Harper review: choice at the heart of public service delivery

Review author Ian Harper says the art of commissioning is key for public servants, who are “stewards” of a diverse, responsive and innovative market. A new regulator, to take over some ACCC functions, and a new policy agency have been proposed.

Consumer choice should be placed at the heart of government service delivery, through policies to encourage diverse and competitive markets populated with innovative and responsive providers, according to the Competition Policy Review led by economist Ian Harper.

Echoing other economic advice like the Productivity Commission’s aged care and disability care inquires of recent years, the review panel urges governments to recognise consumers are best placed to make decisions about their needs. The role of governments should be to ensure equitable access, minimum quality standards and the availability of relevant information to help consumers exercise choice.

In sectors where exercising choice is complicated or difficult, the Harper review panel (pictured) found it should be made easier by “intermediaries or purchase advisors” who are incentivised to act in the consumer’s interests, and disadvantaged groups should get special assistance. Default options should be available as a general rule, and the cost of switching service providers minimised wherever possible.

Competition-policy-review-report_online_Page_001The weighty tome that emerged from the review yesterday also argues that in both provision and procurement, governments need to put clear space between their separate interests as a policymaker, funder, regulator and service provider.

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