The APS has been mismanaged for years and something has to change

We spent a good deal of the Easter break curled up with the 2016 financial report of the APS, trying to find out where all the money went in 2015-2016.

It’s a fascinating document that underlines the need for better management that our leaders seem to have overlooked as they engage in internal politics and the exercise of power rather than attending to the society’s business.

The signs ought to have been obvious. Net income from membership subscriptions was $8,628,516 last year and the wages and salaries bill (including superannuation payments) for the same period rose to a breath-taking $8,167,966.

In an era where well-run companies have slashed their expenses, the APS actually increased its spending on wages and salaries.

Membership fees are becoming increasingly vital to our survival. Last year they represented almost half our income (48%) compared to 43% in the previous year.

There’s little evidence in this report that our society practises the financial disciplines drilled into effective managers. When we should be reducing costs, they are actually planning to add more. The new governance proposal will contribute yet another layer of expensive bureaucracy –  a large new council of 56 members from across Australia who will have to meet at least twice a year.

What the current Executive Director and successive boards have created is not a vital, efficient not-for-profit enterprise. Instead, they have given us a vast staid, uninspiring, unprofitable bureaucracy, which is steadily consuming its reserves and appears incapable of attracting and/or retaining the sort of energy, flair and talent required to survive in today’s environment.

One obvious reason for so many paid employees is to support the huge network of Member Groups and Committees that has been allowed to mushroom over the years. There are more than 230  member groups – Branches, Colleges and Interest Groups, Divisions, Advisory Groups, Reference Groups, Board committees and working parties.

Why are we channeling precious resources to fund so many member groups? We didn’t have them in the past. Why are they now sprouting like weeds?

The suggestion that member groups provide feedback from members to their representatives is a charade. To a large extent, they are a mechanism for the National Office to dispense privileges and frustrate opposition. Time and again we have seen these member groups oppose and delay the wishes of members.

And why do we need to fund an expensive college system when half our members don’t even belong to a college? If over half the 22,405 generalist members can be funded by one small division (with only nine State representatives) ,why can’t the Colleges cut their costs?

The Society is a top-heavy, unproductive, unwieldy organisation that is crying out for good management.

The Executive Director has been in the job too long and seems incapable of adjusting to a starkly different environment from the one in which, as a regulating body, we amassed solid reserves (which are now steadily being depleted). As someone suggested, we could rename the APS, the Anti-Progress Society.

We could do a lot better with our funds.

We could employ an energetic new chief executive to streamline the society, strengthen the appeal of conferences and publications so they generate more funds, develop new income streams and regain our public voice.

We could find someone well connected politically, who can put the APS on the map again like Kate Carnell did for Beyond Blue in 2012. While Beyond Blue has flourished and become a powerful voice in the mental health field, the APS has languished.

We could employ a truly independent professional lobbyist to represent the interests of all members to government. Someone who could really advocate on behalf of non-clinical members at the Medicare review before it’s too late.

We could have a real governance review and root and branch review of all our services and activities. We might even be able to bring back a lot of disillusioned members.

We will have more insights into our financial affairs in the near future as we work to improve our society.

We could make the APS great again!

8 thoughts on “The APS has been mismanaged for years and something has to change

  1. It is appalling that so much money continues to be derived from members and spent with such largesse. I can only assume that members are too busy trying to make ends meet to look into costs that have burgeoned out of control. Seems time for a return to basics of purpose for our professional organisation with egos and individual interests put aside.

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    1. “Making ends meet” is right! A decent salary scale for psychologists is long overdue and the APS, as we know, has only acted to ensure (some) clinical psychologists receive appropriate remuneration. With school teachers with a four year degree on approximately $100000 pa after seven or eight years in the workforce, there needs to be some fair comparative remuneration pricing. I went into private practice as an employee a few years ago only to be appalled to see the psychologists’ salaries award. This has to be the next issue for RAPS after the APS and the nonsense and inequitable two tier rebate system is sorted. (By the way, teachers with higher degrees receive the same rate as all teachers – there is no “two tier” system in that profession either.

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  2. As someone that runs a nfp I would say that generally speaking organisations should ensure that salaries etc do not exceeed 55-60% of revenue. It’s pretty basic !

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  3. This doesn’t surprise me. The executive are used to the faculty funding games in academe. I can see now why they brought on a clinical psych with an MBA! Yes, it’s an organisation growing to serve itself and perpetuate itself. In my opinion, long ago the executive stopped listening to members in favour of lecturing/talking down to them. Very sad! We have ego to blame for this mess. That, and arrogance and a lack of realistic vision! I hope the mess can be sorted out with a Board spill and a Board more numerically representative of the membership diversity appointed soon!

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  4. Well what can you say. It is disgraceful that the APS clinical sector has secured their future with good wages and excellent super at the expense of the majority. I feel extremely disappointed that I have contributed to this mismanagement as most generalist would barely have any super themselves nor decent wages as they have been eroded over the years by the organisation who is supposed to represent us

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  5. Well done yet again. Your energy and tenacity leaves me in awe. Does the Financial Report require a forensic accountant for further analysis?
    I am interested to know what their thinking is. I assume their ongoing silence and failure to share their direction is passive aggression or maybe the elite missed their empathy classes in 101 Counselling. Maybe there is genuine difficulty understanding what leadership involves.
    This TWO TIER mindset rings of some “high sense of entitlement” that we regularly see in our clients- hopefully not our leaders and peers.
    Keep going RAPS.

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