AUSTRALIA | Victorian Ombudsman publishes report on alleged politicisation of public sector

On 6 December 2023, the Victorian Ombudsman tabled in Parliament her report Alleged politicisation of the public sector: Investigation of a matter referred from the Legislative Council on 9 February 2022 – Part 2. It stemmed from a motion requiring the Ombudsman to investigate several matters, including an allegation about the politicisation of the public sector.

The referral alleged the public service had been improperly ‘stacked’ with ALP operatives. The investigation did not find this. But it did find a public sector that has been politicised in other, equally pervasive ways.

“Politicisation can take many forms. It is not just the hiring of people with political affiliations. It is also the closing down or marginalisation of apolitical, independent voices.”

“Creeping politicisation is a reality in Victoria, and requires urgent attention,” Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.

In one of the more intensive investigations conducted in the Ombudsman’s 50-year history, we interviewed 45 highly placed public officials and reviewed millions of individual records across more than a dozen agencies.

A key finding was the marginalisation of the public sector and the erosion of a core Westminster principle: an impartial public service that serves the government of the day while providing it with ‘frank and fearless’ advice. An example of this was the early assessment of the Suburban Rail Loop.

“It was subject to excessive secrecy and ‘proved up’ by consultants rather than developed by public servants. Its announcement ‘blindsided’ the agency set up by the same government to remove short-term politics from infrastructure planning,” Ms Glass said. “The lack of rigorous public sector scrutiny over such projects before they are announced poses obvious risks to public funds.”

The report also found public sector confidence that senior hiring decisions are merit based has been undermined, largely due to frequent sidestepping of open and advertised processes. The investigation found frequent direct appointments of former Ministerial staffers, rushed and shoddy recruitment practices, poor record-keeping and opaque selection methods.


Kindly click here to read the entire article, the report summary and the Ombudsman's recommendation. 


To read the report kindly refer to the download section below.

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