Commissioning health and community services is a complex task involving planning, purchasing and monitoring services for a population. It is particularly difficult when attempting system-level reform, and many barriers to effective commissioning have been documented. In Victoria, the state government has operated as a commissioner of many services, including mental health community support and alcohol and other drug treatment services. This study investigated the perceived consequences of a reform process in these two sectors after recommissioning was used as a mechanism to achieve sector-wide redesign. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 senior staff from community health, mental health and drug and alcohol services 6 months after implementation. The process was affected by restructuring in the commissioning department resulting in truncation of preparatory planning and technical work required for system design. Consequently, reform implementation was reportedly chaotic, costly to agencies and staff, and resulted in disillusionment of enthusiastic reform supporters. Negative service system impacts were produced, such as disruption of collaborative and/or comprehensive models of care and strategies for reaching marginalised groups. Without careful planning and development commissioning processes can become over-reliant on competitive tendering to produce results, create significant costs to service providers and engender system-level issues with the potential to disrupt innovative models focused on meeting client needs.