I work for another government agency and the description of DIMIA being “process rich and outcomes poor” with the predominant, and often sole, emphasis on the achievement of quantitative yardsticks rather than qualitative performance, sounds like a perfect description of our department.

Early in June our manager discovered we were a few percentage points away from meeting operational requirements for the financial year. Rather than explain to his boss that staff cannot perform well when there are continual computer problems and weekly changes in procedures and priorities, he instituted a series of ludicrous schemes to improve the statistics.

Any work that was already out of time was placed on the back-burner, not to be touched until after 1July, when it would be counted in the next year’s statistics. In other words, work that was overdue would not even be looked at for another fortnight. For two days staff did nothing but go through their files searching for cases that could be closed without further action or referred to another area. We achieved absolutely nothing in terms of genuine output for those two days but our percentage of resolved cases sky-rocketed.

We then started on the new work, but only worked on simple cases that could be closed well within the acceptable operational time frame.
The worst thing, however, was that after the simple work was completed, we were not permitted to work on the backlog of complex cases until after 1 July to ensure there was no corruption of the 2005 year statistics.

On 30 June our manager proudly announced that we had achieved operational requirements. Sir Humphrey Appleby would indeed be proud!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey