NSW Treasury snatches state customer service czar Mike Pratt as its new secretary

By Ashley Carolan

Tuesday July 11, 2017

Mike Pratt, the man who spearheaded service delivery reforms across frontline agencies in New South Wales, has been appointed the new head of the state’s swollen Treasury.

Announced on Tuesday by Premier Gladys Berejikilian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, the elevation of Pratt — who is currently the state’s Customer Service Commissioner — comes as NSW Treasury embarks on a major shift to ‘outcome based’ budgeting that benchmarks the performance of spending rather than just the amount.

A former banker like his predecessor Rob Whitfield, Pratt has been credited with cementing a strong customer-centric ethos into the state’s public sector agencies which have successfully rolled once disparate retail agencies into highly humanised one-stop-shops branded as Service NSW.

Government for real people

The same approach was prosecuted by Pratt on the state’s government phone lines where interactive voice response systems were scrapped in favour of people because customers loathed talking to machines.

Read Mike Pratt’s interview with The Mandarin

The success of the massive retail and online simplification push, underpinned by major technology upgrades and procurement reforms, is clearly something the Berejiklian government wants to keep on a roll.

“Michael’s focus as Customer Service Commissioner has been on putting people at the heart of service delivery – one of the NSW Government’s key priorities and something he will be bringing to his new job at Treasury,” the Premier said.

“I look forward to working with him and the Treasurer on making Treasury an even more outcomes and customer focused agency.”

Pratt will also walk into a role that his state and federal peers could only wish for: coffers groaning at the seams thanks to surpluses of around $12 billion over the forward estimates that is now being sunk into massive infrastructure renewal.

“The task ahead is formidable”: NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet

The appointment of the new Treasury chief also continues to rope in the role of Secretary of NSW Industrial Relations, another area of conspicuous calm compared to other jurisdictions.

Public servants in NSW may have had annual pay rises capped at 2.5%, but the state has eschewed the mass redundancy rounds meted out from Canberra and Brisbane that between them culled around 25,000 positions.

Public private executive interchange continues

Effective from August 1, Pratt’s appointment follows the relatively brief two-year term of Rob Whitfield, who resigned shortly after the delivery of the state’s latest Budget.

Whitfield’s resignation was widely interpreted as a ‘mission accomplished’ style exit after major internal reforms and asset recycling moves — including the leasing of electricity distribution ‘poles and wires’ that generated a whopping $34 billion in gross proceeds.

One of Pratt’s biggest challenges will undoubtedly be improving his state’s financials when they are already on such a high base, a point not lost on Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.

“The task ahead is formidable – continuing to keep NSW finances in excellent shape and laying the fiscal and economic foundations for the future – and I look forward to working with Michael as we face those challenges,” Perrottet said.

“As Customer Service Commissioner, Michael has revolutionised the way the government delivers services to citizens, and his widely respected financial acumen and capacity to think outside the box are huge assets to the people of NSW.

“I have worked closely with Michael over recent years, and I know he is passionate about reforming Government so that it works harder than ever for the people of NSW,” Perrottet said.

The latest Treasury head appointment also continues the current state NSW government’s strong emphasis on poaching successful private sector executives, especially from banks, for key public service roles.

Pratt’s financial career highlights include senior executive roles at Standard Chartered Bank and Westpac and stints as chief executive at the National Australia Bank in Australia, Bank of New Zealand and Bank of Melbourne.

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