$11.7m to hire staff amid cuts

$11.7m to hire staff amid cuts

THE Department of Human Services spent $11.7 million hiring staff over the past nine months, while at the same time cutting its workforce.

Budget papers show the largest Commonwealth department – with more than 32,000 employees – reduced its workforce by about 1300 full-time equivalent staff in the past financial year.

It is predicted to lose a further 300 staff this financial year.

But departmental contracts’ listings show the DHS had $36 million worth of recruitment contracts on its books in 2011.

DHS communication general manager Hank Jongen said actual contract expenditure was lower.

Mr Jongen said Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support operated independently until merged with the DHS on July 1, 2011. The separate agency recruitment systems were then merged in October.

Mr Jongen said recruitment costs had since declined.

”[The $36 million] total contract value includes amounts spent in past financial years and projected for future financial years for all contracts that operated during the 2011 calendar year,” he said.

But CPSU deputy president Lisa Newman said the figure represented about $1.3 million in recruitment expenditure each month.

Ms Newman said DHS employees would be shocked management was spending to fill positions while slashing staff.

”It certainly seems at odds with the government’s aim of reducing non-staffing costs to try and minimise the need to cut so many jobs and services,” Ms Newman said.

”I think DHS need to explain clearly to staff just exactly what this money was for. They also need to outline how they intend to ensure DHS’s scarce resources are directed to frontline and support services where they are needed the most.”

But Mr Jongen said much of the recruitment was for temporary staff who were crucial in the government response to natural disasters, including the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.

”During this period, additional temporary staff were enlisted to help meet regular business demand – as well as provide support to those directly affected by the disasters,” he said.

Mr Jongen said recruitment processes had been tightened to reduce external advertising and to encourage managers to look internally to fill vacancies in the first instance.

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