The Coalition came to power in 2013 promising to cut wasteful spending and one of their first steps was to immediately start sacking public servants with a goal of 16,500 by mid-2018.
Whilst the government didn’t do any figures on how much this would cost, analysis gave an estimate of $1 billion in redundancy payouts to public servants even before entitlements such as leave were paid.
One influence driving up redundancy bills was the Commission of Audit’s call to reduce the number of middle managers.
An audit report released in December 2017 then revealed that government spending on management consultants had increased from $200 million in 2012-13 to $700 million a year now.
The big four accounting firms — KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte — have won close to half-a-billion dollars in consultancy work over four years.
Professor Leo Dobes, a retired senior public servant and associate professor at the Australian National University, told the ABC that there are not enough skilled economists left in the public service, describing “a woeful lack of ability and knowledge in that area.”
Matthias Cormann, as always, had a justification.
“It helps to keep the cost of Commonwealth administration low by helping to avoid the ongoing costs which would be incurred with the recruitment of additional permanent public servants when the need for specialist skills or additional support is temporary or project-specific,” he said.
There is the added attraction that you can limit the questions you ask a private firm to look at and pass on some public money into selected private hands.
It isn’t just economists that we have lost. Many scientists left the CSIRO with a devastating loss of expertise and waste of research. Regulatory bodies like ASIC and the ATO were decimated. DFAT was stripped of staff and function.
Outsourcing has been sold as a more efficient way to do things. And hasn’t that gone well – NOT!
The cost of Government IT has spiralled from $5.9 billion in 2012-13 to nearly $10 billion a year, with 24 per cent of that going to Boeing, IBM and Telstra.
That was more than they spent on Newstart.
Yet we are plagued by stuff-ups and burdened by the few remaining public servants not having the expertise or courage to evaluate and implement better IT solutions.
The waste of money, the loss of expertise and the opportunity for frank and fearless advice, has had far-reaching effects on the capability of the government and its agencies to make the right decisions and to offer an adequate level of service.
That’s what happens when you elect people who insist that they are such good economic managers they don’t need to explain themselves or look at broader consequences or modeling and boring figures.
It’s in their DNA – “Do Not Ask”.
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