Who wants to get shoved over to Serco?

By 17 December, 2013 29

Government News is running concerns that the Commission of Audit is going to recommend large swathes of the public service be handed over to private sector groups like Serco and G4S:

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has ratcheted up pressure on the Abbott government to resist a push to hive off thousands of federal public service jobs to multinational outsourcers like Serco and G4S – which it claims is likely to be recommended by the forthcoming National Commission of Audit.

The pre-emptive push comes as Treasurer Joe Hockey prepares to hand down the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement that is anticipated to reveal an increase in the Budget deficit to around $50 billion.

While it is still not clear what parts of government activity could be potential candidates for outsourcing – other than existing functions like running immigration detention facilities – the prospect of gaining an increased share of public sector work will clearly be appealing to managed services and infrastructure providers.

However the CPSU has firmly signalled that it will count the movement of positions to the private sector towards the overall public sector job loss figure that it intends to hold the government to account for.

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29 Responses to Who wants to get shoved over to Serco?
#1
enrique10:44 am, 17 Dec 13

Pause and think about this for a second…

How many times have you heard a phrase along the lines of “if a private company ran that particular service like the government does currently they’d go broke!”

Given the opportunity to take over responsibility for a service, the first thing a private company would do would be to seek out ways of running the service more efficiently. They may even go so far as to improve the customer service experience in order to increase their chances of picking up additional services (or at least keeping the current one).

That alone has me thinking it might be a very good idea to outsource some government services.

There may be other reasons, however, that would make outsourcing a bad idea… things that come to mind are the whole de-valuing of a service, over-zealous cost-cutting, profiteering through exorbitant fees, etc..

What do you folks think?

#2
enrique10:48 am, 17 Dec 13
#3
johnboy10:48 am, 17 Dec 13

Mostly when Serco takes over an operation, in my observation, they hire a bunch of toothless tattooed desperadoes and bill them out like top flight talent while trousering the difference and hoping nobody notices.

#4
HiddenDragon11:26 am, 17 Dec 13

Let’s hope they look hard at how such exercises have gone in the past, and take an honest account of the costs – financial and otherwise – of managing government relationships with outsourced service providers. The other area likely to be given a big push is surely “outsourcing” to the States and Territories – Abbott’s public comments at last week’s COAG gave a very strong hint of this, I thought.

#5
HiddenDragon11:29 am, 17 Dec 13

johnboy said :

Mostly when Serco takes over an operation, in my observation, they hire a bunch of toothless tattooed desperadoes and bill them out like top flight talent while trousering the difference and hoping nobody notices.

Bravo! – now I know what Two Ton Ted from Teddington is doing these days.

#6
Thumper11:58 am, 17 Dec 13

johnboy said :

Mostly when Serco takes over an operation, in my observation, they hire a bunch of toothless tattooed desperadoes and bill them out like top flight talent while trousering the difference and hoping nobody notices.

Succinctly and accurately put….

#7
Felix the Cat12:07 pm, 17 Dec 13

johnboy said :

Mostly when Serco takes over an operation, in my observation, they hire a bunch of toothless tattooed desperadoes and bill them out like top flight talent while trousering the difference and hoping nobody notices.

So much like an employment agency.

#8
Roundhead8912:43 pm, 17 Dec 13

I remember when I was in the PS in the early ’90s the subject of outsourcing was first muted. I worked in Registry and thought that it would never happen as we handled so many Secret and Top Secret files and documents. Around five years later I had a temp job with the ACT Service and I was told to access a file. “Where’s Registry?” I asked, and I was told “Oh, there’s no stacks here, all the files are over at Brambles Records Management in Kingston”. I couldn’t believe it. I had to visit a corporate office to get a government file about somebody’s lease details.

Were there any checks and balances in place? Were there any regulations about insider trading or leaking of information? Did the ACT government do any audits on the performance of Brambles? Nobody answered me directly, but the answers to all those questions was apparently no.

That wasn’t the end of it. After I left ACT Govco the mail sorting and courier part of what used to be Registry was moved holus bolus over to the Brambles building, and the whole thing was outsourced to Brambles (or Recall as it became) shortly after.

#9
poetix3:45 pm, 17 Dec 13

#8 mooted

#10
Skidbladnir4:09 pm, 17 Dec 13

My modest proposal is that we go whole hog and outsource Tax Receipts and State Revenues.
Assign the right to collect and retain the proceeds of the tax system to private entities, in exchange for fixed annual revenues for the period of the National Tax Contract. Live within our means that way.
Tax Farming: It worked for the Romans and the French! * (TM)

Out-libtard the IPA at its own game, see who laughs first.

