Administration of the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement
The audit assessed whether FaCS effectively undertakes its coordination, monitoring and other roles according to the CSTDA. The audit examined all disability services provided for under the CSTDA, except for disability employment services. The ANAO met relevant officers from FaCS' national office and State and Territory offices, and with 22 stakeholder organisations including: advocacy groups; peak national and State bodies representing the interests of disability service providers and people with disabilities; members of national and State Disability Advisory Bodies funded by FaCS; State and Territory governments; relevant Australian Government agencies; In particular, the Department of Health and Ageing and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. and local government bodies. Fieldwork for the audit was primarily undertaken during the period September 2004 to February 2005.
The Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) provides the national framework for the delivery, funding and development of specialist disability services for people with disabilities.
The objective of the CSTDA is that:
The Commonwealth and States/Territories strive to enhance the quality of life experienced by people with disabilities through assisting them to live as valued and participating members of the community. 1
In 2003–04, some 188 000 people used specialist disability services funded through the CSTDA.2 Approximately 700 000 more people may need to access these services at some point in their lives. 3
The CSTDA is the third such agreement between the Australian, State and Territory governments, and covers the five years 2002–03 to 2006–07. It comprises a Multilateral Agreement involving all Australian jurisdictions, and separate Bilateral Agreements between the Commonwealth and each State and Territory to address issues of local importance.
The Australian, State and Territory governments combined have committed $16.2 billion over the five years of the CSTDA. The Australian Government has committed nearly $4.9 billion over the five years $2.1 billion for employment and other services 4 and $2.8 billion in funds transferred to the States and Territories to contribute to services administered by those jurisdictions. State and Territory governments provide 80 per cent of funding for the provision of disability services administered by them. The Australian Government provides the other 20 per cent of this funding.
The Australian Government's contribution of 20 per cent of the funding for services administered by the State and Territory governments, while significant, limits the amount of influence it has over the delivery of those services, their effectiveness, and the achievement of ultimate outcomes.
The Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) represents the Australian Government for the purposes of the Agreement. It adopts a role as a minor partner for those CSTDA services administered by the State and Territory governments. It mainly coordinates Australian Government disability and related services with State and Territory disability services. FaCS also has some responsibilities for monitoring performance under the CSTDA, leading the research and development programme, funding Disability Advisory Bodies 6 and planning, policy setting and management of advocacy, information and print disability services.
The audit assessed whether FaCS effectively undertakes its coordination, monitoring and other roles according to the CSTDA.7 The audit examined all disability services provided for under the CSTDA, except for disability employment services.8
The ANAO met relevant officers from FaCS' national office and State and Territory offices, and with 22 stakeholder organisations including: advocacy groups; peak national and State bodies representing the interests of disability service providers and people with disabilities; members of national and State Disability Advisory Bodies funded by FaCS; State and Territory governments; relevant Australian Government agencies9; and local government bodies.
Fieldwork for the audit was primarily undertaken during the period September 2004 to February 2005.
Overall audit conclusion
FaCS has generally fulfilled the requirements of its roles over the first two years of the CSTDA (2002–03 and 2003–04):10
- coordination and cooperation between FaCS and the States and Territories on the CSTDA has worked well in recent times. FaCS has utilised a wide range of mechanisms to liaise with State and Territory governments, and to a lesser extent, other Australian Government agencies, to coordinate the Australian Government's contributions under the CSTDA.
However, the ANAO has identified a number of opportunities for FaCS to improve its whole of government coordination with other Australian Government agencies;
- FaCS has undertaken its financial monitoring responsibilities consistent with the terms of the Agreement, for the first two years of the CSTDA;
- FaCS has funded Disability Advisory Bodies as required under the Agreement; and
- FaCS has continued to plan, manage and develop policy for advocacy, information and print disability services according to the terms of the CSTDA. However, there is scope for FaCS to improve the coordination with the other jurisdictions for managing advocacy services.
FaCS could gain a better understanding of demand management issues and quality assurance processes applying to disability services for which the States and Territories are primarily responsible.11 By adopting a coordinating role, FaCS could contribute to disseminating better practices in demand management and quality assurance. At the same time, FaCS would be better placed to advise its Minister on these important aspects of the quality of disability services.
FaCS should continue to work with the other jurisdictions, and other relevant Australian Government agencies, to improve monitoring and reporting of progress and achievements under the CSTDA. This requires the development of higher-level indicators relating to outcomes of the CSTDA against its objectives and priorities, the quality of services provided, and the level of unmet demand for specialist disability services. It also requires improvements in the quality and availability of performance information relating to the effectiveness and efficiency of disability services funded through the CSTDA, as well as the equity of access to these services across Australia for people with a disability.
