Another disgruntled veteran

In response to Disabled Veterans “diminishment of the status” another veteran adds a disgruntled account – Geoffrey Monks writes:

I was away for a few days and returned to find ‘the Letter’ waiting for me. At first glance, it looks like a reasoned announcement about how some contracted services to veterans are going to be improved but, on examination, it proves to be just the opposite. In fact, it has little more substance than a jingo page cobbled together by a word-smith with access to a box of jargon phrases.

I am of an age now where I have endured a long succession of system improvements, refinements, efficiency gains, and enhanced outcome deliveries. I am therefore forever astounded that we in NZ are not the envy of the developed world in respect of our happy, knife-edge-efficient service deliverers and contented service recipients. But it seems that the holy grail of Optimum Efficiency continues to elude us. Why is that I wonder?

Perhaps the answer lies in the nature of Efficiency; which demands a strict balance and ratio between inputs and outputs. To achieve an efficiency gain it is necessary either, to improve the output for the same level of input or, to achieve the same level of output for a reduced input. In my experience with Public Sector Agencies, each regime change is linked to an expectation that the new brooms will achieve an efficiency gain. Given that all of their predecessors will have been striving to achieve improvements in efficiency since the year dot, with each new regime it becomes exponentially harder to generate real output gains. This leaves the newcomer with little choice but to reduce inputs while attempting to maintain outputs at the same level. And this too is much easier said than done, most often resulting in any cost savings reported eventually being reflected in output reductions. For a while, new regimes can hide this diminution of service by misrepresenting reduced costs as an efficiency gain whereas, in reality, it is just cheaper. In some circles, expertise is judged by one’s adroitness in taking up new challenges before evening falls and these chickens come home.

And this, I think, is the position that VANZ has found itself to be occupying. While seeking to disguise its riding instructions under a veil of bureau-speak and nonsense phrases, the new regime at VANZ has not been able to avoid admitting that it is going to reduce the quality and quantity of the services it delivers in order to reduce their costs. The choice of blunt instruments to achieve this outcome is intended to be wielded in two ways. As presaged elsewhere, some services (such as the Transport Concession) are destined to be eliminated altogether. Otherwise, it is intended that some other services, with which veterans might presently be well satisfied, are to be replaced with cheaper less flexible options. While flailing about with its blunt instrument VANZ asserts that it is powerless, in the face of a necessary alignment with “Government standards”, to do otherwise. But, we are assured that the results will at least be of the best value possible, under the circumstances. Really?

I suspect that an equal part of VANZ’ problem is its resolute adherence to the curious notion that it is an across-the-board service deliverer. But it is not: a large part of its’ role is to administer the delivery of services offered by a variety of specialist agencies. It is no more able to judge the quality of a lawn mowing service than it is able to judge the validity of a psychological appraisal. It can only judge the response of the recipients of the service and the costs of its delivery. VANZ’ argument that the signaled reduction in contract rates will obviate the delivery to some (silent?) veterans of any sub-standard service is total rubbish. Indeed, it is more than that: it is outrageously patronizing, for in this round of adjustments ‘cost’ is VANZ’ only consideration.

So, in the words of our esteemed Prime Minister, I would say to the Manager of Veterans’ Services, “Get some guts!” If you think they have had it too good for too long, stop wittering on about improving service delivery models. Just whack Veterans down alongside the pot-heads and dole-bludgers where they belong. From the way they carry on, anyone would think these jokers had rendered some sort of service to the Nation! Now that all the main players are safely back from Gallipoli, you can put all of that eye-watering debt-of-gratitude stuff on the back burner for thirty more years and get on with beasting those ratbags who had the temerity to come home from a war. Oh, and while you are about it, rip into their pensions as well.