Governance and innovation

Good governance is the cornerstone of efficient and effective organisational performance. The Public Sector Commission defines governance in the broadest sense as being the systems and structures by which a public sector body is directed, controlled and operated.

The principles of public sector administration and management in s. 7 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSM Act), along with the human resource management principles in s. 8 and principles of conduct in s. 9, form a framework of accountability, integrity and ethics for the sector. Due to its complex structure1, the focus and application of the governance framework varies across the public sector.

At an operational level, the PSM Act principles are supported by compliance requirements set out in instruments such as Public Sector Commissioner's and Treasurer's instructions. These requirements give meaning to the principles and help form the sector's governance framework. Chief executives are expected to maintain high standards of corporate governance, and ss. 29 and 30 of the PSM Act set out relevant functions and duties, including compliance with the principles and other elements of the governance framework.

Both conformance and performance are important elements of the governance framework. Striking the right balance between these elements is essential to achieving excellence. This view underpins the Commission's commitment to supporting effective governance through policy, oversight, consulting and capability development activities.

The relationship between conformance and performance in governance is explored in this chapter. Public sector improvement priorities associated with reducing red tape, fostering collaboration and facilitating innovation are also covered.

In summary, there appear to be sophisticated strategic planning and evaluation systems in the sector, which are key components of a strong governance framework. Entities have embraced continuous improvement in efficiency and effectiveness, with almost all reporting examples of significant innovative and collaborative projects. A high level of awareness of information and records management requirements is also reported throughout the sector.

return to top


Governance

Strategic and operational planning

Effective strategic and operational planning is important for good governance. This planning assists public sector bodies to explain how they are meeting legislative responsibilities, addressing government priorities, and achieving other objectives. Effective plans also offer transparency and clarity to stakeholders.

There is no specific requirement for all public sector bodies to have a strategic or operational plan in place. However, these plans are commonly accepted as a key instrument in fulfilling the function of a chief executive in s. 29 of the PSM Act to provide leadership, strategic direction and a results focus.

As part of a good governance regime, a system should be put in place to ensure relevant plans are developed and objectives are evaluated. This assists in confirming that activities and outputs are contributing to the achievement of strategic goals.

Two men in a forest inspecting a planning document

Strategic planning

The 2013 annual agency survey (AAS) asked public sector bodies about the nature of their strategic planning. Table 3.1 shows the reported levels of sophistication in strategic planning processes. Seventy per cent of public sector bodies reported having planning systems at the higher end, and larger entities typically had more mature systems in place. However, 20% of large entities indicated their strategic plan needed refinement to address changes in policy direction or the operating environment, perhaps reflecting the level of change across the public sector in the past year, including several machinery of government changes and increased fiscal pressures.

Table 3.1 Status of strategic planning within public sector bodies, 2013

Summary of response options(a)

Entities (%)

All

Very large

Large

Medium

Small

Very small

A strategic plan is in place with clear and measurable objectives and strategies. Systems are in place to regularly evaluate progress and include reference to stakeholder perspectives.

42

100

47

60

41

21

A strategic plan is in place with clear and measurable objectives and strategies. Systems are in place to periodically evaluate progress.

28

0

33

15

37

21

A strategic plan is in place with clear and measurable objectives and strategies. There is limited formal evaluation of progress.

8

0

0

15

8

8

A strategic plan is in place with clear and measurable objectives and strategies, but these need to be refined to address changes in policy direction or operating environment.

12

0

20

5

8

21

The agency does not have a strategic plan but processes are underway to develop one.

4

0

0

0

2

13

None of the above reasonably reflect the nature of strategic planning in the agency.(b)

6

0

0

5

4

17

(a) Please see Appendix A - Monitoring and evaluation framework for the complete wording of the response options used in the AAS.

(b) Of the seven entities that selected this option, four indicated they are developing/finalising their new strategic plan.

Source: AAS

Similar to last year, the sector appears to be generally performing well with regard to implementing strategic planning processes.

In 2013, 54% of service entities were at the highest end, compared with 39% of oversight, regulatory and sector administration entities, and 23% of policy, development and coordination entities. For further information on these functional groupings, please see Appendix A - Monitoring and evaluation framework.

