THE state government spent $20 million in one year recruiting external staff for its Education Department, while preparing to slash hundreds of permanent jobs to make savings.
Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws reveal that in the past financial year nine employment agencies were paid to find temporary contract staff to work in the bureaucracy.
But the expenditure is sensitive for the government, which is not only axing 400 department workers in a bid to reduce the public service, but has also stripped hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from TAFEs and schools since coming to office.
"In the context of the Baillieu government's failure in disability education, cuts to the education maintenance allowance for needy families, and cuts to TAFE, this splurging of over $20 million on external agency staff shows just how twisted this government's priorities are,'' said Labor's education parliamentary secretary, Colin Brooks, who obtained the FOI documents. Education Minister Martin Dixon defended the costs, saying massive savings had been made across his department compared to when Labor was in office.
''Mr Brooks is being deceptive,'' the minister's spokesman, James Martin, said.
"What he doesn't want anyone to see is that under Labor [in office until the November 2010 state election] the amount of money paid to agencies to engage contract and permanent staff was much higher, with $36.6 million being paid to agencies in 2010-11."
The documents show that of the $20 million spent on employment agency costs last year, almost $10 million was paid to recruitment firm Hays Personnel Services; $6.2 million went to Clicks Recruit Australia; and $1.5 million went to Hudson Global Resources.
The spending comes as the government slashes 4200 jobs in the public service over the next two years, in a bid to pay for infrastructure and protect the budget from future economic shocks.