*: until the First Jewish War and the French Revolution respectively, but let’s not speak about those irrelevancies

#11
Martlark4:17 pm, 17 Dec 13

If given the opportunity to leave my desk at work on Friday with a massive redundancy payment, then turn up to the same desk on Monday with the same salary doing the same work, I’d go for it.

#12
Pork Hunt5:31 pm, 17 Dec 13

Martlark said :

If given the opportunity to leave my desk at work on Friday with a massive redundancy payment, then turn up to the same desk on Monday with the same salary doing the same work, I’d go for it.

Serco won’t pay you the same salary.

#13
johnboy5:57 pm, 17 Dec 13

the difference in salary is the Serco management’s whole business model. Want to bet how much they’ll take?

#14
JC7:52 pm, 17 Dec 13

enrique said :

Pause and think about this for a second…

How many times have you heard a phrase along the lines of “if a private company ran that particular service like the government does currently they’d go broke!”

Given the opportunity to take over responsibility for a service, the first thing a private company would do would be to seek out ways of running the service more efficiently. They may even go so far as to improve the customer service experience in order to increase their chances of picking up additional services (or at least keeping the current one).

That alone has me thinking it might be a very good idea to outsource some government services.

There may be other reasons, however, that would make outsourcing a bad idea… things that come to mind are the whole de-valuing of a service, over-zealous cost-cutting, profiteering through exorbitant fees, etc..

What do you folks think?

History here and elsewhere has shown that when you outsource the companies bid low to get the work, then start defaulting on their contract commitments then put their hands out for more money because what they and others bid was not sustainable. Ends up costing more in the long run.

#15
milkman8:26 pm, 17 Dec 13

JC said :

enrique said :

Pause and think about this for a second…

How many times have you heard a phrase along the lines of “if a private company ran that particular service like the government does currently they’d go broke!”

Given the opportunity to take over responsibility for a service, the first thing a private company would do would be to seek out ways of running the service more efficiently. They may even go so far as to improve the customer service experience in order to increase their chances of picking up additional services (or at least keeping the current one).

That alone has me thinking it might be a very good idea to outsource some government services.

There may be other reasons, however, that would make outsourcing a bad idea… things that come to mind are the whole de-valuing of a service, over-zealous cost-cutting, profiteering through exorbitant fees, etc..

What do you folks think?

History here and elsewhere has shown that when you outsource the companies bid low to get the work, then start defaulting on their contract commitments then put their hands out for more money because what they and others bid was not sustainable. Ends up costing more in the long run.

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

#16
Primal8:37 pm, 17 Dec 13

Serco and G4S seem to regularly pop up in the UK news, usually in close proximity to the words ‘government’ and ‘fiasco’. I can’t imagine their Australian forms are much better.

#17
EvanJames9:05 pm, 17 Dec 13

I remember the great push to outsource things last time the coalition was in power. Things like IT services, HR and payroll, recruitment.

What an unmitigated disaster it was. I spent some time in Finance, who’d been good little economists and outsourced everything they could. They spent the next few years at war with the companies they’d outsourced everything to, and discovered that when you contracted this stuff out, you couldn’t do ANYTHING new ie outside the contract, without doing annexes and new contracts and stumping up lots of new money. When they were insourced, you could slope up to the branch head’s office, discuss it, and have it happen.

Plus they lost control over the quality of what was provided. Private companies weren’t much interested in due process, accountability etc, unless there was a buck in it. I worked for a private entity providing services to a central agency, where people performing this work were required to hold TS clearances. But those are expensive to get, plus some of their staff weren’t Australian Citizens, so they got people in who held TS clearances, and quietly didn’t mention the other staff in the units who didn’t have them and never would have them. They didn’t care.

I see now how some line departments waste staff time doing long and elaborate responses to loony letters from loony members of the public. How will that be handled by a private company I wonder?

#18
LSWCHP9:07 pm, 17 Dec 13

When I was a young bloke (Computers were driven by steam. Dinosaurs roamed the streets) I was collateral damage in a corporate reshuffle that meant I ended up working for Serco.

