Govt releases post-Pezzullo capability review

The federal government has released a capability review of the Department of Home Affairs, several months after the sensational sacking of its head Mike Pezzullo.

Stephanie Foster

Stephanie Foster was appointed Home Affairs Secretary last November after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese removed Mr Pezzullo following Lynelle Briggs’ independent inquiry which found Mr Pezzullo had breached the Australian Public Service code of conduct on multiple occasions.

The breaches included using his power to seek to advantage himself, engaging in gossip and disrespectful critique of ministers and public servants and failing to keep sensitive government information confidential.

The Home Affairs Capability Review, a separate probe undertaken by a team including independent reviewers Ian Watt and Liza Carroll and senior bureaucrats Maree Bridgers and Mark Bazzacco, says the organisation faces an ‘exciting time of change and possibility’.

However, it also identifies areas that need improvement.

These include governance, leadership development and taking steps to ensure a future-fit workforce.

“It is critical leaders at all levels in the department actively and collaboratively support the agenda of transformational change set by the new leadership team,” the review team says.

It also says staff surveyed as part of the review feel “burned out by constant change, unrealistic delivery expectations and the nature of the work.”

Building the workforce

The skills and capabilities the department needs today won’t necessarily meet the challenges of coming years, and the department needs to better anticipate and prepare for the workforce it will need in the future, the report says.

The department also needs to address current workforce capability gaps and a high turnover in the SES.

“Strategic workforce planning is not yet adequate to address these shortcomings now or in the future,” the report says.

“The department needs a comprehensive and adaptive workforce strategy to ensure its workforce is ready to deal with current and future challenges.”

It also says training and development across all levels, as well as workplace health and safety, need to be lifted.

The review found “a lack of sufficient attention to budget, financial management and prioritisation of resources” is hampering the department.

Staff feel like the department is “repeatedly taking on new priorities without additional resources”, which is undermining the ability to deliver on goals.

Recruitment and planning decisions aren’t transparent and workloads and always evenly shared or balanced with adequate resourcing, the report found.

Personal attachment low

The report notes staff are connected to the mission of their department, but this hasn’t translated to a workforce that is as proud to say they work at Home Affairs.

“Staff pride, a willingness to recommend the department as a good place to work and a sense of personal attachment to their agency all remain below the result for the APS,” it says.

According to 2023 census data, less than 70 per cent say they’re proud to work in the agency – seven percentage points below the overall APS result.

And while 57 per cent of Home Affairs staff recommend the department as a good place to work, this remains 11 percentage points below the APS overall.

Risk and integrity

Integrity remains an area for attention, the report says.

“The department’s integrity framework is not always working as needed,” the team concludes.

“There has also been a heightened focus on integrity matters due to a very public integrity failure at the highest level, which may have affected public and staff perceptions of the department’s integrity.”

There has also been a heightened focus on integrity matters due to a very public integrity failure at the highest level, which may have affected public and staff perceptions of the department’s integrity.

Home Affairs Capability Review

Risk management is ‘uneven’ and there’s a need to improve collaboration with other public sector organisations.

Reform recommendations

The Department of Home Affairs is one of the biggest organisations in the Australian Government with more than 15,000 employees and $6.3 billion in total funding in 2023-24.

It’s also the government’s second largest revenue collector, generating more than $22 billion in administered revenue each year.

For the review the team interviewed more 50 internal and external stakeholders and held workshops with more than 170 members of staff between November 2023 and March 2024. It also collected responses from 3,100 staff in an all-staff survey.

The report is part of a pilot APS capability review program in response to reform recommendations contained in the Thodey review.

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