Ryan acknowledges the coming years will be challenging for the public sector, with rising costs, government-imposed belt-tightening, and the increasing frequency of emergencies like pandemics and climate-induced severe weather events.
That makes it all the more important, he says, that government agencies are assessed not just on what they spend, but on what outcomes they deliver.
And those outcomes are about more than just their budgets and balance sheets – they must also set in place performance measures for less tangible standards, especially integrity.
“i'm not being alarmist, I'm being concerned. We should all be concerned about the integrity of the public sector, because it's one-third of the economy, and it actually has to have the trust of the public to operate effectively,” Ryan says.
“Integrity is about more than following the rules. It is about consistently behaving within agreed or accepted ethical principles and doing what is right in any given circumstance.”
In a report this month, the Auditor-General finds three weaknesses that need to be “urgently” addressed: measures that aren't meaningful or comprehensive; gaps in measuring what difference is being made; and poor measures for assessing the stewardship, oversight, and monitoring functions of departments.
The last Government increased spending by over $1 billion a week and abandoned measuring if they improved outcomes. It is vital we do better at measuring if spending is actually improving performance.