04/05/2017 - 12:40

Rennie to lead public service review

04/05/2017 - 12:40

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A former New Zealand bureaucrat has been appointed to lead a three-person panel that will conduct a review into the state’s public service, where Premier Mark McGowan is targeting $750 million in savings.

Further department amalgamations may be identified in the review. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A former New Zealand bureaucrat has been appointed to lead a three-person panel that will conduct a review into the state’s public service, where Premier Mark McGowan is targeting $750 million in savings.

Mr McGowan said Iain Rennie, a former NZ state services commissioner, would chair the panel that also comprises former Indigenous Land Corporation chief executive Michael Dillon and former University of Western Australia senior deputy vice chancellor Margaret Seares.

Mr Rennie, who last month was appointed by NZ Finance Minister Steven Joyce to review the way the Reserve Bank of New Zealand makes interest rate decisions, was involved in a number of initiatives to improve the performance of the public service while serving as state services commissioner in NZ.

In an interview with Global Government Forum published in July last year, shortly after his retirement, Mr Rennie said highlights of his NZ career included creating independent panels to review the performance of government agencies.

The reviews, which are published regularly, are based on the assessment of an agency’s achievements and shortcomings by an independent panel.

“There was a wider cultural defensiveness about improvement, and improvement is hard because the first step is an acknowledgement that you’re not as good as you need to be,” he was quoted as saying.

The reviews, he said, helped to begin to shift the culture towards a greater openness.

“It’s about making something better, and most public servants want to come to work to make something better.”

The second initiative Rennie highlighted was his work on talent management.

Under his leadership, the State Services Commission created the new post of chief talent officer and led a radical overhaul of leadership development in the NZ civil service.

The SSC invested in a leadership assessment tool named Leadership Insight (LI), which provided senior officials with information about their own capability, potential and development needs, mapping them against universal core skills contained in the leadership success profile. 

The panel announced today by Mr McGowan will examine the functions, operations and culture of the state’s public sector.

New key performance indicators are set to be developed and linked to 20 per cent of the salaries of directors general and chief executive officers, while further agency mergers may also be potentially identified.

“The service priority review is the next step in the state government’s commitment to public sector reform,” he said.

“I have asked the review panel to identify practical ways to deliver services in a more efficient and financially sustainable way.

“There are far too many departments and agencies in WA, compared to the other states. It creates red tape, makes it difficult to access services and is a burden for taxpayers.

“With the implementation of whole-of-government KPIs, we will ensure our government is outcomes-driven and consistently held to account.”

Opposition leader Mike Nahan warned that if the McGowan government plans on making further substantial cuts to the public sector, it would mean cuts to workers in the frontline services.

Mr McGowan needs to come clean about how he is going to achieve the $750 million in cuts that he has promised and booked,” he said.

“The reality is Treasury would have told him... that $750 million in additional cuts will mean necessary cuts to frontline services.

“I’m not saying (Mr McGowan) shouldn’t make these reforms, I’m just telling him to come clean and not hide behind reviews.”"

The review follows news last week that the state government would be cutting the number of its departments from 41 to 25, while a fifth of jobs in the Senior Executive Service would be made redundant by July 1.

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