30 May 2013

Creation of a Public Economy to Transform Services

The Institute of Public Administration Australia WA (IPAA WA) hosted former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Professor Peter Shergold AC at the Pan Pacific Perth on 23rd May. Professor Shergold presented to a room full of public, private and community sector delegates on the topic of ‘public service transformed’. His lively, insightful and somewhat ‘challenging’ view on transforming the public service was highly engaging and well received by participants.

IPAA WA Program Development Manager, Andrew Dunkin said he had seen Professor Shergold at the 2012 IPAA National conference and ‘invited Peter over to WA because he thought it would be valuable for West Australians to hear Peter’s challenging and provocative views.’

“He more than delivered on content and the workshop could have easily carried on for the rest of the day,” Mr Dunkin said.

Professor Shergold is Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and touched on the key elements required to transform the public service and deliver public services innovatively, including the concept of performance-based contracts or ‘pay for results’.

“My best estimate at the moments, is about 30 billion dollars worth of government human services are now being delivered via the not for profit, community sector. That is an enormous amount, and if you think about it, that has been an incredible transformation over a generation.”

“The problem is we have seen this outsourcing, almost entirely in terms of procurement - value for money - and therefore failed to see what the transformative element is.”

 “...what we should be looking at is performance - because while you focus on compliance, while you focus on process, guess what?! By that very act you crush the innovative potential of this process.”

“Why on earth, would we want to outsource to a range of community and private sector organisations, to deliver services, and then try and make them do it in the same way? What on earth are we thinking about!”

“If you specify exactly how that program is to be delivered, you will have lost the opportunity for innovation. If you’re only interested in whether all the process have been properly acquitted, you will have missed the opportunity for innovation.”

“I'm talking about the creation of a public economy, in which the public services, and the private sector and the community sector actually work together in partnership, in collaboration, in delivering the outcomes wanted by government.”

“How are we going to have these innovations integrated? We think we have got to run it out across the whole of government - I think this is more realistic - if we are going to trial new approaches which inevitably have layers of risk - governance and public services tend to be risk averse - lets then use genuine trials, and demonstration pilots. Let's make sure we evaluate the impacts.”

 For resources from this event including Professor Shergold’s presentation visit