State of the Commonwealth: push for more capability reviews

The public service is well-led, resilient and effective, the commissioner says. But don’t forget the long-term capability and policy planning, even if the current government isn’t interested.

Outgoing Commonwealth public service commissioner Stephen Sedgwick is pushing for a second round of agency capability reviews and a re-think of accountability frameworks that discourage agency heads to undertake long-term planning beyond the urgent demands of government.

Speaking at the release of the 17th State of the Service report today, Sedgwick said he now had evidence to prove the APS culture is task-oriented and getting on with the job in spite of the pressures of downsizing.

“The evidence is clear: overall the Australian public service is a well-led, resilient, effective institution. Data gathered in the report, for instance, shows employee engagement has risen in recent years, despite the changes that are currently underway.”

However, the same evidence from 19 externally led capability reviews, self-assessments by agencies and the latest survey of almost 100,000 employees across the APS show “a set of seemingly intractable problems”. These challenges include strengthening the public service’s capabilities, managing risk, change and performance, as well as progressing a sensible approach to shared services.

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