Text size: A A A

New super service agency for Victoria

Victoria is committing $15 million to build the business case for a new one-stop shop for government services to be called Service Victoria.

The announcement was made in the 2015-16 State Victorian Budget handed down by Treasurer Tim Pallas on Tuesday.

The new agency will provide a whole of government approach to service delivery through a single web portal and will aim to bring together government transactions and information spread across hundreds of phone hotlines and 538 different web sites.

The commencement of planning for new Victorian super digital agency follows the creation of a similar agency in NSW. Over the last two years Service NSW has rapidly unified access to over 400 different agencies transactions into one digital portal.

Service NSW has also created single shopfronts to provide a multiplicity of government services from one physical location and to enable access to digital services through dedicated kiosks.

“We don’t need almost a thousand different websites and hotlines for things like car registration and birth certificates. Service Victoria will get rid of the inefficiencies that are currently wasting time for families and businesses,” said Special Minister for State Gavin Jennings.

Jennings said the new agency will focus on highest volume government transactions to modernise the delivery of these services.

Jennings also announced increased funding of $2 million for the Public Sector Commission to enable it to undertake priority organisational reviews. He said this was part of the government’s commitment to provide efficient and innovative policy development and service delivery.

$8 million has also been committed to funding the establishment of Projects Victoria. The new agency will oversee the delivery of all major projects, research and the development of different delivery models.

The State Budget also commits $15.9 million to establish and administer the Office of the Public Access Counsellor to support access to government information.

The new independent agency will maintain all the existing powers of the Freedom of Information Commissioner and is proposed to be able to review departmental and ministerial decisions, including cabinet in confidence materials.

The new Service Victoria agency is expected to see major changes in the approach and back-end architecture of many government services and to generate material savings as services are consolidated.

The creation of a single digital service portal in other jurisdictions has been the first step in a major change in service delivery, back end system consolidation, and the creation of a single platform to provide payment, application and complaint management from one system.

In the US this approach has already led to major IT saving. A 2011 McKinsey report estimated ongoing public agency productivity savings from aggressively embracing digital delivery of up to half a per cent a year ongoing.

The push to create a simple, easy-to-use portal to access all interactions with government is part of a broader movement to get government agencies to focus on user needs, rather than their own organisational requirements.

In NSW, Service NSW has also been given a remit to build a much stronger consumer experience, hiring former bank executives Mike Pratt and Glenn King to build a strong consumer-focused agency.

Service NSW was strongly supported by Chris Eccles when he was head of the Premier’s Department in NSW. Eccles was late last year recruited by Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, to head up his department.

In the UK a similar exercise has seen all major government transactions move to a single digital portal called gov.uk and now many agency websites are being closed.

The UK are now looking to consolidate their major government back-end systems and to stop agencies developing a multiplicity of essentially similar functions such as payment gateways and identity systems.

Federally, the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull has established a new executive agency called the Digital Transformation Office with the specific aim to have major government transactions delivered digitally by 2017.

Read more at The Mandarin: How a banker delivered happy customers to the NSW govt

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.