The reason why service entities had more mature strategic planning processes has not been examined, although such a finding is not unexpected. Strategic planning may be considered less critical in the other types of entities because:

  • policy, development and coordination entities are focused on being strategically agile and responsive to emerging issues of the government of the day
  • oversight, regulatory and sector administration entities typically operate under legislation that defines their purpose, functions and objectives.

Large service entities may rely heavily on strategic planning processes to clarify their purpose (within a policy context) and to communicate agreed priorities.

Operational planning

Operational plans translate strategic goals into practical objectives and provide direction for employees. These plans illustrate the link between programs/activities and strategic objectives, and specify how activities and outputs will be monitored and measured.

The 2013 AAS asked entities to rate their integration of strategic and operational plans. Even though 80% of entities had a common operational plan, the results indicated the maturity of operational planning could be better developed in some entities. Table 3.2 indicates that large entities may be experiencing challenges in achieving integration across business units for operational planning.

Table 3.2 Integration of strategic and operational planning within entities, 2013

Summary of response options(a)

Entities (%)

 

All

Very large

Large

Medium

Small

Very small

A common and aligned operational plan exists, with performance metrics linked to whole-of-agency KPIs routinely used for continuous improvement.

27

50

20

30

31

21

A common and aligned operational plan exists, with monitoring that includes performance metrics linked to whole-of-agency KPIs.

17

50

20

25

18

4

A common and aligned operational plan exists, with common internal reporting and centralised monitoring of progress.

21

0

20

20

20

25

A common operational plan aligns business activity with the strategic plan. There is some common internal reporting.

15

0

13

15

12

21

No common operational and/or strategic plan in place in the agency, however business units have developed their own.

9

0

20

5

10

4

The agency does not have an operational plan and/or strategic plan.

2

0

0

0

0

8

None of the above reasonably reflect the connection between strategic and operational planning in the agency.

9

0

7

5

8

17

(a) Please see Appendix A - Monitoring and evaluation framework for the complete wording of the response options used in the AAS.

Source: AAS

Only 45%2 of entities reported establishing relevant performance metrics for all business functions, connected to whole-of-entity key performance indicators (KPIs). This suggests that public sector bodies may be having difficulties measuring their activities and outputs. Developing relevant and reliable indicators of achievement is essential to continuous improvement.

Risk management

Risk management ensures that public sector bodies, government and the general community are protected from unnecessary costs and losses, and should be an integral part of day-to-day operations. Sound risk management practices support the public sector's level of responsiveness and ability to provide continuity of services.

Treasurer's instruction 825 (TI 825)3 defines risk management as the culture, processes and structures that are directed towards the effective management of potential opportunities and adverse effects. TI 825 encourages entities to focus on material risks at all levels of the organisation, and take necessary action to manage those risks.

The AAS asked entities about the nature of their risk management practices in 2013, as shown in Table 3.3. Seventy-nine per cent of entities reported having a common risk management framework in place, with larger entities typically indicating they have more sophisticated frameworks.

Table 3.3 Status of risk management within entities, 2013

Summary of response options(a)

Entities (%)

 

All

Very large

Large

Medium

Small

Very small

There is a common risk management framework which is consistently applied. All relevant employees have been trained and there is integrated reporting on the overall risk profile.

29

50

20

20

39

21

There is a common risk management framework which is consistently applied. Some employees have been trained and there is periodic reporting on the overall risk profile.

26

50

53

45

16

13

There is a common risk management framework promoting a consistent approach by all business units. An overall risk profile exists.

24

0

13

20

27

29

There are some policies and procedures in place to ensure a common approach to risk management. There are pockets of good practice but other areas rely on experience and managerial expertise.

18

0

13

15

18

25

There is recognition of the importance of risk management, but limited systems in place. The entity relies on experience and managerial expertise.

1

0

0

0

0

4

None of the above reasonably reflect the nature of risk management in the agency.

2

0

0

0

0

8

(a) Please see Appendix A - Monitoring and evaluation framework for the complete wording of the response options used in the AAS.

Source: AAS

Similar to last year, responses were generally positive but indicated a lower level of maturity when compared with other aspects of governance, such as strategic planning and internal audit and evaluation.