Improved performance information would assist FaCS to measure the impact of its own activities and expenditures as well as those of the States and Territories under the CSTDA. FaCS should encourage the National Disability Administrators (NDA) 12 to continually refine the CSTDA Annual Public Report, to incorporate new and improved performance measures, and make meaningful comparisons of performance between jurisdictions and over time.
Key requirements of the CSTDA (Chapter 2)
FaCS, on behalf of the Australian Government, largely executed the Agreements relating to the CSTDA consistent with the terms of the Agreements, including ensuring the signing and dating of the Multilateral and Bilateral Agreements by Ministers. There was some initial uncertainty about the commencement date of the Agreements, which was later successfully resolved by Ministers. Nevertheless, the ANAO suggests that FaCS take care to specify and agree execution dates in any future CSTDA, and other Specific Purpose Payments it is responsible for administering.
At the time of audit fieldwork, FaCS was not aware of the specific eligibility requirements that individual State and Territory jurisdictions had in place for individuals to access disability services, nor was it aware of whether recipients of services provided under the CSTDA met the relevant eligibility requirements. However, the State and Territory disability agencies, and FaCS, have recognised that there: ‘is currently no one conceptual model adopted by jurisdictions that assesses eligibility, support needs and priority for service at both a systemic and individual level'. 13
FaCS is contributing to two projects being undertaken by the NDA that aim to assist in understanding and managing demand for disability services. The ANAO considers that FaCS' involvement in these projects, and any possible follow-up work, should assist FaCS to be better informed about the processes used by jurisdictions to assess individuals' eligibility for specialist disability services, support these individuals' needs and establish individuals' priority for service.
Performance monitoring and reporting (Chapter 3)
Despite a number of avenues for monitoring and reporting performance,14 there are currently no adequate measures of whether, or to what extent, the CSTDA is meeting its objectives. Further, the NDA are not close to developing and reporting effective measures of outcomes of CSTDA activities, such as measures of customer satisfaction and service quality. While there have been significant improvements in the quality of data collected under the CSTDA in recent years, the quality of available data is not yet sufficient to allow robust comparisons of equity and efficiency between jurisdictions, or of the same jurisdiction over time.
These shortcomings in performance information limit the capacity for FaCS to influence the jurisdictions to improve the efficiency, effectiveness or quality of services the States and Territories are primarily responsible for administering under the CSTDA. These limitations also mean that FaCS' reporting of the performance of the CSTDA through its Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) and annual report is not transparent or effective.
FaCS undertakes a partnering role with States and Territories in monitoring and reporting performance, consistent with the terms of the CSTDA. Given this role, the ANAO encourages FaCS to work with the other National Disability Administrators, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), and other relevant agencies, to develop high-level measures of CSTDA performance, and continue improving the accuracy of performance information collected under the CSTDA.
FaCS should emphasise to the other National Disability Administrators that the annual CSTDA public report, as the prime accountability report for the CSTDA, should include all new and revised performance indicators and compare performance across jurisdictions and years wherever possible. This is in addition to the comprehensive explanatory and comparative data, which will be included for the first time in the Annual CSTDA Public Report 2003–04. 15
The FaCS 2003–04 Annual Report reported against some of the indicators relevant to the CSTDA contained in the department's 2003–04 PBS, but not all of them. This is contrary to the guidelines set out in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Requirements for Annual Reports for Departments, Executive Agencies and FMA Act Bodies. This guide states that it is mandatory for agencies' annual reports to report against all performance targets specified in their PBS.
The ANAO considers that FaCS, in general, effectively monitors key developments in disability services in the jurisdictions, and considers this information in its internal management processes and in providing advice and information to its Minister. However, monitoring of performance under the CSTDA could be improved by the agency gaining a better understanding of demand management issues and quality assurance processes applying to disability services for which the States and Territories are primarily responsible (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 6, respectively).
FaCS' whole of government coordination and specific roles under the CSTDA (Chapter 4)
FaCS uses a comprehensive range of mechanisms to liaise with State and Territory governments, and to a lesser extent, other Australian Government agencies, to promote a whole of government approach to the CSTDA by the Australian Government. However, FaCS does not have measures in place to assess the quality, and demonstrate the effectiveness, of its whole of government coordination activities.
FaCS briefs the Minister for Family and Community Services who is the Australian Government Minister attending the Community and Disability Services Ministers' Conference. The department also provides considerable ongoing information and advice to the Minister.
FaCS has a close and productive working relationship with other members of the National Disability Administrators' forum. However, communication between FaCS' national office and its State and Territory offices could be improved. FaCS is addressing this issue.
