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Stanhopian tantrum over questions

By johnboy - 12 June 2009 54

The ABC had an interesting story yesterday on Chief Minister Stanhope’s anger in the face of 2,550 questions on notice lodged by the Greens and Liberals in the course of the estimates hearings.

The Chief Minister says it’s going to cost $1.5 million to answer all the questions.

The examples I’ve heard him use (yet to see a statement on this from his office) in interviews have included questions about the cost of green paint and money spent on temporary footpath repairs.

My question would be what sort of system are they running where these questions are difficult to answer? How on earth can you responsibly decide to undertake these actions without already having numbers on projected cost and performance against budget?

UPDATE: Brendan Smyth is very excited by more cracks appearing in the Labor facade and John Hargreaves thoughts on the quality of questions:

    ‘It’s not so that the questions in fact were trivial, I believe, I think they were quite reasonable questions. (ABC 666 12/6/2009).

What’s Your opinion?

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54 Responses to
Stanhopian tantrum over questions
housebound 4:08 pm 12 Jun 09

This level of detail is no more than is commonly asked for on funding applications. If this is too much work, perhaps they could revamp the amount of detail asked for in grant applications.

And when I think of it, they should know how many $ spent of temporary path repairs, how else would they know that it isn’t more cost-effective to do the job properly?

weeziepops 4:00 pm 12 Jun 09

Costing is not that complicated. Even if you make reasonable assumptions about staff time, you should be able to provide at least a fair estimate of what the tax payer’s dollars have been spent on. And before you say anything, Woody, I spent many years in the APS working on finance and budgets so I am not speaking from the perspective of the uninformed.

Woody Mann-Caruso 3:54 pm 12 Jun 09

$1.5m for a pad and pen? Maybe he should get the team around and answer the questions, one by one.

Do you have any idea what it’s like in real life to track down expenditure for a single item, or to cost a single activity undertaken by a public servant (as opposed to a project or a program)? To use the example quoted above: how much does it ‘cost’ to process an application? Unless the staff involved have recorded, costed and can report on their time in six minute intervals for every single thing they do, along with exactly who was involved in looking at each bit of an application, there’s no hope. We haven’t even factored in consumables used, like photocopying, printing, phone calls…and would you like to apportion costs for the assets used across the activities as well? How would you like me to do that? Should I mark on this Gantt chart the time I spent making this Gantt chart?

I’ve worked somewhere where we did just this – tracked everything down to 0.1 of a person day before uploading it all into some master system which spat out utter lies about what we did and what it cost. It was a complete waste of time. I had an Excel spreadsheet to make mine up for me when I gave it the total on my flexsheet. I think I worked out once that if everybody was out by 1%, then you multiplied that by the number of people, activities, projects and programs, there was potential for our super accurate ‘system’ to be out by so many squillions of dollars.

Asking these sorts of questions is not democracy. It’s petty fools drunk on power playing childish, spiteful games with your tax dollars.

James-T-Kirk 3:38 pm 12 Jun 09

I am happy to answer questions for them at a rate of $38.50 (ex GST)

jimbocool 3:32 pm 12 Jun 09

Hang on, $1.5 million to answer 2550 questions? 1,500,000/2,550= $588 per question. That’s plainly absurd – surely as good an example as any of the Chief Minister’s shrieking hyperbole.

deezagood 1:29 pm 12 Jun 09

Thumper said :

Our local MLAs really do behave like primary school kids sometimes.

Thumper, that statement is offensive to primary school kids!

housebound 1:29 pm 12 Jun 09

Funny how Stanhope can so quickly give a cost for answering estimates questions …

While the questions Stanhope gave as examples are trivial in the extreme, that’s almost certainly a smokescreen for sme government unwillingness to answer some other, less trivial questions.

But who will read through 2500 questions (or their answers) to find those interesting few?

Gungahlin Al 1:25 pm 12 Jun 09

Getting our levels of government mixed up a bit here I think.

Federal level: Senate estimates can dredge up some very important outcomes from time to time. For instance the resignation of Fitzgibbon stemmed directly from him giving incorrect answers to Estimates. And if something went pearshaped and senators hadn’t been asking about it, then sure as eggs people would be hopping about saying they should have done a better job at keeping the govt’ to account.

ACT level: Mr Stanhope, that is the price of democracy. And if you communicated better with the other members of the ACT Parliament, then they wouldn’t have to put so many questions this way would they? You have a minority government and you need to start including the other MLAs rather than continuing down the adversarial approach that frankly does not serve the community particularly well at all.

Inappropriate 1:07 pm 12 Jun 09

Watch a Senate Estimates hearing and you’ll understand his discontent. Sometimes the senators can ask the most inane questions.

Thumper 12:58 pm 12 Jun 09

Our local MLAs really do behave like primary school kids sometimes.

amarooresident2 12:52 pm 12 Jun 09

MrMagoo said :

Having been invovled at ACT level and being involved at Federal Levle can I say that 2,500 QoN is ridiculous waste of PS time and resources. Nit picking idiocy from a grup of committee members with nothing else to do.

Agreed. Especially when the committee member has no intention of actually doing anything with the information.

Thumper 12:35 pm 12 Jun 09

Having been involved at Federal level for many years, I’d agree that it is an absolute waste of time.

However, this sort of thing happens when you get a government that is in the main secretive about what it is doing.

MrMagoo 12:18 pm 12 Jun 09

Having been invovled at ACT level and being involved at Federal Levle can I say that 2,500 QoN is ridiculous waste of PS time and resources. Nit picking idiocy from a grup of committee members with nothing else to do.

grundy 12:15 pm 12 Jun 09

I’ve read one of the senate estimates briefings and I’m not surprised there’s so many questions!
Some of the senators asking the questions were complete twits. Most of the time they didn’t appear to be listening to the answers anyway, hence all the questions on notice…

Heffernan especially is an idiot… here’s a snippet:

Senator HEFFERNAN—That is easier to understand than all the other stuff that you were going on about. So you do not have an hourly rate or any real cost recovery of charges.

XXXXX—The fees are the same for each application.

CHAIR—Mr XXXXX has already answered that. It would assist matters if you listened to the answers.

Senator HEFFERNAN—I am hearing the answers. It just seems like a stupid idea.

CHAIR—It does not seem to me that you are listening.

And this probably sums up why there are so many questions on notice:

Senator HEFFERNAN—That is a very good bureaucratic answer, but it does not say anything. I would like these answered in great detail.

XXXXX—I do not think we can give you a response in terms of how long it took to examine that particular application and what the cost was.

Senator HEFFERNAN—Can you come back in great detail, in the required time of the committee, with how much…

Senator Carr—You cannot ask that. The officer has given you an answer.

Senator HEFFERNAN—No. I am putting these on notice, with great respect.

Senator Carr—You can put them on notice if you like, but your answer will not be improved. The answer will say that it has been answered on the day.

peterh 12:00 pm 12 Jun 09

$1.5m for a pad and pen? Maybe he should get the team around and answer the questions, one by one.

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