Men erecting power poles

Evaluation and continuous improvement

Evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of programs and activities is a key governance activity, particularly in an environment of fiscal constraint. Performance information informs strategic planning processes and ensures the delivery of value for money services consistent with government policy.

The compliance environment, which includes Treasurer's instruction 9044, requires the use of KPIs to measure organisational performance. While these are necessary for conformance, using a variety of performance information and evaluation programs to inform continuous improvement efforts is an important aspect of effective governance.

The 2013 AAS asked public sector bodies about the scope of their internal audit and evaluation programs. Table 3.4 shows that 66%5 of entities reported regularly undertaking performance evaluation of key programs and activities, with smaller entities less likely to have mature programs in place.

Table 3.4 Scope of internal audit and evaluation programs within entities, 2013

Summary of response options(a)

Entities (%)

 

All

Very large

Large

Medium

Small

Very small

There is a well-established internal audit/evaluation function addressing internal controls and systems auditing, using internal and external expertise. Comprehensive evaluation of programs and activities is integrated.

43

50

60

45

43

29

There is a well-established internal audit/evaluation function addressing internal controls and systems auditing, using internal and external expertise. There are separate processes for regular evaluation of programs and activities.

24

50

20

45

22

8

There is a well-established internal audit/evaluation function addressing internal controls and systems auditing. There are separate processes for occasional evaluation of programs and activities.

11

0

7

10

12

13

There is a well-established internal audit/evaluation function addressing internal controls and systems auditing. There is no routine evaluation of programs and activities.

11

0

13

0

12

17

The agency has an internal audit/evaluation function. Evaluation activity is limited to testing essential compliance controls.

6

0

0

0

8

13

The agency's internal audit/evaluation program is non-existent or ad hoc.

3

0

0

0

0

13

None of the above reasonably reflect the nature of the internal audit and evaluation program in this agency.

3

0

0

0

2

8

Note: Due to rounding, results across response options may not add up to 100%.

(a) Please see Appendix A - Monitoring and evaluation framework for the complete wording of the response options used in the AAS.

Source: AAS

The WA Government is establishing a steering committee of Directors General to conduct rolling program evaluations of existing programs and service delivery areas. These evaluations will establish whether there is still a genuine need for a particular program or service, and will identify opportunities for delivering the service more efficiently and effectively. This may result in government partnering with alternative service providers.

The initiative will be supported by a new Program Evaluation Unit in the Department of Treasury.

Some examples of existing audit and evaluation programs in the public sector are provided in the following case studies.

Case studies

The State Library of WA

The Library's strategic audit plan outlines a balanced mix of performance and management audits. The audit function is shared with two other entities, the Art Gallery of WA and The WA Museum, to deliver a cost effective service. The Library also works closely with the Department of Culture and the Arts to ensure the delivery of varied audit services to improve governance, risk management and internal controls. Where specialised expertise is required, services are procured to ensure full audit coverage within the Library. The audit program and outcomes are subject to ongoing rigorous scrutiny by the State Library's Executive Risk Management Committee and the process is overseen by the Audit Committee, which is a subcommittee of The Library Board of WA.

WorkCover WA Authority

Internal audits at WorkCover WA are overseen by the Audit Committee, which provides independent assurance and assistance to the board on its risk, control and compliance framework, and external accountability responsibilities. Activities are planned and monitored through an audit plan linked to the strategic plan and objectives, and are achieved through the contracting of approved service providers managed by an internal audit manager. A balanced audit program is achieved through a mix of mandatory and optional audits, with an ongoing focus on continuous improvement. In addition to the audit function, WorkCover WA has a mature monitoring process that uses outside analysis by external stakeholders, surveys and careful scrutiny of well-developed performance indicators. This links back to executive review of the risk register and the effectiveness of controls.

