Agency Capability Review Program

A new program to drive excellence and continuous improvement in the public sector.

The Agency Capability Review Program establishes, for the first time, a sectorwide approach to improvement by identifying the capabilities needed to be a high performing agency in the Western Australian context.

Reviews use a new framework that sets out 21 capabilities, grouped under the 5 most significant areas of public sector management and administration.

Each review is led by a trained and independent reviewer external to the agency and supported by a dedicated team at the Commission. The review provides the agency with a clear understanding of its current capabilities, including both strengths and areas for improvement.

A review report gives the agency’s leaders vital details on where to focus their efforts for maximum performance improvement. Reviews also showcase good practice that can be shared with other agencies.

2-year trial

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The program is being trialled from July 2021 to June 2023 through 8 reviews of government departments. It will be evaluated to determine if it has met its objectives and is helping agencies improve performance and deliver even better services to Western Australians.

Agencies taking part

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The first 3 reviews will commence in November/December 2021 and will be completed in mid-2022. The remaining 5 departments will be announced early next year.

The first 3 departments to take part in this trial are:

  • the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
  • the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
  • the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

A range of factors were considered when selecting these departments including their size, operating context, functions, metropolitan and regional presence as well as the priorities of government. By taking this approach, the program will be trialled against a range of variables to ensure it is robust and relevant across the entire WA public sector.

Questions and answers

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1. What is agency capability?

Agency capability is different from individual employee or leadership capability. It examines the functioning of systems, rather than simply individual performance, individual skills or competencies. It is an organisation’s capacity ‘to deploy resources, usually in combination, using organisational processes, to effect a desired end’.

2. What is the agency capability framework?

The framework is the basis on which public sector agencies are reviewed. It includes the 5 most significant areas of public sector management and administration – leadership, culture and governance; service excellence; relationships; people; and resources and risk. Each of these areas has 4 or 5 capabilities, totalling 21 capabilities.

3. Why are reviews needed?

The Agency Capability Review Program is a proactive approach to continuously improving government services for Western Australians. A review considers what is working well in an agency and where improvements need to be made. It aims to help each agency improve performance and, by sharing this information, lead to improved performance across the sector.

4. How is a review done and how long does it take?

Each review follows a 6 step process and uses the agency capability framework, developed specifically for the WA public sector. This consistent approach provides clear direction on what high performance means and how to get there. The process gives staff at all levels in the agency the chance to provide input. A review takes about 6 months and this timeframe allows an agency to quickly start work on areas identified for improvement.

5. Why is the Public Sector Commission running this program?

The Public Sector Commissioner has a legislated function to promote the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector, and provide advice about what actions are required for improvement. Agencies are always working to improve their services and this program supports their own approaches to improvement.

6. Who undertakes a review?

An independent lead reviewer leads each review. The lead reviewer is selected by the Public Sector Commissioner based on their reputation, skills and experience in public administration and management. The lead reviewer is supported by one or two reviewers co-opted from other government agencies. A Public Sector Commission review team supports the lead reviewer in each review. Staff from other government agencies might also be co-opted to support the review process

7. What type of information is considered during a review?

A range of information is considered including input from staff at all levels of the agency; documentation such as strategic plans, reports, policies and processes; and the views of key stakeholders.

8. Is there a submission process to contribute to an agency review?

Rather than a submission process, the review gathers the views of staff and stakeholders through a variety of processes including questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.

9. How many reviews are run each year?

The Commission is undertaking 8 reviews of departments during the 2-year trial of the program.

10. Which agencies get reviewed and who decides?

In the 2-year trial, the Public Sector Commissioner is selecting 8 departments of different sizes, functions, remits and geographic locations so the program’s processes and the capability framework are tested. The selection of departments for review is no indication, positive or negative, of their performance.

11. How is an agency capability review different from reviews conducted by other government accountability agencies?

This review program is different from many undertaken in recent years and by other statutory bodies. It is not about cutting costs or reducing staff numbers, nor is it an audit or a compliance check. The program is about reviewing capabilities in agencies to boost overall performance and ensure they are prepared for the future.

12. Are reviewed agencies ranked?

Agencies are reviewed independently and not compared or ranked. The purpose of the program is to find out what is working well in each agency being reviewed and seeing where improvements can be made so everyone who works in that agency can do their very best work.

13. Who gets to see the findings of the review?

An executive summary of each review report is published on WA.gov.au.

14. Does the Public Sector Commission help each agency implement the improvements from the review?

Each agency is responsible for using the review report to inform their improvement plan, implement the plan and report on achievements in their annual report.

15. Why is this a trial?

As this is the first capability review program for the WA public sector, it is important to trial the framework and processes to ensure they meet the objectives of the program and to make any necessary improvements.

Page reviewed 14 September 2021