Get ready for another MoG change — new guidance released

By Harley Dennett

Thursday July 7, 2016

Group of Diverse People with Jigsaw Puzzel Pieces

New machinery of government changes could well follow the formation of a new federal government and just in case, the Australian Public Service Commission has updated its guide to making them run as smoothly as possible.

There’s a lot more to a MoG change than just printing new business cards. Disputes over who owns what, from printers to people, can take months. However, the Australian Public Service Commission is adamant that fast implementation is expected, and has produced a guide to support swift change while achieving the best outcomes for the Australian community.

The guide covers setting in place systems for the first 72 hours, and recommends an additional five to 10 days to identify complex issues.

Haste and co-operation are the APSC’s watchwords for MoG changes and it encourages the appointment of independent facilitators for the more complex administrative reshuffles to run negotiations and resolve any disputes.

Especially large and complex MoG changes often cause staff morale problems resulting from inadequate explanation of their purpose, cultural clashes, and the feeling of being taken over by a different entity, which can result in the departure of valuable staff. Their cost is never quantified publicly but is estimated to be very high for major changes.

To make them run as smoothly as possible, the ASPC asks senior public servants to negotiate in good faith, be open and honest about resource implications, and exchange information promptly and accurately. “Constructive and open communication” with staff is also important, giving early advice and assistance, providing opportunities to contribute their own ideas to the process wherever possible, and “acting with integrity” as always.

A “thorough due diligence exercise” to identify any complications should be undertaken in the first week or two after the change is announced. According to the new guide, published today:

“As soon as it is apparent that a MoG is complex, an independent facilitator should be appointed to lead a cross-agency committee.”

A facilitator becomes mandatory if the critical milestones set out by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Finance and the APSC are not being met; Finance has a list of qualified people on hand.

Information sharing is “paramount to a speedy MoG change” and it is important not to get bogged down in minor details, by applying risk management to triage the most critical issues to sort our first.

Finance also steps in as mediator on financial matters and the APSC on staffing if the agencies involved can’t reach agreement, and secretaries of their respective portfolio departments can’t resolve the impasse either.

The dispute resolution process can be escalated to a committee chaired by PM&C boss Martin Parkinson, who would be joined by Finance secretary Jane Halton and APS commissioner John Lloyd. The next step is a forced MoG change:

“If necessary, Finance may transfer funds and the Australian Public Service Commissioner may transfer staff without the agreement of agencies.”

Good luck with your career if conflict reaches the stage the central agencies ordering movement without your cooperation.

One chapter provides updated guidance for finance teams on what to do in the critical first 72 hours under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act (PGPA).

Other sections cover: people management; transfer of pay and conditions; governance and financial management; corporate services; transferring records; information technology; and MoG changes that transfer functions from public service agencies to independent public sector bodies and vice-versa.

Tips for avoiding confusion, conflict and delays

  • Share relevant information between agencies
  • Take a risk management approach to avoid letting relatively minor issues delay negotiations
  • Contact Finance early to get the accounts process started
  • Develop a communications strategy to keep staff informed

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