WA budget confirms state's bureaucracy transformation is still one to watch

By The Mandarin

September 8, 2017

The Western Australian McGowan government’s first budget, handed down yesterday, attracted more headlines for what promises it broke than where it stayed the course. Most reports also put public servants on the unfavourable side of the winners and losers lists.

The state’s dire budget and debt situation will have a deep impact on the bureaucracy’s centre. Of the $3.5 billion budget repair measures, the public sector will take on 63% ($2.2 billion), with the private sector taking on 26% ($922 million).

The Premier’s own department, for instance, has has its budget slashed by a quarter on last year’s spend. That’s quite a departing gift the Premier has given his former Chief of Staff turned top state mandarin Darren Foster.

The budget also confirms that 3000 voluntary redundancies will be sought across the public sector, with priority given to agencies subject to the recent machinery of government changes. While those who keep their jobs won’t be getting pay rises for the next four years.

Some of the public sector savings are based on projected impact of reducing the number of departments from 41 to 25.

Belt tightening will extend to the public sector offices and transport too, with the State Fleet and office accommodation budgets slashed by $127 million over the forward estimates.

Reinvest in transformation initiatives

The government plans to put 20% of savings from the smaller headcount back into transformation initiatives, especially in workforce renewal (recruitment of entry-level employees), frontline service delivery and digital transformation.

Most of these initiatives have been canvassed in the Service Priority Review, reported on last week, although details are yet to come. They are now familiar responses to familiar problems with an established public sector that hasn’t kept pace with private sector transformation: a customer-focused, one-stop shop service delivery approach that better suits the community’s needs; reducing unnecessary red tape and processes (especially in procurement and contract negotiation), breaking down silos, and better use of data.

Other reforms include:

  • a Commission of Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects — “designed to identify lessons learned and develop measures to ensure greater rigour and transparency around future procurement processes”;
  • a Sustainable Health Review — “to look at ways to deliver a patient-first, innovative and sustainable health system for all Western Australians”; and
  • a Justice Pipeline Model — “to improve integrated decision-making by simulating and forecasting activity across the entire justice system, from Western Australia Police to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Legal Aid Commission to the Department of Justice”.
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