Governments have overspent. In recent times the drive for economic recovery partly brought about by this overspending has seen governments screening entire portfolios of expenditure to see what they can reduce or terminate. The review process concerns the identification of goods and services which are essential to the community and on which there is an obligation for the government to fund these projects. These goods and services have been labelled Community Service Obligations (CSOs). Valid CSOs are being examined for funding while non‐valid CSOs are being examined for their potential as candidates for funding termination. Although the principles of Community Service Obligations (CSOs) have been widely applied within various public sector organizations, there is a diversity of definition and application. This can be attributed, at least in part, to historical evolution. However, with a more formal approach to the role and funding of CSOs, it is apparent that there is a diversity of perception from government to government as to how CSOs are identified and funded. This diversity is explored and compared to the proposed CSO criteria currently being examined by the Queensland Government Treasury. These definitions and guidelines in practice are not wrong but produce some distortions brought about by applying limited criteria in the CSO identification and implementation process. These limitations are discussed with reference to case studies drawn from the organizational structure of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and from elsewhere. Focuses in particular on how the process of developing operational strategies can be limited in some instances by the exclusion from, or at least minimal input from, either the community or the line department involved. By taking the goals of equity, merit, effectiveness and efficiency of delivery of CSO products and services in Queensland, an improved process is proposed.
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