This paper focuses on the outsourcing of public services to private organisations and the mechanisms that government puts in place to control these organisations. The fulcrum of this paper is the tightly controlled contracting environment that has emerged in the employment services field in Australia. Privatised employment services have been operating in Australia since the closure of the Commonwealth Employment Services in 1998. There have been six contracting periods since 1998 and each new contract has involved substantial adjustments in the structure of the market and the service delivery approach. What began as a radical experiment has become institutionalised and work practices in employment services agencies standardised across the range of contracted provider organisations that include for-profit firms and third sector organisations.