After a quick look around, I was able to confirm that my colleagues were almost entirely employed painting rocks around the edges of garden beds, cleaning things, and acting as security guards. Nary an engineer to be seen among the lot of them. I dunno if they were desperadoes, if they had tatts, or what their dental status was like, but I realised that if I stayed there for longer than a New York minute then I would be professionally f*cked for the rest of my career.

After a few chats to some friends I was in different job (with a 20% pay cut!!) a couple of months later. In desperate times, you have to do what you have to do.

I may not be top flight talent, but I can usually tell my arse from a hole in the ground, and 6 months later I had my first pay review that gave me the 20% back, and another 10% on top of that. I never regretted that move for a nanosecond.

The moral of my little story? I guess I’m just concurring with what JB said. Service contracting outfits like Serco ain’t gonna be full of the best and brightest.

#19
EvanJames9:10 pm, 17 Dec 13

Roundhead89 said :

That wasn’t the end of it. After I left ACT Govco the mail sorting and courier part of what used to be Registry was moved holus bolus over to the Brambles building, and the whole thing was outsourced to Brambles (or Recall as it became) shortly after.

Heh! I worked there briefly… it was a tin shed near the Fyshwick Markets, with a dirt floor with old carpet laid over it! I was helping the bloke who was trying to set up a system whereby this registry would do all the registry stuff for all the ACT government.

Boxes and boxes of files, stacked up in the chicken wire enclosures in this shed, bunch of blue collar workers who didn’t give two hoots, and a few public servants who did care but no one wanted to know.

This was a bit later though, I figure the early noughties.

#20
LSWCHP9:15 pm, 17 Dec 13

EvanJames said :

I worked for a private entity providing services to a central agency, where people performing this work were required to hold TS clearances. But those are expensive to get, plus some of their staff weren’t Australian Citizens, so they got people in who held TS clearances, and quietly didn’t mention the other staff in the units who didn’t have them and never would have them. They didn’t care.

Holy Holy Crap. My Gob is Smacked. My Flabber is well and truly Gasted. Given the definition of TS, that is an astoundingly astounding thing. Even suggesting something like that in my organisation would result in disciplinary action, and probably termination.

Utterly incomprehensible.

#21
Tetranitrate9:19 pm, 17 Dec 13

johnboy said :

the difference in salary is the Serco management’s whole business model. Want to bet how much they’ll take?

Going by what I saw Converga offering, 15-20k a year. Not accounting for the difference in super.

#22
JC9:39 pm, 17 Dec 13

milkman said :

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

Along with companies who as I mention bid low to get the work then come cap in hand because what they bid was too low.

#23
LSWCHP10:51 pm, 17 Dec 13

EvanJames said :

Roundhead89 said :

That wasn’t the end of it. After I left ACT Govco the mail sorting and courier part of what used to be Registry was moved holus bolus over to the Brambles building, and the whole thing was outsourced to Brambles (or Recall as it became) shortly after.

Heh! I worked there briefly… it was a tin shed near the Fyshwick Markets, with a dirt floor with old carpet laid over it! I was helping the bloke who was trying to set up a system whereby this registry would do all the registry stuff for all the ACT government.

Boxes and boxes of files, stacked up in the chicken wire enclosures in this shed, bunch of blue collar workers who didn’t give two hoots, and a few public servants who did care but no one wanted to know.

This was a bit later though, I figure the early noughties.

I seem to recall that shed (haha). Was it across the road from the markets, next to Big Jim Murphy’s grog shop? I knew a bloke who worked as a software developer for Recall. He was basically an ex public service clerk who’d bought a computer and taught himself how to write code out of some books, and my assessment was that he knew a lot of fancy tricks that would impress the gullible, but had no fundamental software engineering or CompSci skills at all.

I shuddered to think what their retrieval systems were like, and now I know.

#24
tommo10:54 pm, 17 Dec 13

JC said :

milkman said :

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

Along with companies who as I mention bid low to get the work then come cap in hand because what they bid was too low.

This sort of thing is crap. If a company bids lower than they can afford to provide the service they should be liable and held accountable. Why do we give handouts to companies that could not complete the original contract? If they cannot complete the task for the price they said they could then the government should be able to hand the contract to someone else and sue the original company for any and all additional costs.
It seems as no project completes within budget these days as there is no incentive to do so. Everything is drawn out and poorly managed just because there is free money for doing so.

#25
milkman12:44 am, 18 Dec 13

JC said :

milkman said :

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

Along with companies who as I mention bid low to get the work then come cap in hand because what they bid was too low.

Indeed.