The ANAO found that the various Bilateral Agreements have been established in accordance with the requirements of the CSTDA. Many of FaCS' State and Territory offices informed the ANAO that these agreements had improved coordination with relevant State and Territory government disability agencies. However, progress on implementing the Bilateral Agreements has not been adequately monitored so it is not possible to gauge the effectiveness of these agreements to date. The ANAO considers that the Bilateral Agreements have the potential to be an effective coordination mechanism for FaCS to work with State and Territory agencies.
The existing relationship between FaCS and the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing is cooperative, long-standing and based on mutual interest. The ANAO has recommended that, to enhance a whole of government approach to the CSTDA, FaCS review its coordination and participation with other relevant Australian Government agencies, and consider whether the existing links are adequate and being used effectively. There is the immediate potential for FaCS to improve its coordination with Australian Government agencies responsible for housing, education, Indigenous, transport and veterans' programmes and policy.
FaCS' relationship with the Disability Advisory Bodies (DABs) in each State and Territory is limited to funding, approval of acquittals, and attendance at meetings. FaCS tries to remain aware of DAB activities but State and Territory governments are not currently required to detail how the Australian Government's share of DAB funding is used. The ANAO has also recommended that FaCS, for any future disability funding agreements, improve its coordination and awareness of the activities of the DABs by requiring State and Territory governments to detail, as part of the annual financial acquittal process, how the Australian Government's DAB funding contribution was used.
The Australian Government and the State and Territory governments have roles in the planning, policy setting and management of advocacy, information and print disability services provided under the CSTDA. However, the ANAO found that only in the three jurisdictions where a Bilateral Agreement reinforces a role for both governments in providing advocacy services is FaCS actively working with State governments on planning these services. The ANAO suggests that FaCS approach the NDA to review the efficacy of the current approach to coordinating advocacy service provision under the CSTDA.
The CSTDA defines advocacy services as being only for people with disabilities and excludes families and carers of people with disabilities. Some jurisdictions nonetheless provide advocacy services to families and carers of people with a disability, as well as people with a disability themselves. The ANAO suggests that FaCS, through consultation with other members of the NDA, establishes the eligibility criteria for advocacy services currently in place in the jurisdictions and, based on the findings from such an investigation, consider extending access to advocacy services to the families and carers of people with disabilities in any future CSTDA.
Financial arrangements for the CSTDA (Chapter 5)
The financial framework specified in the CSTDA is streamlined, and reporting and annual financial acquittal arrangements are quite clear. FaCS has generally discharged its financial responsibilities according to the Agreement, and satisfied State and Territory governments in its dealings with them about financial matters.
Contrary to Part 8(1) of the CSTDA, the Multilateral Agreement does not contain details of State and Territory government financial commitments. The ANAO considers that the absence of this information in Schedule A1 of the signed copies of the individual Multilateral Agreements represents a weakness in accountability. In executing future Specific Purpose Payments, the ANAO suggests that FaCS includes information about the level of financial commitments from States and Territories in the signed agreement, especially if it is a core component of such agreements, as it is for the CSTDA. If such information is not actually included in the agreement, the agreement should accurately reference the alternative authoritative source for such information.
FaCS correctly calculated the Australian Government payments to the States and Territories under the CSTDA, for the financial years examined by the ANAO, 2002-03 and 2003-04. As part of these calculations, FaCS applied indexation principles consistent with the terms of the Agreement. However, there was some uncertainty as to which indexation rate to apply in 2004–05. To eliminate the potential for confusion, the ANAO suggests that FaCS clearly specifies in future CSTDAs, and other Specific Purpose Payments it has responsibility for, how the Australian Government will apply indexation rates.
The Parliament of Australia appropriated Commonwealth funds equivalent to those set out in Schedule A1 of the CSTDA for 2002–03, 2003–04 and 2004–05. Given the difficulty of identifying CSTDA expenditure in State and Territory governments' published budget documentation, the ANAO suggests that FaCS, on an annual basis, formally requests information from the State and Territory governments about their commitments under the CSTDA for future years. This would improve the ongoing accuracy of Schedule A1.
The ANAO concluded that FaCS distributed agreed CSTDA funding amounts to the States and Territories accurately and on time. Testing of financial controls confirmed that reconciliations were performed in a timely manner and reviewed by an independent officer. ANAO testing revealed no unexplained variances.
FaCS undertook a range of tests to assess whether States and Territories' acquittals complied with key reporting requirements of the CSTDA. FaCS made a number of queries of State and Territory acquittals in 2002–03 and 2003–04, with some resulting revisions to acquittals. Nevertheless, the ANAO identified a number of potential anomalies with the acquittals that FaCS had not queried. FaCS subsequently resolved most of these anomalies. The ANAO found that the States and Territories have generally provided financial acquittals in a timely manner, with no excessive delays to date since the commencement of the CSTDA. FaCS has taken action to encourage States and Territories to submit acquittals in the instances where they were late.
