Terry Moran calls for agency accountability plans

Inconsistent agency models mean many are not fully accountable, argues former PM&C head Terry Moran. But there are good models for how agencies can improve transparency, accountability and public confidence, and possibly save themselves from being swallowed by their department.

The lack of measurable high-level goals in many agencies stifles transparency and accountability, argues former top mandarin Terry Moran. He says it’s up to agencies to step-up and build public trust in the work they do though clear public statements of plans and expectations — especially for focused agencies needing to demonstrate effective performance to their portfolio department or minister.

The former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet told The Mandarin that the way agencies were created has contributed to leaving few safeguards in place beyond often-token ministerial oversight. Unfortunately, the recent crackdown on the number of federal government agencies, and in the works at state level, hasn’t yet tackled how accountable those that remain are.

A wide range of existing accountability structures — the result of ad hoc agency creation over a series of governments — has led to a dog’s breakfast of agency powers and strategic approaches, Moran says. He wants a “major examination of accountability within government beyond financial issues, for both agencies and departments” to help remedy the problem.

This situation “has grown up historically as each new government has set up new agencies on a model they think is reasonable, so you don’t have much predictability in how the agencies are and are not accountable to ministers,” he says.

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