After mopping up Robodebt, Rebecca Skinner to quit public service

The bureaucrat who led Services Australia out of the Robodebt scandal is quitting the public service.

Rebecca Skinner

Social Services minister Bill Shorten says he has been informed Services Australia CEO Rebecca Skinner will resign at the end of this month.

 Ms Skinner, who has been at the helm of the welfare agency since March 2020, was instrumental in transforming Services post-Robodebt, Mr Shorten said.

In evidence to the Robodebt Royal Commission, Ms skinner, called out deficiencies in the senior executive and a lack of appropriate management of SES officers at the time she took up her appointment.

“Under her leadership, Services Australia is becoming the customer-centred agency Australians need,” Mr Shorten said in a statement.

He said Ms Skinner’s leadership of Services Australia and its 28,500 staff came at a critical time for Australia, which saw the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the Robodebt automated debt collection disaster.

Mr Shorten said Ms Skinner also played a key role in the digital transformation of government services, including development of the new myGov platform and the myGov app, and led Services Australia’s emergency response following the eastern Australia floods.

Ms Skinner has held senior roles withing the Department of Defence and served in the DPM&C and Attorney General’s portfolio during her 30-year public service career.

An acting CEO will be appointed following Ms Skinner’s departure on September 29, Mr Shorten said.

In evidence to the Royal Commission into Robodebt earlier this year, Ms Skinner provided her reflections on the scheme and highlighted failings in the agency she had been appointed to lead.

These included confusion between policy and service delivery and failings in working relationships, leadership culture, use of data and analytics to inform executive-level decisions, and management of legal and risks.

She also said when she took over as CEO the agency lacked a framework for managing SES officers, including recruitment, conduct, performance and professional development.

“The absence of robust SES cohort management results in people not receiving sufficiently diverse professional experiences, including in a large organisation,” she said.

“It can also result in over-sponsorship, or favouritism, to a small number of people, such as through long-term acting arrangements for some people not being based on transparent talent and merit considerations.

“These can result therefore in an SES leadership that lacks the experience, professional depth, and diversity of leadership tools to effectively lead a large organisation.”

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