Greens policy puts public sector into election

By Tom Ravlic

March 17, 2022

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For the sixth time, the ANAO has gone looking for evidence our public service departments are executing cybersecurity basics. Again, they’ve been disappointed. (TPG/Adobe)

ANALYSIS

The Australian Greens’ policy on restoring public sector numbers provides an opportunity for people in the major political parties to reflect on the way in which the public sector has morphed under their watch.

One of the key figures cited by the Australian Greens is that 17,000 full-time jobs have been lost in the public sector since 2012.

That is a significant depletion in the headcount of the public service, and it has resulted in inevitable outsourcing.

Fewer bodies in offices with the same amount or more work to be done has resulted in work going to consulting firms.

The major accounting firms – KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, and EY – are in the crosshairs of the Greens given that the firms have made political donations to the major parties. The Greens state that the major accounting firms have donated more than $5.4 million to the traditional parties of government since 2012.

There is a nexus drawn between the awarding of contracts and donations and it leads to scepticism within the community about how contracts are awarded.

Are contracts or tenders awarded on merit? Does the firm with the best and sharpest team get a particular job? Are firms that have donated to a political party preferred over a contractor that might not have put money into a political party’s kitty even though the skill set of a team put up to tackle a job is comparable? Is the government giving contracts to firms they know will give them an answer they like to hear?

These questions are fair, reasonable, and understandable given that donation data is published as well as the details about that organisation that is awarded specific work.

People sitting on the outside of the process looking in have every right to question how taxpayer resources are allocated given that a government is the custodian and manager of taxpayer resources. 

There is a need to explore what some might consider a difficult decision to end the perception that donations assist in getting the ear of and work from government.

Political parties might find this just a tad hard, but they need to think carefully about banning political donations from organisations that would seek to tender for public sector contracts.

The advice that government receives from consulting firms should be both independent and perceived to be independent by the community. Failure to ban such donations will continue to leave a range of legitimate questions about tendering processes open in the minds of observers.


READ MORE:

The Greens outline vision to free public servants from politicisation

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