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Public Sector Informant : PSI - September
Minter Ellison -- solutions for complex sensitive HR/IR issues for the public sector SYD100268 ADELAIDE AUCKLAND BRISBANE CANBERRA DARWIN GOLD COAST HONG KONG LONDON MELBOURNE PERTH SHANGHAI SYDNEY WELLINGTON www.minterellison.com Minter Ellison is pleased to announce the appointment of Heidi Robinson as Special Counsel to lead our Canberra HR/IR practice. Previously Heidi lead the HR/IR practice for the ACT Government Solicitor and has worked for DEEWR. Heidi specialises in advising public sector clients on complex sensitive issues in the employment and industrial relations eld including APS Code of Conduct, discrimination, Fair Work Act, enterprise bargaining and OH&S. Contact Heidi at heidi.robinson@ minterellison.com to nd out more. Delivering on: Complex sensitive projects CPM Reviews has a team of skilled and experienced staff and all have extensive managerial and industrial experience in the APS. We can provide timely, cost effective, efficient and professional services in difficult to manage conduct and ethics areas. Providing ethical and professional reviews of employment decisions and actions to the public sector. INDEPENDENT -- PROFESSIONAL -- CONFIDENTIAL CPM Reviews also offers a range of services that complement its employment review activities. Our staff can assist agencies with undertaking inquiries into complaints and allegations of misconduct, including whistleblowing reports. CPM Reviews is headed by Jeff Lamond, a former Merit Protection Commissioner. We have the expertise to assist with the application of merit through participation in selection practices; and providing advice on the management of employee selection. 02 61630500 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cpmreviews.com.au CPM Reviews offers national coverage across Australia [SEPTEMBER 2010] 6 THE PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMANT [ACCOUNTABILITY:RICHARD MULGAN] Discretion and taxpayers' money Pork barrelling When its re-election was at risk, the Labor government proved as unscrupulous as its predecessor On the hustings: Julia Gillard commits $10 million to the Central Coast Mariners' Pork barrelling has been much in the news recently. The election campaigns of both major parties pro- duced a steady stream of promised expenditure items for mar- ginal seats. No party leader in campaign mode can visit a pivotal seat without offering a new sports arena or an extension to the local hospital. This time, however, the gift- giving has not stopped with the election. The hung Parliament and the need to attract the support of Indepen- dent MPs has brought on a whole new round of localised inducements. Targeting promises to attract key groups of voters is an essential tactic in modern democratic politics. Yet the practice, if widespread, remains somewhat disreputable. When announcing their electoral induce- ments, politicians never say publicly that they are making a special grant of funds in the hope of swaying votes in a marginal seat. Everyone knows that the marginal seat is getting the goodies while the neighbouring safer seats are being overlooked and taken from granted. But the politicians never say so. Instead, they talk in more morally uplifting terms of local needs and community benefit. The desire to attract votes is the base motive that dare not speak its name. Similarly, the Independent MPs seeking concessions from the major parties have mostly preferred to talk of the national interest and the generalised needs of regional Aust- ralia. But their local constituents, when interviewed, have been less mealy-mouthed. They see a unique chance to force the government into directing largesse in their direction after decades of perceived neglect. When these voters evaluate the performance of their Independent MPs at the next election, we can be sure they will be looking primarily for concrete benefits delivered solely to their electorates. Public servants are well-versed in the realities of electoral politics. They know that pork barrelling is rife but they also know that it is not to be publicly acknowledged. Public servants are expected to be respon- sive to the government's political agenda but they frame their advice within the non-partisan language of the public interest. They leave the more partisan aspects of party- political activity to ministers and their political advisers. If a decision is to be made for unequivocally partisan reasons, they will make sure that responsibility is clearly sheeted home to the minister and the minister's office. Occasionally, however, public servants may find themselves uncom- fortably drawn into issues of partisan pork barrelling. One area of continu- ing contention has been the suc- cession of discretionary grants programs, in which governments allocate grants to local communities. The most recent example is the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program which re- ceived a large injection of govern- ment funds as part of the economic stimulus program. In July this year, on the eve of the election campaign, the Common- wealth Auditor-General published a report that was very critical of the administration of the ''strategic pro- jects'' component of this program. The Auditor-General found a number faults with the application process. The criteria for awarding of grants were not made available to applicants but announced only after decisions were made. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government was invited to comment on general eligibility but had not been asked to assess or rank the applications against the criteria. The grants process was handled primarily by the minister's office after a risk assessment conducted by consultants. The minister, Anthony Albanese, had considered and approved a number of applications that clearly did not meet the formal requirements and should have been deemed ineligible. Most damningly, applications from electorates held by Labor had a significantly higher success rate (42 per cent) than applications from Coalition-held electorates (18 per cent). The impli- cation was clear: the government was using the program to cement its electoral support. Not for the first time, haste associated with the government's stimulus spending policy had en-
PSI - October