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Capability Review Program

In 2011, the Australian government commenced a program of periodic external reviews of organisational capability for each department and three major agencies (Australian Taxation Office, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and Australian Bureau of Statistics).

A number of international jurisdictions have also undertaken reviews of their public sector capability in recent years, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.

The strategic objectives of the Capability Review Program (the Program) are:

  • Agency Capability Assessment – conducting independent reviews of key agencies to assess their ability to meet the Australian Government's objectives and future challenges;
  • Agency Capability Improvement – working with individual agencies to ensure that the findings of reviews are translated into explicit capability improvements over time; and
  • APS-wide Capability Building – developing a view of capability across the APS and using this to realise solutions for systemic challenges.

The Program is identifying strengths and development opportunities at the whole of government level, transferring measures across agencies that are raising capability. To realise efficiencies through collaboration, the APSC has established a whole of APS Capability Network. Through this network, agencies are sharing information on successful initiatives that are raising capability and are implementing measures to address common capability development areas.

Capability Reviews

Capability reviews are independent, forward-looking and assess an agency's ability to meet future objectives and challenges. They consider how an organisation aligns processes, systems and the expertise of its people to deliver on objectives.

Capability Reviews do not explicitly make an assessment of an agency's past performance, but instead focus on strengths and development areas in the context of the anticipated future operating environment.

Reviews are undertaken using the model of capability shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 - Model of capability

The model used for Capability Reviews creates a common framework and language within and across agencies, supporting a collaborative approach to identifying and implementing solutions to improve capability. Reviews are conducted in partnership with agencies, complement existing initiatives within agencies, and provide an independent evidence base for further targeted change. Following reviews, agencies develop and implement action plans to raise capability with a smaller follow-up review undertaken by the APSC to identify where an agency has improved its organisational effectiveness.

Each Capability Review is led by three independent experts with extensive public and private sector experience – two external to the APS and one serving SES Band 3 Officer seconded from another agency. To date, external senior reviewers have included former federal and state government agency heads and private sector executives. These independent senior review teams work closely with senior agency executives on the Capability Review, the findings of which are set out in a report delivered to the agency head and the APS Commissioner. The senior reviewers are supported throughout the review process by a small team of APSC officers and a secondee from the agency being reviewed.

Capability Review Reports


In November 2012, Capability Review reports were released for the following four departments:


In July 2013, the Capability Review report for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Capability Review was released.

On 18 September 2013, changes were made to the administrative arrangements for the Australian Public Service. The nine Capability Review reports available below were completed prior to these changes:

These reports were released in December 2013.


The following reports were released in December 2014:


The following reports were released during 2015:



Last reviewed: 
10 August 2018