APVMA public servants to get up to $55K costs in Armidale move

APVMA public servants to get up to $55K costs in Armidale move, if they stay two years


Politics
New England MP Barnaby Joyce has driven the APVMA's controversial relocation to his electorate.

New England MP Barnaby Joyce has driven the APVMA's controversial relocation to his electorate.

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The agency will pay moving costs for staff up to $55,000, but will claw back the money for every month after they've left the agency within two years of moving to Armidale.

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The pesticides authority has offered to pay its staff up to $55,000 in moving costs if they join its move north to Armidale - and stay for two years afterwards.

A document released to senators shows the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is also trying to keep its public servants ahead of its move from Canberra with three bonus payments averaging 6 per cent of their income.

The agency's plan to keep experienced staff emerged shortly before it released a review into its performance recommending it report its performance less frequently, ask customers to pay more for its regulatory work and stop "low-quality" applications for approvals clogging its workflow.

It will pay moving costs for staff up to $55,000 but will claw back the money for every month after they've left the agency within two years of moving to Armidale.

The plan to keep its workers would put another $14,000 in bonuses in the pocket of an APS 5 level public servant, and the authority will pay travel and accommodation for staff visiting the northern NSW city to work there for three days and see the New England region.

Staff will also bank a $1000 disturbance allowance, or $1500 if they have at least one dependant and $500 more for every child who is a full-time student.

The plan to keep its workers would put another $14,000 in bonuses in the pocket of an APS 5 level public servant, and the authority will pay travel and accommodation for staff visiting the northern NSW city to work there for three days and see the New England region.

Staff will also bank a $1000 disturbance allowance, or $1500 if they have at least one dependant and $500 more for every child who is a full-time student.

Consultants Reason Group found low-quality applications for new products, a lack of incentives to complete overdue work, and conservative rules slowing registration had dragged its performance levels.

Work had grown more complex for its regulatory scientists and similar agencies overseas had not met their performance targets either, despite being able to stop the clock on their applications when asking clients for more information about their products.

The report urged the APVMA to focus on clearing its backlog of overdue assessments for pesticides and veterinary medicine products, and use external scientists more efficiently.

Agency chief executive Chris Parker said it accepted all the report's recommendations, but there was no "silver bullet" to improving its performance.

"The priority right now is to prepare our people and operations for Armidale. So our focus is on implementing those recommendations that lay a strong foundation for the future APVMA operations in Armidale where further improvements will be made," he said.

The APVMA's performance levels improved for another quarter, as its on-time approvals rate grew from 53 per cent to 72 per cent in the three months to December, figures published this week showed.

The pesticides authority is trying to stop further staff losses following an exodus of scientists from its doors after the Coalition announced its controversial relocation, a project driven by New England MP and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce. The move has drawn accusations of pork barrelling.

Twenty regulatory scientists and an additional 28 staff members, with 204 years' service between them, left the agency between July 2016 and February.

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