The capability review program was endorsed by government following a pilot of three reviews in the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. All departments and three large portfolio agencies (Australian Taxation Office, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and Australian Bureau of Statistics) are subject to a review.
Capability reviews focus on the areas of leadership, strategy and delivery (Figure A5.1). The model is designed to reflect the areas of capability that are relevant to public sector organisations. It also highlights capabilities that are particularly important to government, for example, innovation and client service.
Ratings are assigned to each of the model's 10 elements as part of the final report for each review.
Figure A5.1 Model for capability reviews
Source: Australian Public Service Commission
Capability reviews are undertaken in consultation with agencies and conducted by three senior reviewers engaged specifically to provide independent, fresh insight into the issues which are most critical to the Australian Public Service (APS), based on the knowledge and experience of the reviewers in senior roles of high-performing organisations. Two senior reviewers are external to the APS and one is a Deputy Secretary (SES Band 3) seconded from another department. This reviewer provides impartial, expert opinion particularly in respect to APS challenges, culture and trends.
When appointing senior reviewers to a specific capability review, consideration is given to eliciting public sector and private sector experience to ensure complementary skills and gender balance.
To date external senior reviewers have included retired Secretaries and private sector executives with broad experience and knowledge of the APS, either at federal or state/territory level or senior executives from private or academic sectors.
Senior reviewers are supported by a small team of Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) officers who provide a level of consistency across reviews on applying the capability model, processes and outputs. Review team members work collaboratively to reach a consensus position on the final findings and recommendations and have joint-ownership of review outcomes.
Capability is assessed against the following criteria:
- strong—outstanding capability for future delivery in line with the model
- well placed—capability gaps are identified and defined but are already being addressed with improvement expected in the short-term
- development area—weaknesses in capability for current and future delivery with action required to close the gaps and deliver improvement over the medium-term
- serious concerns—significant weaknesses in capability for current and future delivery that require urgent action.
The ratings provide agencies with a benchmark but should not be used as a comparison tool across agencies.
Reviews range from 11 to 16 weeks depending on the size and complexity of the agency. The review produces a series of findings on the agency's strengths and areas for further development. The agency head is engaged early, kept informed of emerging findings throughout the review and provided with the opportunity to formally respond to findings. The response is incorporated into the review report when published.
Following a capability review, the agency formalises a plan detailing how the findings—in terms of areas for further development—will be addressed, including what outcomes are expected and how success will be measured. Priorities are agreed between the agency head and Public Service Commissioner. Progress against priorities is reported quarterly to the Commission. A health-check review is undertaken by the Commission 12 to 18 months after the initial review to capture progress in addressing capability gaps. Findings from the health-check review will be taken into account in the subsequent performance assessment.