Zoological Parks Authority

The Authority has in place a three year strategic internal audit plan developed in accordance with planning protocol. The development of the audit plan takes into consideration the Authority's strategic plan, risk register and auditing standards, and incorporates formal feedback from members of the Audit Committee and senior management. An annual audit planning process is performed and includes liaison with external audit. This process has assisted in ensuring external audit can place a high level of reliance on the agency's internal audit function. The annual audit plan includes a combination of finance-based audits and management audits, covering areas such as corporate governance and existing programs/activities in support of service delivery. The strategic audit and annual audit planning process is aimed at achieving value for money while supporting excellence in governance and continuous improvement.

Monitoring customer satisfaction

Monitoring customer satisfaction is an important element of an evaluation program, and continuous improvement in general. The Queensland Government completed its first whole-of-government customer satisfaction survey in March 2013, which also covered four other states - WA, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.6 The survey found that Queensland residents' satisfaction with their state government compares favourably with residents of other states. Only WA had a higher level of satisfaction (note: the WA election took place during the interviewing phase).7

The 2013 AAS asked entities whether they monitored external customer, client or stakeholder satisfaction with their services. Almost all entities (92%) reported monitoring service satisfaction. For these entities, online surveys were most often used (60% used this method in at least some of their business units), followed by focus groups (48%) and telephone surveys (44%).

The following case study highlights a well-established services evaluation function at the Department for Child Protection and Family Support.

Case study

Standards monitoring at the Department for Child Protection and Family Support

The department monitors service activities and outcomes against a comprehensive 'Better care, better services' standards framework. The application of the framework ensures a consistent approach against clear indicators, and incorporates quantitative and qualitative assessment methods.

The framework covers all 17 districts at least once every two years, and is complemented by a similar program designed to monitor contracted services of community sector service partners. While these two approaches are different, each involves multi-layered stakeholder feedback, a performance over conformance evaluation methodology, and a strong focus on continuous improvement to build capability and share information about best practice.

Collaboration

Collaborative governance may enable the delivery of better outcomes, compared to more traditional methods of administration and management. People across public sector bodies, and across sectors, work together to carry out a public purpose that could not easily be achieved by a single organisation.

This year, the machinery of government reform agenda (see Appendix G - Machinery of government changes for more information) required entities to collaborate more effectively in order to achieve results. One relevant example was the amalgamation of the Department of Local Government and the Department for Communities, which is discussed in the following case study.

Case study

Amalgamation of the Department of Local Government and the Department for Communities

Underpinned by a shared commitment to establish a strong, effective department to support the Government's policy directions, the Directors General of the Department for Communities and the Department of Local Government engaged in joint decision making, including the appointment of an interim corporate executive for the new Department of Local Government and Communities. To ensure that staff were engaged in the process, and to reduce any perception that one department was 'taking over', the Directors General convened regular meetings with staff and each other, and ensured that all communications were consistent and simultaneous.

The Directors General commissioned the external facilitation of two workshops to support the development of an interim structure. The first workshop, which involved tier three and above leadership teams, focused on identifying the values and culture that each department would bring to the new department. These design principles subsequently informed the second workshop's development of an interim structure for the new department, which engaged the joint corporate executives and two independent participants to help ensure the process remained transparent.

With the formation of the new department on 1 July 2013, and an interim corporate executive and Director General in place, the focus has now moved to engaging further with staff to develop an integrated third tier and below structure, and commencing a broader stakeholder engagement strategy to inform strategic planning for the new department.

Enhanced collaboration across sectors is a government priority and makes good business sense. An example of collaboration between government, the private sector and the research sector is the 'Location information strategy' (LIS) for WA. This initiative, approved by the Cabinet in 2012 and led by the Western Australian Land Information Authority, was developed through the unique 'WA land information system' partnership across sectors. The key benefits of the LIS are a reduction in the duplication of limited resources, prevention of inefficient use of funding across government, improved access to location information, improvements to service delivery and information to support critical decision making.

Another significant partnership between the Department of Mines and Petroleum and industry stakeholders is described in the following case study.

Case study

Business process re-engineering at the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP)

In late 2009, the Resources Safety division at DMP implemented the 'Reform and development at Resources Safety' (RADARS) strategy. The RADARS strategy was developed in response to independent reviews and inquiries following mining incidents and fatalities. Both government and industry had realised that an improved approach was needed.

