This is the second edition of the index, and the top five are the same as last time, but in a different order. Australia placed third in 2017, though the results are not comparable as the measurements and data used this time around have been adjusted to make rankings more reliable.

There is a clear pattern to country rankings. As also occurred in first edition, the four Commonwealth countries in the index (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK) rank in the top five. Among the Nordic countries, all but Iceland is in the top 10. The remaining countries of northern and western Europe tend to rank more highly than countries in southern and eastern Europe, while countries from outside Europe are distributed throughout the rankings.

Rankings are based on 12 indicators: capabilities, policy making, fiscal and financial management, regulation, crisis and risk management, procurement, human resources management, tax administration, digital services, inclusiveness, integrity and openness. It does not measure service delivery outcomes for citizens, for example in areas like health care and education.

No single country appears in the top five for every indicator. Australia only appears in the top five on one indicator: crisis and risk management, where it sits at number five. Australia also does well on policy making and regulation (ranked seventh for both).

New Zealand sits at the top position for procurement, “primarily because of its maximum scores for three metrics: the extent of e-procurement functions within government procurement systems; the role of the central purchasing body; and the extent to which policies are in place to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to take part in central government procurement,” says the report.

“This suggests that New Zealand has positive lessons to share with other countries who wish to improve in these areas.”

The United States is ranked 11th overall, doing well on capability but poorly on policy making.

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