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SA Premier appoints first new mandarin, eyes NZ-style public service KPIs

The South Australian premier has found a permanent replacement for one of four chief executives he sacked shortly after coming into office, and now plans to set a series of public performance targets for government agencies.

Steven Marshall has appointed Caroline Mealor as chief executive of the SA Attorney-General’s Department, just a few months after she became the state’s deputy director of public prosecutions.

SA Premier Steven Marshall. Photo: Facebook

Mealor was formerly a senior prosecutor before moving to the department, where she was a deputy chief executive for over six years. Her time as deputy DPP was cut short when she came back to act as department head following the post-election cleanout, and has impressed Attorney-General Vickie Chapman in that time.

She replaces Ingrid Haythorpe, who was appointed chief executive in a reshuffle last February that was triggered by the resignation of Kym Winter-Dewhirst as head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Haythorpe now works for a boutique Adelaide consulting firm with another former DPC executive, Tahnya Donaghy.

Marshall has yet to replace the other three chiefs he sacked after coming into office. Public service commissioner Erma Ranieri is currently acting chief at DPC, deputy CEO John Schutz is acting head of the Department for Environment and Water, and Julienne TePohe is holding the fort at the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.

NZ-style public service KPIs

In an interview with his local News Corp tabloid, Marshall has also outlined a plan to introduce public performance targets inspired by the Better Public Services initiative introduced by the former government of New Zealand. The New South Wales government also has a similar system called the Premier’s Priorities.

The new Labour government in Wellington, however, is expected to put its own stamp on the public service and that could mean it turns away from the BPS targets, as it was critical of some of the former government’s public service reforms — particularly the focus on financial KPIs — while in opposition.

Marshall, who employs one of the former NZ National Party government’s key advisers, told The Advertiser he would set clear public targets for economic growth based on the system adopted by former prime minister John Key. He said his approach would involve respect for the public service, and suggested he would aim to keep staffing levels roughly even.

“We’ve got to realise, in government, the best asset we’ve got in the state are the people that work in the public service and we’ve got to motivate them to be part of that change that we need for our entire state,” the premier said in the interview.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.