But if government actually wrote and assessed tenders properly, you’d see a lot less of this behaviour because it simply wouldn’t fly. The problem is that for many depts, best value simply means cheapest.

#26
gooterz12:51 am, 18 Dec 13

tommo said :

JC said :

milkman said :

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

Along with companies who as I mention bid low to get the work then come cap in hand because what they bid was too low.

This sort of thing is crap. If a company bids lower than they can afford to provide the service they should be liable and held accountable. Why do we give handouts to companies that could not complete the original contract? If they cannot complete the task for the price they said they could then the government should be able to hand the contract to someone else and sue the original company for any and all additional costs.
It seems as no project completes within budget these days as there is no incentive to do so. Everything is drawn out and poorly managed just because there is free money for doing so.

If gov doesn’t spec the contract properly, company delivers X when gov needs Y.

Company then says sure we can make X into Y, but it’ll cost ya.

Company wins big time as they get whatever they want.

if its all internal then the cost is minimal.

After all if a private firm can do it cheaper why doesn’t the government run it as a private firm?

#27
simsim6:38 am, 18 Dec 13

tommo said :

JC said :

milkman said :

Badly written contracts, ambiguous requirements, poorly defined SLAs and lack of ability to assess tender responses will do that every time.

Along with companies who as I mention bid low to get the work then come cap in hand because what they bid was too low.

This sort of thing is crap. If a company bids lower than they can afford to provide the service they should be liable and held accountable. Why do we give handouts to companies that could not complete the original contract? If they cannot complete the task for the price they said they could then the government should be able to hand the contract to someone else and sue the original company for any and all additional costs.
It seems as no project completes within budget these days as there is no incentive to do so. Everything is drawn out and poorly managed just because there is free money for doing so.

The problem is that there is usually an obligaiton to provide un-interrupted service – and going out to hand a contract to someone else will usually cause a substantial interruption to the service. So it’s a choice of “sub-standard service” or “no service” – with no guarantee that the next person you hand the job onto will actually provide a better service anyway since your last selection process proved to be so wildly unsuccessful at culling out incapable people.

Basically, there’s a lot of holes in the system that dishonest vendors can take advantage of wholesale.

#28
pompom8:37 am, 18 Dec 13

Sitting in the UK it’s interesting to see how your new neoliberal administration is following closely the sort of policies we have been suffering here.
I’m interested to hear mention of Serco, for instance. They’ve got some big contracts here (amongst many others) running electronic tagging contracts as an alternative to imprisonment. They have recently been caught out fraudently charging the UK govt. for tagging prisoners who were in jail or dead.
And G4S, of course, had the contract for providing security at the London Olympics last year and. at the last minute, had to admit they couldn’t supply enough security staff – as a result the army had to take over.
So the best of luck with your privatisation policies, it seems clear to me that your new govt., like ours, has created a supposed financial crisis as an excuse for giving profitable new business to their mates. And what you’re seeing now is just the beginning, believe me.

#29
EvanJames11:25 am, 18 Dec 13

LSWCHP said :

EvanJames said :

Roundhead89 said :

That wasn’t the end of it. After I left ACT Govco the mail sorting and courier part of what used to be Registry was moved holus bolus over to the Brambles building, and the whole thing was outsourced to Brambles (or Recall as it became) shortly after.

Heh! I worked there briefly… it was a tin shed near the Fyshwick Markets, with a dirt floor with old carpet laid over it! I was helping the bloke who was trying to set up a system whereby this registry would do all the registry stuff for all the ACT government.

Boxes and boxes of files, stacked up in the chicken wire enclosures in this shed, bunch of blue collar workers who didn’t give two hoots, and a few public servants who did care but no one wanted to know.

This was a bit later though, I figure the early noughties.

I seem to recall that shed (haha). Was it across the road from the markets, next to Big Jim Murphy’s grog shop? I knew a bloke who worked as a software developer for Recall. He was basically an ex public service clerk who’d bought a computer and taught himself how to write code out of some books, and my assessment was that he knew a lot of fancy tricks that would impress the gullible, but had no fundamental software engineering or CompSci skills at all.

I shuddered to think what their retrieval systems were like, and now I know.

Yep, that was it. I was helping a poor guy who was being punished for writing an article in the paper about why Canberra didn’t need, and couldn’t afford, a prison. He was banished to this shed, to set up this all-of-government registry. Laying lines and cables sure was easy, just lift a section of the carpet and there was dirt and dead grass underneath.

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