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Public servants' pay bonuses are problematic, brief warns

Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick has warned of "challenges" in implementing pay bonuses for top public servants.

Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick has warned of "challenges" in implementing pay bonuses for top public servants. Photo: Melissa Adams

The Public Service Commission has warned the government that its plan to pay bonuses to senior bureaucrats is problematic.

The agency released its "blue book" – its first brief for incoming minister Eric Abetz – under freedom of information law this week.

The vast majority of the paper's contents are hidden behind black ink.

The commission's mostly censored blue book ... or should that be black book?

The commission's mostly censored blue book ... or should that be black book? Photo: Markus Mannheim

However, amid a mostly censored section on "reducing unnecessary regulation", Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick explains difficulties in rolling out the performance pay system.

The brief says the wide range of employment conditions and incentives currently offered to senior executives "provide practical challenges in implementing" the proposed bonuses.

Before the election, the Coalition said it would link top public servants' salaries to "quantified and proven reductions in red and green tape".

At the time, Liberal frontbencher Arthur Sinodinos said his party was philosophically in favour of using financial rewards to get the best from staff.

The commission's brief was given to Senator Abetz and Prime Minister Tony Abbott shortly after the election.

It advises on cutting spending, the upcoming round of public service wage negotiations and improving the bureaucracy's capability.

A section called " 'rightsizing' the Australian Public Service", which addresses the Coalition's promise to shed 12,000 jobs, is almost entirely censored.

However, the document does contain a blacked-out projection of government staffing. The commission and the Finance Department have previously said they do not prepare such forecasts.

The brief also advises on anti-corruption efforts and the reducing the amount of sick leave taken by public servants, though again the advice is mostly censored.

The commission's chief human capital officer, Ian Fitzgerald, who decided which parts of the brief to release, acknowledged "the public interest in matters concerning public sector employment policies".

However, he listed 15 factors that influenced his decision to suppress information, such as "the interest in establishing a working and trusting relation with a new minister" and "the interest in ensuring the minister is provided with a high quality full and frank written record of all the policy priorities and challenges facing a new government".

Most government departments have either refused to release their blue books or decided to charge a fee to access them.

10 comments so far

  • So the workers get the chop and the high flyers already on more money than they deserve get bonuses, something not right here, the public service is getting as greedy as the big banks.

    Commenter
    no way jose
    Date and time
    November 20, 2013, 7:30AM
    • EXACTLY, I saw the disgraceful salaries paid to the executive types contracted to wind up Rhodium Asset Solutions over a four year period, it was nothing short of a national disgrace.

      Commenter
      NITRO GANGSTER
      Date and time
      November 20, 2013, 7:48AM
  • The public servant fat cat floaters are at it again. "Give me money" and "give me a top job I don't deserve" that's all you hear from these lazy good for nothing "top" public servants. These people are nothing but career public servants who have relied on taxpayers' handouts right throughout their "careers".

    Abbott - I thought you and your party of buffoons were going to introduce reforms. But instead you pay these overpaid top public servant floaters a bonus!

    Do your job Abbott and stop sucking up to these "top" public servants, for example, Irvine, Varghese, Watt and Richardson! They are paid too much as it is already.

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    November 20, 2013, 8:26AM
    • I'm still amazed at how the top dogs run around trying to cover their butts without telling it like it is. And getting paid top dollar to "Recommend" slashing and burning with an "I didn't say that" I said this really. Get some gut's, have a go, stop pussyfooting, and make some real decisions to earn your bonus let alone anything else.
      sheesh.

      Commenter
      xtrail
      Location
      Tugg
      Date and time
      November 20, 2013, 8:51AM
      • Re: "The commission's chief human capital officer..."

        What a disgusting terminology. Public servants are people NOT human capital.

        Governments need to stop playing with people's livelihoods by using the public service as a line item to balance the budget.

        Commenter
        Marco
        Date and time
        November 20, 2013, 9:17AM
        • "Liberal frontbencher Arthur Sinodinos said his party was philosophically in favour of using financial rewards to get the best from staff."

          Don't they get a salary?

          Commenter
          Wendy
          Date and time
          November 20, 2013, 9:33AM
          • I remember when working in the public service congratulating an old boss on his promotion to Ses level I was a AS04 at the time his reply was gee just think of the pension I will receive, not interested in the tax payer they work for just interested in what than can get out of it.

            Commenter
            amro
            Date and time
            November 20, 2013, 11:05AM
            • Does anyone else see the delicious irony here? In order to impose a uniform system of quantifying and assessing SES performance, they will need to increase the very red tape they are trying to eliminate. The whole point of devolving conditions of employment to agency level under the Howard government was to reduce the red tape inherent in centralization. Now they've just figured out that a de-centralized system can't be centrally controlled, which was the whole point of de-centralization in the first place.

              Everybody sing along with me:

              There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
              There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.
              Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
              Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it...

              Commenter
              Derek
              Date and time
              November 20, 2013, 12:02PM
              • I think you may have hit on the secrets of eternal employment there, Derek.

                Commenter
                RobP
                Date and time
                November 20, 2013, 12:26PM
            • Great to hear of these cuts but do they go far enough.Frightening to hear bureaucracy lied before!
              SES is better than level creep when on union instruction people go up levels and the package for people employed irrespective of their work.
              Bureaucrats in Canberra are the highest paid workers in Australia and the most underworked.

              Commenter
              disgusted
              Location
              Not Canberra
              Date and time
              November 21, 2013, 5:12AM

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