The resulting RADARS strategy took a holistic and multi-faceted approach to the reform of safety and health regulatory services in the resources sector. Elements of the strategy support the conceptual model reproduced here, which focuses on the vision for leading practice regulation.

A conceptual model, with words on each edge of a triangle displaying 'Capacity', 'Competency' and 'Legislation'. In the centre of the triangle are the words (from top to bottom);'Proactive risk management approach', 'Data-driven decision making', 'Less prescription where possible', 'Improved transparency' and 'Nationally recognised competency'

The RADARS strategy was built on an important state government policy decision that provided for cost-recovery funding from the minerals sector. This model has an inherent industry performance incentive. While it did enable DMP to increase specialist mines safety staff by one-third, the reform process went significantly further than increasing resources and provides a strong example of effective business process reform. Key elements of the approach are outlined below.

Stakeholder engagement and collaboration

DMP was determined to maintain a strong partnership with industry to ensure sustainable safety outcomes through efficient mechanisms. Initiatives undertaken to engage with industry included:

  • ongoing liaison with stakeholders via a tripartite consultative committee comprising industry executives, mining workforce representatives and DMP staff (including an annual workshop on priority targets)
  • seconding a private sector safety expert to DMP for one year to provide an industry perspective on compliance strategies
  • inviting industry to participate in tailored training attended by DMP inspectors to enhance common understanding about standards and regulatory practice.

Use of technology and knowledge management

DMP identified that existing systems were impacting on corporate capacity to manage regulatory services. In addressing this, disparate legacy systems were replaced by an integrated online system. This system allows for online lodgement, tracking of compliance activities and enhanced use of performance data. Other systems and practices have been put in place to retain corporate and regulatory knowledge to ensure consistent processes and decisions.

Workforce capability

Several workforce initiatives contributed to the RADARS strategy. DMP negotiated additional flexibilities in conditions for newly established positions, redesigned job description forms, streamlined the selection process, and undertook a more targeted media campaign to attract suitably qualified staff. DMP also introduced a technical mentoring scheme and a tailored training and development program, with nationally recognised qualifications and standards, to provide the required skills and knowledge to its workforce. Training programs are evaluated against KPIs derived from the RADARS KPIs, and employee feedback is built into each stage of the program. To measure the effectiveness of these programs, employees and managers are surveyed three months after completion to gauge if learning is being effectively applied.

Ongoing evaluation

DMP recognises the importance of evaluating progress to drive continuous improvement. In 2010, DMP commissioned independent consultants to undertake a baseline survey of stakeholders about their perceptions of Resources Safety's roles, services and functions. The subsequent biennial survey provides a robust measure of progress towards achieving the aims of RADARS. DMP is working towards overcoming issues identified through the survey conducted in 2012, including developing a range of strategies and resources to reach more stakeholders. Other evaluation mechanisms include surveying participants at industry workshops, and seeking input from the Mining Industry Advisory Committee.

Improved outcomes

In 2012, there were no mining fatalities in WA. DMP has not claimed a cause and effect relationship for the RADARS strategy, particularly in light of tragic events that have occurred since its implementation. However, the reforms, and processes supporting the reforms, are seen as contributing to enhanced industry safety outcomes in this important area of the public service.

Collaboration improves service delivery outcomes for the community. The Department of the Premier and Cabinet's (DPC's) 'Partnership forum' is using collaborative techniques to identify innovative ways of delivering services. The partnership between the Department of Culture and the Arts and the Disability Services Commission is another example. The two entities worked together in 2012/13 to deliver the 'Disability and the arts inclusion initiative', which enabled seven organisations in WA to provide opportunities for people with disability and their families to participate in arts and cultural activities across the state.

Information and records management

Effective management of information and recordkeeping is important in administrative governance and underpins transparency and accountability, particularly through the accurate recording of communications that have led to significant decisions.

Managing information in the public sector includes handling communication flows to ministers, and within entities, and maintaining information about clients and private citizens.

Communication

Section 74 of the PSM Act requires a minister to establish protocols that set out the nature of communication arrangements to be maintained between the minister's office and each portfolio agency. The Commissioner's Circular 2009-10: Communication arrangements between ministers and agencies provides direction to entities on these arrangements.

