Essential ingredients of good governance

By Jane Garcia

There would be few public sector leaders more acutely aware of the importance of good governance than Andrew Metcalfe.

He was appointed secretary of the former Federal Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (now called the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) in July 2005, facing the challenge of reforming the accountability and transparency of the organisation following its high-profile failures in the cases of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon, and the recommendations of the Palmer Report.

A senior public servant for more than 18 years, he told Government News that governance is about much more than rules, regulations, accountabilities and frameworks, it is about how an organisation lives its life and remains in good health.

“In DIMA, I set about improving our governance arrangements by expanding and developing our audit program; strengthening performance through robust corporate and business planning; and addressing specific areas identified by Palmer and Comrie, such as risk management, quality assurance, records management and client service,” he says.
“I set up a committee to address values and standards, and another on performance management. In view of all that had happened some top priorities for us were a new client service charter; a model for better communication with stakeholders; and resources to help leaders guide their teams in making complex decisions.”

Mr Metcalfe says achieving effective governance involves having a clear understanding of where an organisation is going, communicating it effectively and ensuring action is tied together through strong planning and effective leadership that sets the tone from the top.

His change management strategy for the department follows three guiding themes:
• developing and maintaining an open and accountable organisation;
• promoting fair and reasonable dealings with clients; and
• ensuring the organisation has well trained and supported staff.|

For more on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s new approach to accountability and what Andrew Metcalfe sees as some of the key emerging public sector governance issues see the February edition of Government News magazine.

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