Australia ranks third in the world for the effectiveness of its national public service, according to a new index produced by the UK Institute for Government and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government.
Canada and New Zealand respectively hold the first and second rankings the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index, which measures national bureaucracies against 76 metrics.
When GDP per capita is taken into account, however, Estonia, Mexico and New Zealand comprise the top three.
The index measures how civil services fare on a range of “core functions” — executive, service delivery and support responsibilities — as well as attributes such as integrity, openness, capability, inclusiveness, staff engagement and innovation. It does not take into account sub-national government, such as Australia’s states and territories.
This is the first edition of the index, covering 31 countries for which adequate data were were available. Its creators hope the index can serve as both a performance improvement tool to see which countries perform best in which areas and learn from them, and an accountability tool to allows citizens, government officials and politicians to find out how well their civil service is performing.
It also breaks down country rankings by specific area. Australia makes it into the top five on regulation, crisis/risk management, digital services and inclusiveness.
Australia’s strength on regulation — in particular evaluation, where it scores the highest in the world — offers “useful lessons” for other countries, says the report. Its high ranking on inclusiveness shows “a good representation of women, ethnic and religious groups relative to most other countries” in the APS.
The main indicator showing a need for improvement in the Australian Public Service is fiscal and financial management, the report argues, as most of Australia’s indicators in this area are slightly below average.
Previous initiatives have sought to develop measurement tools of this kind but there is currently no other global index available which provides a comprehensive assessment of civil service effectiveness. There are, however, many existing data surveys and indexes available globally that it has pulled together to paint a picture of where different countries stand relative to one another.
Its creators emphasise is not meant to be the last word on public service comparisons, but a long term work in progress, with a conference at the Blavatnik School of Government in September to discuss the pilot results and the future direction of the project.
The Blavatnik School itself is fairly new, opening its doors in 2012 as the University in Oxford’s school of public policy.