CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

17 February, 2000

To Hon Mr Ken Hayward, MLA,
Chairman, Public Accounts Committee

The Role of Statutory Office Holders when the Public Service Fails

As I understand it, the Public Accounts Committee assesses government financial management, and particularly follows up on the Auditor General's reports to Parliament.

The purpose of this letter is to suggest that the amateur-isation of the Public Service (a result of politicising 'senior' appointments - about which I have often written) is likely to be revealed through its effect on financial management issues of concern to the Auditor General.

While minor crises are an immediate symptom of 'amateur-isation', this is hard to prove (1). And though major failures in policy development and implementation will ultimately be the most serious impact of 'amateur-isation', such failures may not be obvious for years. (2)

However amateur-isation seems likely, sooner rather than later, to lead to damaging under-performance in financial management functions which the Auditor General might detect (as might your Committee also). A copy of a letter about this to the Auditor General, together with supporting papers, is enclosed for your consideration (dated 22 December, 1999),

The Auditor General pointed out his role as a statutory office holder responsible to Parliament in his response of 6th October 1999 to a letter about the unproductive(1) Net-Bet investigations - but he did not say what the responsibilities of such officer holders are.

I submit that: (a) the Public Service's (Westminster) role as a source of competent support to government appears to be breaking down; and that (b) statutory officers holders are well placed to provide Parliament with evidence of the need for reform to rebuild Public Service professionalism; but that (c) they do not seem to want to 'grasp this nettle' (3)

[Signed John Craig]

3 March, 2000

To Hon Mr Ken Hayward, MLA
Chairman, Public Accounts Committee

The Role of Statutory Office Holders when the Public Service Fails

I refer to your letter of 1 March 2000 concerning the decision by your committee not to pursue the matters I raised [see above].

Frankly it never occurred to me that your committee might do anything. I no longer have any expectation of responsible or sensible initiatives (or justice) from Queensland's 'Monty-Python-ish' institutions.

However the pressures which the Queensland public are coming under guarantee that they will not tolerate ineffectual institutions indefinitely. I suspect that the main benefit of my submissions will be to ensure that those who are responsible for this can not then claim that they didn't know.

[Signed John Craig]


1. For example, a letter to the Auditor General (dated 3/10/99, and copied to all MLAs) noted that QAO and CJC investigations of the Net-Bet affair could not explain what went wrong, perhaps because those investigators were only able to look for procedural irregularities.

2. For example, while economic 'repositioning' plans in Innovation: Queensland's Future may achieve political goals, they are unlikely to be commercially relevant (see my letter 5/11/99). But Queensland has virtually no capable independent institutions able to identify (before failure has actually occurred) what standard of work Parliament and the community should expect.

3. For example: (a) in 1993, the Deputy Ombudsman stated (in relation to the Premier's Department's refusal to allow merit to be considered in a grievance about senior Public Service staffing) that legislated staffing procedures potentially allowed ir-resolvable injustices. But the Ombudsman's Office did not then report this clear legislative defect to Parliament; and (b) in October 1999, the CJC stated (in relation to the inability of the Net-Bet investigations to show what went wrong) that it regarded Public Service politicisation as a complex and important issue. But the CJC then stated that it lacked the resources to do anything about it.