The past twenty years have seen a paradigm shift in the management of government owned and leased office accommodation. This research project examines the economic changes that led to a market based approach to the provision of public services and the introduction of competitive tendering to most non-core public sector services. While government reforms focused on a market based approach, the underlying democratic principles that the delivery of public services should be transparent, accountable, efficient and effective, while acting in the best interest of the community, remain as a measure of their success. The enabling services that support the delivery of government initiatives have become one of the primary areas of reform. This reform is clearly illustrated in the changes that have occurred in the delivery of commercial office space by State, Territory and Federal Governments to accommodate their departments of state. This changing nature of property provision leads to the formulation of the research question, namely to determine whether there can exist a theoretical best practice model for the delivery of commercial office accommodation to government, which meets the objectives of efficiency and effectiveness while maintaining transparency and accountability. The theoretical model should then, through empirical data collection, be evaluated against current State, Territory and Federal Government procurement and management practices to determine to what extent the Australian public sector is achieving best practice.
The project develops such a model of procurement based on an exhaustive literature review of both public and private sector best practice from around the world. The model is then developed to extract five key issues, which indicate the extent to which each State and Territory Government is approaching the suggested best practice. The issues are analysed in terms of a series of questions and measures of performance and are addressed through a qualitative case study of each State and Territory. Data in respect of each jurisdiction are gathered from a variety of sources, including archive materials, survey questionnaires and a series of structured interviews.
The result is an evaluation of each government body, its past and current strategic management systems and a measure of its performance against the best practice model. Considerable work has been undertaken by each government jurisdiction in an attempt to provide quality workplaces at lowest cost to the public. Also apparent is a wide divergence in practice from fully contracted to the largely internal provision and management of services. The authorities investigated exhibit the full spectrum of procurement opportunities from freehold ownership to leasing strategies and private public partnerships in the decision processes which inform procurement decisions. In applying a best practice model to evaluate each government jurisdiction the extent of active strategic management is assessed. The results indicate that positive progress has been made and that most of the case studies show not only an understanding of the need to further develop strategic property plans, but also reveal the limited extent to which most jurisdictions have been able successfully to apply these best practice principles. They highlight the need for a strong Intelligent Client role to link the property procurement skills with whole-of-government policy, to inform government on property procurement options and to integrate departmental strategic planning into a holistic asset strategy. The findings also point out areas where strategies have been revised and provide insight into the probable future for public sector asset management in Australia.
The thesis is thus put as follows: a theoretical best practice model can be developed to answer the research question in terms of efficient and effective delivery of commercial office accommodation to the public sector. It can further be applied to evaluate the seven administrations at State, Territory and Federal Government level and show a diversity of approaches and development toward procurement and property management practices. There remains a substantial gap between the best practice model and the procurement behaviour of most governments, with few exhibiting more than a basic level of strategic asset and portfolio planning. Queensland and New South Wales, while adopting differing procurement methodologies have developed furthest in strategically managing their assets and are currently leading in their ability to deliver whole-of-government strategies to ensure the efficient and effective use of public funds in the provision of the office workplace of the future.