Australia makes key hires to new government consulting function

By on 11/12/2023 | Updated on 11/12/2023
Photo by Sora Shimazaki via Pexels

The Australian government has appointed two officials to its new consulting arm as part of the administration’s pledge to reduce outsourcing in the public service.

Launched this year with funding of AUS$10.9m (US$7.1m) for 2023-24, Australian Government Consulting (AGC) is a state-run consultancy function which the federal government said seeks to “reduce [government’s] over-reliance on external consultants”.

It is expected to provide “a new source of high-quality management consulting services for the Australian Public Service”, at “lower cost than external firms,” it said.

The two hires are Andrew Nipe, former chief data officer for the state of Victoria, and Joanne Rossiter, who joins AGC from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, where she led skills reform.

The minister for the public service, Katy Gallagher, welcomed the appointments and said the AGC would “offer public servants the opportunity to work across departments on projects that have, in the past, been outsourced to external consultancies”.

She added: “Not only will this new function strengthen internal skills and capabilities by bringing important work back into the APS, but it will also save the taxpayer money.”

Read more: New phase of reform for Australian Public Service underway, says minister

AGC currently has two flagship projects on its agenda: partnering with the Centre for Australia-India Relations to scope out opportunities for closer economic collaboration between various levels of Australian government and India; and partnering with the government’s Net Zero Economy Agency (established in July 2023) to develop its aims and business strategy.

AGC is expected to deliver a minimum of 15 projects over the next two years. In 2024, the function is also expected to support the Australian Public Service (APS) in its efforts to optimise its in-house expertise, build APS agencies’ project pipelines, and get the best value from external consultants. 

APS wider reform agenda

The creation of the new government consultancy arm comes as part of a raft of reforms that the government began rolling out in 2022 to address inefficiencies, failures and inequalities within the public service.

As part of these, another unit called the Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE), based in the Department of the Treasury, was made active on 1 July this year. ACE is expected to use randomised trials and other rigorous methods to conduct impact evaluations on agreed priorities within government departments.

Having completed the first phase of its reform agenda, the government announced last month that it was entering the second phase.

Gallagher said that the second phase would involve “embedding [reforms] across the APS”, and that “the first priority area” was to develop a service “that embodies integrity in everything it does”.

She explained that next steps would include developing existing reforms to the appointments process and performance management of senior public servants.

The federal government had announced at the start of the year that it would conduct a review of public sector appointments to tackle what it called a “jobs for mates” culture.

Last month, Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese sacked the country’s top home affairs official Mike Pezzullo for, among other breaches, seeking to persuade a powerbroker within the country’s Liberal party to appoint a right wing minister to his department.

Read more: The inside story of setting up the Australian Centre for Evaluation

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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