Communication within entities assists with efficient management, promotes effective service delivery, and encourages a shared commitment to government priorities. In the 2013 employee perception survey (EPS), 65% of respondents agreed communication between senior management and employees is effective, and 81% agreed their immediate supervisor makes use of appropriate communication and interpersonal skills. These results are similar to the previous year and suggest that communication mechanisms within the sector are appropriate and the lines of internal communication are effective.

Recordkeeping

The State Records Act 2000 (Records Act) was enacted primarily to strengthen accountability and transparency in recordkeeping practices, and promote best practice in records management by state and local government entities. The Records Act empowers the State Records Commission to establish principles and standards to govern recordkeeping by entities; produce guidelines outlining the requirements for entities' recordkeeping plans; and enquire into possible breaches of the Records Act.

In accordance with s. 9(b) of the PSM Act, public sector bodies and employees must be scrupulous in their use of official information, and chief executives are required by s. 29(1)(n) to ensure their entity keeps proper records as required by the Records Act.

Results from the 2013 AAS indicate that entities continue to raise awareness of recordkeeping requirements. In particular, public sector bodies reported providing in-house recordkeeping training (89% in at least part of the entity), providing employees with access to a copy of the entity's recordkeeping plan (84%), and monitoring the use of the entity's recordkeeping system (83%).

Confirming the results of the AAS, 79% of employees responding to the 2013 EPS agreed they receive appropriate training or have access to information that enables them to meet recordkeeping responsibilities, and 66% agreed their work area supports and promotes good information management practices. These results are similar to 2012.

Financial management

The general principles of public administration outlined in s. 7 of the PSM Act require proper standards of financial management and accounting to be maintained at all times. These principles are aligned to the requirements of the Financial Management Act 2006 (FM Act), Treasurer's instructions and related guidelines and standards. Chief executives are required under s. 29(1)(c) of the PSM Act to plan for, and undertake, financial management in relation to their entity and to monitor their financial performance.

There are a number of central agencies involved in the setting of resource management policies and the oversight of resource management functions. These include the:

  • Department of Treasury, which is responsible for interpreting accounting standards, policies and the 'Strategic asset management framework'
  • Department of Finance, which is responsible for procurement and major works
  • Office of the Auditor General (OAG), which oversees accounting and financial performance of entities.

Processes to monitor financial performance

Treasurer's instructions set minimum requirements for core financial management matters, including accounting for revenue, expenditure, assets, standards of reporting, and such other matters as necessary, to ensure good financial management and governance. As Treasurer's instructions are expressed in terms of objectives, entities have flexibility in how they are applied.

All public sector bodies have their financial statements audited annually by the OAG. However, effective financial control and governance requires entities to monitor their finances throughout the year.

Budget management

The FM Act requires public sector bodies to effectively manage the administration of public finances and report accurately and consistently. Annual state budget statements contain estimated and actual financial expenditure. For public sector bodies, the majority of costs incurred relate to employee wages, supplies and services, interest and grants.

The Department of Treasury has provided budget management data for 2012/13 for the general government sector (including 84 public sector bodies). The Commission's analysis of the difference between budgeted and actual expenditure for the sample of public sector bodies shows that 58% of these entities spent within 10% of their budget this year. This compares to 54% of the sample in the previous year.

Table 3.5 shows the median difference (the middle value of the range) was higher for entities with smaller budgets (less than $10 million). These entities were more likely to have final expenditures higher than their original budget.

Table 3.5 The differences between budgeted and actual cost of services in a sample of public sector bodies(a), 2012/13

Size of budget ($m)

Number of entities

Difference between budgeted position and actual cost (%)

 

Median

Lowest

Highest

Less than 10

21

+12%

-48.2%

+391.5%

10 to 30

19

0.0%

-14.6%

+22.2%

30 to 100

19

+0.9%

-18.5%

+76.5%

Over 100

25

-0.8%

-72.5%

+44.4%

Note: Positive differences indicate that expenditure exceeded budget forecasts by those percentages. Large differences may be due to changes to entity functions, and therefore approved expenditure, between the time of the original budget and the end of the financial year.

(a) Includes only 84 of the public sector entities listed in Appendix D - Structure of the government sector.

