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Policy advice bonanza goes under the microscope

Tuesday 3rd August 2010 1 Comment

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Two of the Rogernomics era's toughest nuts have been appointed to comb through government departments to explain an apparent blow-out in spending on policy advice over the last seven years.

Former Treasury Secretary and erstwhile ACT Party candidate Graham Scott, and former senior Treasury official Pat Duignan, now a member of the Commerce Commisson, will undertake the review with an Australian partner from accounting firm KPMG, Patricia Faulkner.

"Between 2003 and 2009, total Government spending on policy advice across all ministries, departments and agencies is estimated to have jumped by more than 70% - from about $510 million to $880 million," the Ministers of Finance, State Services and Regulatory Reform, Bill English, Tony Ryall and Rodney Hide said in a joint statement outlining the review.

"This is faster than the already rapid general increase in total Government spending during this period."

The initiative is the latest in a series of initiatives across the public sector that are quietly discovering large chunks of government spending that are either deemed wasteful or not relevant to the current government's agenda.

Major savings are already being made across departments through spending reallocation as well as cutbacks in existing programmes, with the potential political backlash masked by the government's ongoing commitment to new spending of $1 billion-plus annually.

"Part of this sharp increase in spending on policy advice may have been associated with developing new policies relevant to priority Government programmes, but it's not clear that this is the case," Ryall said.

"This review will look at whether the focus and level of this increased spending actually aligns with Government priorities and is helping delivering better frontline services for the public."

Operating on a budget of $124,000, reallocated from the Treasury and the State Services Commission, the review team will work directly with departmental chief executives and has until December to report.

While the initiative was agreed as part of the coalition arrangement between National and ACT at the last election, it appears this is one project the government will be happy to pursue rather than pay lip-service.

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Comments from our readers

On 4 August 2010 at 11:00 am Skeptoid said:
"The initiative is the latest in a series of initiatives"...that's redundant duplication right there.
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