Steven Scott from the Courier-Mail has done a terrific job of revealing the huge growth in the senior echelons of the Queensland public service since the change of state government in early 2015 (see Palaszczuk Government’s massive senior public servant hiring binge). Over the last three years, the number of senior public servants, at senior officer and senior executive service levels, has increased by around 30% (see my charts below which split out SO and SES levels).
Steven quoted me on the excessive growth in senior public service positions (on p. 7 of the Courier-Mail):
Former federal treasury official Gene Tunny said the rate of increase at the most senior levels of the public service appeared “excessive”, even when taking account of the extra senior managers needed to oversee frontline staff.
Mr Tunny, who runs Adept Economics, said the Government needed to look at ways to boost efficiency and should show how the extra numbers of staff were justified.
The state government claims that three-quarters of the additional senior positions comprise “doctors, nurses, health practitioners and other positions” in Queensland Health, but AMA President Michael Gannon, who is also quoted in the Courier-Mail article, suspects the additional senior Queensland Health positions are mostly in managerial rather than front-line roles.
One way to check whether it’s largely extra doctors and nurses or bureaucrats would be for the government to provide a breakdown of all the new Queensland Health SES and Senior Officer positions by specific occupation, and not just for a broad group such as professionals. Such disclosure does not have to identify individuals and raises no real privacy issues. (Even publication of the data at the ANZSCO Unit Group or Minor Group level would be revealing.) I know these data exist, because I extensively interrogated the public service database while working for the Beattie government’s Employment Taskforce in the early 2000s (see the public service database file specifications).
The government could provide much richer data on the public service than the limited cross-tabulations it currently provides. Also, the government should release a KPMG report it commissioned into recent public service growth. Much greater transparency on the Queensland public service is urgently needed.
Gene according to family of mine working in both QHS and QPS there seems to be a growing trend of personnel employed for short term positions, covering maternity leave and other long periods of leave being rolled into the establishment on completion, rather than termination of the person at the conclusion of the defined period. This is a worrying trend, applications are made for funding to cover the cost of additional personnel on a permanent basis, or at least a continuation for another 6 or 12 months and is very seldom rejected, it seems things are returning to the old days of once you are in, you’re in.
Yes, it is worrying. The public service appears to have a lot of latitude regarding staffing. There needs to be greater ministerial oversight. Thanks for the comment Glen.