Source: Department of Treasury

Governance in boards and committees

Performance information provided in this chapter covers public sector bodies that have a board. However, this information reflects the state of administration and management for public sector bodies rather than the boards themselves.

Government boards and committees are required to consider governance at two levels. At one level, a board must consider the governance arrangements associated with controlling and managing the public sector body for which they are accountable. At the other level, a board must consider governance arrangements associated with transparently discharging collective and individual responsibilities, and complying with core principles and requirements. Understanding these obligations in a public sector setting (as opposed to the private sector) is fundamentally important to effective administration and management in the public sector and is a key area of interest for the Commission.

The Commission, in consultation with DPC, conducted a review of boards and committees in 2012. The purpose of the review was to verify the number of boards and committees and recommend any reductions. A report8 was tabled in the WA Parliament on 8 November 2012, with seven recommendations endorsed by Cabinet. The Premier noted in his tabling speech that continuous improvement in the administration of boards is essential.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of requests for assistance from boards and committees, and a number of accountability and governance matters have required the Commission's attention. In response, the Commission has identified a range of initiatives designed to improve the performance of boards without compromising their statutory duties.

In the coming year, the Commission will be establishing a governance framework for boards, including ministerial statements of expectations, a comprehensive induction program, and a capability development program. Governance principles and related supporting resources for boards are available on the Commission's website.

return to top


Innovation

The WA Government is committed to encouraging innovation to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex operating environment.

Innovation involves creating the right environment for developing more effective processes, products and ways of thinking. It is fostered through leadership, collaboration, organisational capability and risk management.

In a new AAS item this year, 19% of entities reported having a corporate innovation strategy in at least part of their organisation, with an additional 13% developing a strategy. Common challenges reported as being faced by public sector bodies in developing or implementing innovation strategies were funding and resourcing, time constraints, a risk-averse culture, limitations on rewarding staff, prioritisation of 'business as usual', and geographical dispersion.

Figure 3.1 shows strategies used by entities to promote innovative practices in 2012/13, as reported in the AAS. Public sector bodies most commonly reported using a process for identifying innovation (55% in at least part of the entity, and a further 13% were developing a process).

Figure 3.1 Innovation strategies used by public sector bodies, 2012/13

Figure 3.1 Innovation strategies used by public sector bodies, 2012/13. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: AAS

Given the current environment of fiscal constraint, innovation is of even greater importance. By embracing innovation, the public sector will be well-placed to deliver customer-focused services to the community and provide forward-thinking advice to government. This is illustrated in the following case studies.

Case studies

Central Institute of Technology, the Department of Health and Curtin University

The 'Roaming education and community health' (REACH) clinic was established by Central Institute of Technology, in partnership with the Department of Health and Curtin University, and funded by Health Workforce Australia. The clinic provides nursing students from the Institute and Curtin University with the opportunity to practice their skills in a range of settings. The REACH initiative trains individuals and services the needs of the community. Since its establishment in August 2012, more than 3000 community members have been screened.

Disability Services Commission

The Disability Services Commission officially launched 'My way' in November 2012. 'My way' is an initiative in four WA regions, which is based on flexible and responsive approaches that place choice and control directly in the hands of individuals with disability, their family and carers. 'My way' coordinators work with government agencies, disability sector organisations and community-based organisations to ensure people with disability receive a comprehensive and coordinated approach. Seven non-government organisations have been awarded grants to employ 'My way' coordinators.

Following the release of Putting the public first and Reducing the burden9, a 'Joint innovation initiative group' was established for the public sector. This group is led by the Department of Agriculture and Food, and consists of the Departments of the Premier and Cabinet, Commerce, and Mines and Petroleum, and the WA Land Information Authority. The group aims to develop strategies and processes to drive a coordinated, collaborative approach to innovation throughout the sector.

Another key initiative is the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management. It is through these awards that the Government takes a more active role in encouraging innovation by recognising creative approaches to addressing emerging issues. This year, a new category, 'Western Australia in Asia', was introduced to acknowledge projects that create greater opportunities for partnership with Asia. The following case study illustrates an innovative initiative implemented by the Department of Education, which is the overall Premier's Award winner for 2013.

