Machinery of Government Changes – ‘One Year On’

Machinery of Government Changes – ‘One Year On’

In April 2017, the Western Australian (WA) State Government announced the first round of Machinery of Government (MoG) changes in the public sector, aimed at delivering a 40 per cent reduction in the number of government departments. One year on, and the amalgamation of government departments continues to be a focus of those working in public sector governance, risk and compliance.

Five questions we should now be in a position to answer:

1.  Are we clear what represents the strategic risks for the amalgamated Agencies?
These are unlikely to be a simple collation of the strategic risk registers from the constituent Agencies, as the amalgamated entity pivots to respond to the changing internal and external contexts. A strategic risk profile should now be available which speaks to the vision, mission and strategic objectives of each of the amalgamated Agencies.

2.  Are the Agency operational risk profiles comprehensive?
Once again, there is a danger that the operational risk profile is viewed as being a composite of the registers from the previous entities.  An operational risk profile should reflect the contemporary functional structure and nature of the activities being delivered within each Agency.  Risk assessments should have been updated to take account of changes in the legislative landscape, the impact that severance packages may have had on the Agency and the changing staff profile.

3.  Are the Risk Management Frameworks up-to-date?
If the Framework is dated prior to April 2017, then the answer is likely to be ‘No’. Frameworks should clearly lay out contemporaneous risk-related roles and responsibilities, including those of the Committees in place within the Agency and their terms of reference.  There should be an underpinning schedule of activities to ensure the organisation and arrangements for governance, risk and compliance are in place and understood.

4. Are there ‘Risk Implementation Roadmaps’ (or similar) in place?
Each Agency had pre-existing arrangements in place relating to governance, management, documentation, risk-related technologies/tools, reporting and communication.  It is equally likely that the competencies, capabilities and cultures of the entities were very different.  For value to be captured as the new Agency moves forward, it is important to ensure that everyone knows what success looks like in the short, medium and longer term.

5.  What did we learn from the Amalgamation process?
Mergers and acquisitions in the private sector are typically characterised by known increases in fraud and misconduct, but establishing what characteristics define amalgamations in WA is important for the success of future service changes and reforms in the public sector.  Everyone is a temporary custodian of their role, and it’s important that the key lessons are not lost.