The Australian Public Service Review panel has recently published a report by researchers from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) titled “Getting the Work of Government Done”, which “explores the importance of commissioning and contracting in achieving outcomes for the Australian public [and] argue[s] for a more considered, principles-based approach to designing and stewarding systems as the APS engages with third party providers.”
Or, more succinctly, it’s about commissioning, contracting and outsourcing. The report’s authors, Janine O’Flynn and Gary L. Sturgess, have written a short summary/introduction to their argument for The Mandarin, which begins by defining those three seemingly interchangeable terms:
- commissioning is a strategic framework for determining needs and aspirations and then developing ways to achieve these.
- contracting involves a range of tools that join two or more parties together.
- outsourcing is a specific tool used when government moves particular in-house services to external providers.
The authors argue for a more strategic approach to the challenges at hand:
Strategic commissioning emphasises engagement with communities and clients/users of services. This enables a richer understanding of aspirations and needs so outcomes can be clarified and better decisions made from the outset. Commissioning should be anchored to community needs and aspirations, not decisions made by government for communities
Building this relational capital and trust takes time and effort. This will require particular skills and competencies of public servants, and the development of different organisational capabilities.
Being more strategic also means making decisions about what government will no longer do. This is the process of decommissioning where unneeded, underperforming, failing or obsolete services are discontinued. Creative decommissioning can be used to drive innovation and transformation by closing the old and creating the new.
Click on through to The Mandarin for their summary piece, complete with six recommendations for reform, or head straight to the APS Review to download the full report.