As the Merit Protection Commissioner I am responsible for the delivery of review and fee-for-service functions set out in the Public Service Act 1999 (the PS Act) and the Public Service Regulations (the Regulations).
Stated briefly, these functions are independent reviews of employment actions, including promotion decisions, and fee-for-service activities, including Independent Selection Advisory Committees.
This is my second term in this role. I have observed many changes in the public service and significant improvements in the performance of my office.
Today a dedicated review team applies streamlined processes and technology to manage and report on our work. We have developed templates and support materials that enable our review advisers to focus on key issues and eradicate unnecessary process steps. This has ensured that we are complying with the statutory aim of the review scheme—providing an impartial review process that delivers outcomes fairly and quickly—and add value to our stakeholders.
I am proud to note that my review team has been twice awarded Australia Day Medals for its work.
I continue to work with stakeholders to improve people management in the Australian Public Service (APS). My continuing message to agencies is that it is more cost-effective to address matters at line manager level and to take a strategic approach to dispute management. Feedback through the review function helps agencies to identify issues and hotspots for intervention. Sharing trends in the review casework helps agencies to make better decisions. I am also working towards more targeted interventions using innovative communication approaches.
These practical insights are fed back into the development of policies for the APS. In particular, feedback has informed the development of the APS values and employment framework—work led by the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission).
Over the past two years my office has exceeded its performance targets. In 2007–08 just 41% of cases were finalised within the target time. By 2013–14 this figure increased to 96%, and in the year covered by this report, was over 80%. Over the last four years, between 95% and 100% of promotion reviews have been completed within target timeframes.
These are more than just statistics. Unresolved disputes affect agency productivity and the working lives of employees. Quick and effective review processes have the potential to save agencies time and money by preventing matters from escalating to costly court or tribunal processes and by improving employee engagement.
My report is divided into four parts: a focus on the year's activities, the outcomes for the year, the outlook for 2015–16 and the governance arrangements applying to the role of the Merit Protection Commissioner. Supporting information and performance statistics are provided in the appendix.
The report also includes a sample of case studies highlighting issues raised in review cases finalised in 2014–15.