Calls are growing for a public service super department to put all the Commonwealth's back room functions under one massive roof.
A ''shared services'' department could have tens of thousands of public servants working in IT, payroll, purchasing and other service areas brought together at one agency in a bid to shave billions of dollars from the government's annual budget.
Such a move would also have thousands of jobs made redundant in a historic upheaval, as calls intensify for departments and agencies to save money and concentrate on their core business.
The push for departments to join forces, exploit greater purchasing power and eliminate duplication of work is expected to gather force when the Abbott government's Commission of Audit releases its findings in coming weeks.
Two departments, Education and Employment, have already formed a shared service centre in a move that is being keenly watched across the service. The two departments, which were decoupled from each other in the federal government's ''machinery of government'' changes late last year, have formed the first centre of its kind in Australia's public service to provide IT, human resources, procurement, financial and other services to the two departments. Eleven portfolio agencies are also sharing in the arrangement after signing memorandums of understanding.
Another department, Environment, wrote in a strategic review sent to staff last week that it wanted to explore the idea of bringing ''generic'' operations together to eliminate duplication. ''There may be scope to combine a number of corporate functions that are relatively generic across all Commonwealth agencies (such as accounts, payroll and property management operations) into whole-of-government shared services arrangements,'' the review states.
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''Consideration of these issues will need to occur as part of whole-of-government processes.''
The cash-strapped department, which is in the process of slashing its workforce by more than 25 per cent, will also look at moving back room operations from Canberra to regions where they might be cheaper.
''In the absence of any shared service arrangements, the department could consider moving some of processing-type functions outside of Canberra, following the lead of a number of larger departments in moving processing functions to the available workforce,'' the review said.
''Existing operations in Hobart (Australian Antarctic and Parks Australia Divisions) offer opportunities in this regard due to greater availability of staff with relevant skills.''
The Tax Office is also moving towards the whole-of-government approach and working towards greater integration of IT operations among departments.
The workplace authority, the Public Service Commission, said it had been pushing the service's key decision makers towards the ''whole-of-government'' approach.
A spokeswoman for Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick said the latest ''state of the service'' report called for public service bosses to make greater use of shared resources.
''Specifically, the commissioner noted the recent expansion in the willingness of agencies to 'build once and use many times' and of agency heads to collaborate, share resources and work together,'' the spokeswoman said. ''Key to this endeavour is the exploitation of economies of scale through whole-of-government purchasing arrangements when market opportunities emerge and the standardisation and move to common approaches where practical.''