National

Shared services back in fashion in the federal bureaucracy

Shared Services Centre chief executive Delaine Wilson is excited by her new role.
Shared Services Centre chief executive Delaine Wilson is excited by her new role.  Photo: Melissa Adams

It's not quite a return to the days of the Commonwealth government's "super department", but the concept of shared services is back in fashion in the federal bureaucracy.

The new government's new "Shared Services Centre" has a brand new chief executive who started work on Monday and a growing list of clients among Canberra public service departments looking to save money and trim their workforces by outsourcing backroom functions.

The SSC is doing work for at least 13 departments and agencies including The Prime Minister and Cabinet, Social Services, Employment and The Public Service commission, and The Canberra Times understands that talks are underway with other outfits.

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The agency reckons it can also help out with all sorts of "non-core" functions ; "financial processing, application hosting, desktop technology, graphic design and website development, property, facilities" and even building security.

The concept of shared services has drifted in and out of fashion in the public service, as different management theories come in and out of vogue, but was considered dead and buried when the newly elected Howard Government abolished the much-maligned Department of Administrative Services in 1997.

But the new SSC , which emerged from the last year's break-up of the Education and Employment Departments is looking to expand and might even have to see off challenges from a couple of rival outfits from around town.

The Attorney General's Department has emerged as an unlikely shared services player after taking over backroom operations for most of Canberra's cultural institutions and is widely expected to swallow up the Commonwealth review tribunals' human resources functions in mid-2015.

A departmental spokesman confirmed that AGD is firmly in the shared services game, although he denied there were plans to take over functions from the Tribunals.

"The Department has an established shared service centre and is currently providing various services to several agencies," the spokesman said.

"As identified in the 2014-2015 Budget Papers, combined net savings of $2.4 million will be achieved over four years from 2014-2015."

The shared services bandwagon received a boost from the government's Commission of Audit this year, with commission Chairman Tony Shepherd recommending that a return to a whole-of-government super department be considered.

There might be more even outsourcing in the offing if, as expected, December's mid-year economic outlook announcements bring more mergers and abolitions in the public service.

For now though, the SCC's new Chief Executive Delaine Wilson, recruited from New Zealand where she created a shared services centre for the Kiwi postal service, is content to steadily grow her agency's client base and is avoiding any talk of super departments.

"The new CEO of the SSC…says she is excited to be helping deliver innovative, cost-effective services to APS customers," a spokesman said this week.

Shared services: everybody's doing it

The Prime Minister and Cabinet

Social Services

National Gallery

National Library

Education

Employment

Public Service Commission

Skills Quality Authority

Comcare

Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency

Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Fair Work Ombudsman

Fair Work Building and Construction

IP Australia

Safe Work Australia

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