Case study

Independent Public Schools: Leading education reform and innovation in Western Australia

In August 2009, a radical change to public education was announced by the Premier with the launch of the Independent Public Schools program. Within a four year period, more than half of all schools have expressed interest in working within this new model, which provides greater autonomy and heightened accountability.

Two hundred and fifty-five schools are currently using the program, representing more than half of all students and teachers in WA public schools. The Independent Public Schools program is characterised by choice, readiness and rigour, which are three key elements that have contributed to its success.

Feedback and evaluation show the initiative is having a positive effect through creating conditions for school improvement, increasing parental and community engagement, and improving perceptions of public education.

The initiative is a key driver of significant governance and cultural change, from centralised bureaucracy to local level innovation, school improvement and student achievement.

In 2013, the Government announced a development program to assist in fostering schools' readiness to become independent public schools in the future. This will ensure the initiative continues to grow while maintaining high standards for entry.

Reducing red tape

Red tape reduction forms part of the broader commitment to innovation to enhance organisational performance and efficiency.

Red tape refers to the compliance burden associated with government regulations. When proposing new regulations, public sector bodies are required by the Department of Finance's Regulatory Gatekeeping Unit to assess the potential impact on stakeholders to ensure they are not too onerous.

Most entities have implemented red tape reduction strategies to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA (CCI) recently called on government and regulatory agencies to improve their level of engagement with small businesses in reducing red tape.10

Through the 2013 AAS, entities were asked to identify the nature and extent of their red tape reduction activities, as shown in Figure 3.2. Awareness raising was the most widely implemented initiative (73% in at least part of the entity), which was a slight increase from 67% last year. This was followed by the development of online systems (67%, compared to 64% last year), and critical path/workflow analysis (64%, compared to 60% last year).

Figure 3.2 Red tape reduction strategies used by entities, 2012/13

Figure 3.2 Red tape reduction strategies used by entities, 2012/13. Click to view a larger version of this image.

Click on the image to enlarge

Source: AAS

Key chapter findings

Overall, most public sector bodies report having well-established governance systems and structures in place, which incorporate compliance requirements. Entities appear to be striving beyond conformance to performance excellence in a number of areas, including collaborative governance and innovation.

However, improvements in reporting on the organisational risk profile and in developing performance indicators for activities and outputs could be beneficial. Audit and evaluation capability supports continuous improvement and innovation, particularly in those areas that are underutilised, contributing to the regulatory burden, or possible avenues for effective collaboration in the public interest.

Stakeholder engagement presents an opportunity to better understand the needs and concerns of clients and members of the public in developing policy and delivering services. The public sector may also benefit from using creative ideas from other jurisdictions to tailor solutions for local challenges.

There remain opportunities for entities to embrace better performance, and better align compliance obligations with efficiency and effectiveness drivers in both operational and administrative settings.

Woman working in a laboratory

return to top


1 For further information on the structure of the WA public sector, please see Appendix D - Structure of the government sector.

2 Due to rounding, adding up the data in Table 3.2 will not match this figure.

3 Department of Treasury 2007, 'Treasurer's instruction 825 - Risk management and security', Financial administration bookcase

4 Department of Treasury 2009, 'Treasurer's instruction 904 - Key performance indicators', Financial administration bookcase

5 Due to rounding, adding up the data in Table 3.4 will not match this figure.

6 The Queensland Public Service Commission engaged a private organisation to deliver the survey on their behalf, using the organisation's proprietary online research panel. The findings were based on an online survey of 2000 Queenslanders, with an additional 200 surveyed from the other states.

7 Queensland Public Service Commission 2013, Whole-of-government service delivery research: summary of outcomes, p. 3

8 Public Sector Commission 2012, Government boards and committees

9 Economic Audit Committee 2009, Putting the public first: Partnering with the community and business to deliver outcomes; and Red Tape Reduction Group 2009, Reducing the burden: Report of the red tape reduction group

10 Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia 2013, Regulator engagement with small business: submission to the Productivity Commission, p. 3


Previous chapter: Integrity and ethical conduct

Next chapter: Workforce management

 


Page last updated 23 January 2014