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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1120

Mr Bourchier asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:

(1)   Is it a fact that the Engineering Division of his Department does not control its own operations.

(2)   Is its finance controlled by the Finance and Accounting Branch, its staffing by thePersonnel Branch and its stores by the Supply Branch.

(3)   Does his Department have in its employ approximately 45 per cent of all Public Service employees.

(4)   Does the Engineering Division have in its employ approximately 44 per cent of the Department's employees.

(5)   Would it save a lot of double administration costs by permitting the Engineering Division to control its own affairs.

(6)   If so, could he, with the savings gained by this move, allocate more expenditure to areas of greater need in the Department such as providing more public facilities.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Engineering Division of the Department performs and controls those engineering functions Involved in providing and maintaining services to the public. The operations of the Division are integrated with those of other Divisions in a planned approach to the activities of the Department

Different levels of output of the Department require different levels of resources - of men, money and materials. The planning process involves balancing the demand for resources with the likely supply of resources. The Engineering Division participates in this process throughits line management.

(2)   The Department's plans are translated into a set of financial budgets. The Engineering Division participates in the establishment of these budgets, and in the quarterly reviews of the budgets. Within the Engineering Division there is flexibility to re-allocate expenditures. The Division also has its own system of financial control through the Engineering Costing System.

The Personnel Branch, in conjunction with the Public Service Board, provides the recruitment function for all Divisions of the Department. Staff levels, including those of the Engineering Division are constrained by a ceiling notified by the Board, and by the Department's own integrated plans. Within these constraints, a common Staff Estimating Procedure is applied by all Divisions, including the Engineering Division.

The Supply Branch arranges the usual procurement, inventory, warehousing and distribution functions for all the Divisions, although most of its activities relate to engineering materials. The specification of these engineering items is the responsibility of the Engineering Division. The quantities of engineering materials to be purchased are determined by the Engineering Division, except for items comprising a small value of purchases which Engineering has assigned to Supply.

(3)   The Department does employ approximately 45 per cent of all Australian Public Service employees.

(4)   The Engineering Division of the Department contains approximately 52 per cent of the Department's employees.

(5)   The organisation, administration and operation of the Department are currently being examined by the Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry. At present the Department is organised, at Central Office and State levels, on a functional basis. Consequently, much attention is given to the co-ordination and control of the different Divisions or functions,

One objective of the Department has been to eliminate potential duplication of functions. Consequently, it is not agreed that there have been 'double administrative costs'.

On the contrary, it can be argued that there are administrative economies in the present method of provision of the finance, personnel and supply functions through common service units, rather than an alternative system in which there was duplication of these functions in Engineering and non-Engineering Divisions.

(6)   As the Department is organised on a functional basis, the Engineering Division's functions are planned and integrated with other areas of the Department. Under this arrangement, it is not necessary for the Division to have more authority than it has at present.

In fact it has all the authority it needs to perform its allocated functions. The Department reviews its operations regularly and any economies obtained are passed on to the public in tariffs lower than they might otherwise have been.

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