Opportunities to reform SA public sector too good to ignore
Thursday, 8 March 2018
The University of Adelaide’s South Australian Centre for Economic Studies (SACES) is today calling for greater scrutiny of the performance of South Australia’s burgeoning public sector.
In its latest Economic Issues paper, the Centre challenges whether South Australian taxpayers have experienced higher quality service standards and whether they enjoy greater benefits from the public sector when compared to other jurisdictions – and also when considering the size of SA’s government and public sector.
"The size, cost, performance and outcomes of the public sector have important implications for South Australian economic growth, employment and living standards," says the Executive Director of SACES, Associate Professor Michael O’Neil.
"The public sector has a critical leadership role in cultural change, in demonstrating continual improvement in public services, standards of service and regulation, if only because it is a major component of the South Australian labour force and economy.
“There is a need to implement reforms with a view to demanding a high-performance public sector, to improve the process of policy making and analysis, to dramatically overhaul the management of program implementation – for example, the handling of Oakden, and TAFE SA – and to establish a culture that is focused on the achievement of outcomes.
“The ultimate objective of reform is to achieve a higher level of economic activity, to improve the delivery of services to all South Australians and thereby improve community welfare,” says Associate Professor O’Neil.
“Recent events point to how the public sector creates policies which it implements and delivers but falls down when setting standards and regulating services.”
“A greater culture of innovation, responsibility and accountability that contests the quality of services, urgently needs implementing to combat this problem,” says Associate Professor O’Neil.
He says employment in the public sector has increased despite projections that reductions would occur through innovation and efficiency. “The relatively higher labour-intensive nature of public sector employment implies higher costs over time, which must be funded by a higher tax burden in the absence of genuine innovations in the public sector,” he says.
“More intensive training of staff is required to equip employees with a greater understanding of the ‘system of public service’, not the activity of individual agencies, to reinforce their responsibility to ensure that taxpayers receive services which meet, or exceed, the standards set by the public sector which should always act in the best interests of people using services.
“This could be tackled in the short term by efforts to recruit and train the ‘best and brightest’ employees, which may help to moderate the brain drain interstate of the young and well qualified,” says Associate Professor O’Neil.
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