All States and Territories provided FaCS with a financial statement covering CSTDA expenditures, as required by the CSTDA. However, some of the State government agencies are large, with disability spending representing a minority proportion of total departmental expenditure. In these cases, where the CSTDA funding provided by the Commonwealth and the State government may not constitute a material component of the State government agency's funding, there is uncertainly as to whether financial statement auditors have tested CSTDA expenditure. The ANAO therefore suggests that FaCS seek to have included the requirement for separate auditing of State and Territory governments' acquittals for expenditure relating to the CSTDA by the relevant State or Territory Auditor-General.
The CSTDA does not include financial incentives or sanctions. There may be merit in FaCS considering including incentives or sanctions for States and Territories to comply with agreement requirements when advising on, and negotiating, any future CSTDAs. However, this would require that performance monitoring and reporting improves sufficiently to allow meaningful measures of performance.
Given that the Annual CSTDA Public Report 2002–03 reported the relevant financial contributions of the Australian Government and the State and Territory governments, the ANAO considers that this satisfied the spirit of the financial reporting requirements of the Agreement.
Quality disability services (Chapter 6)
All jurisdictions are currently using disability service standards that contain the core elements of the National Standards for Disability Services (National Standards). A number of jurisdictions are also using standards additional to the National Standards. A review of the National Standards has been added to the National Disability Administrators' Workplan for 2005–06.
It is appropriate that FaCS is not directly involved in assessing whether accommodation support, community support, community access, and respite disability services meet the National Standards. This is because the States and Territories are responsible under the CSTDA for these services. However, to better understand whether such services regularly meet service standards, FaCS should better inform itself of State and Territory governments' various quality assurance mechanisms, and use this information to contribute to improvements in quality assurance processes nationally.
The ANAO considers that FaCS has adequate quality assurance mechanisms in place for advocacy services16, given that it requires both an annual self-assessment by each service provider and a standards audit every five years.
The decision by the Australian Government to provide the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline is designed to provide a centralised mechanism for people with disabilities and other interested parties to complain about the quality of service being provided. To assist State and Territory governments to improve their complaints mechanisms the ANAO suggests that FaCS informs State and Territory governments about the characteristics of complaints received by the hotline, and complainants' level of satisfaction with complaint resolution and outcomes. The ANAO also considers that there would be merit in FaCS obtaining information about the extent to which people with disabilities are aware of the hotline, and willing to use it.
The CSTDA specifies that the Australian Government is responsible for exercising a national leadership and coordination role in collaboration with the States and Territories in respect of research and development (R&D).17 Consistent with this prominent role, the Australian Government contributes half of the total funding for the CSTDA R&D Programme.
The ANAO considers that there would be benefit in FaCS encouraging the NDA to engage in a greater level of consultation with relevant non-government stakeholders when developing and implementing the R&D Programme. The ANAO also considers that it is important that stakeholders have access to the results of the research. To this end, the ANAO supports the recent launch of the NDA website, which aims to include these results as they become available.
The first stage of the R&D Programme (2002–05) has been developed to cover the requirements under the CSTDA18. A number of the projects include the measurement of outcomes for people with disabilities. Measuring outcomes will assist FaCS to assess whether the services being provided under the CSTDA are improving the current quality of life of people with disabilities. FaCS can also use the results to inform the development of future R&D projects.
It is now the halfway point for the CSTDA and four of the eleven planned R&D projects are underway and only one has been completed. The ANAO encourages FaCS to take a leadership role in progressing the R&D projects to ensure they are completed before the end of the Agreement on 30 June 2007.
The ANAO made five recommendations to improve FaCS' activities to monitor and coordinate disability services which the States and Territories are primarily responsible for administering under the CSTDA.
The Secretary of FaCS provided the following summary response to the audit findings.
FaCS agrees with all the recommendations contained in the report and includes comments relevant to some of the recommendations.
FaCS welcomes the audit and its recommendations, noting that some of the recommendations will impact on the current performance reporting while others would be more appropriately considered in the context of any future CSTDA.
I would like to thank the ANAO team for its professional and comprehensive approach to carrying out its audit of the CSTDA. The report also contains considered suggestions which FaCS will endeavour to include in the management of any future CSTDA.
1 Clause 4(1) of the CSTDA. The spirit of the CSTDA encompasses the Principles and Objectives of the Disability Services Act 1986 (Cwlth), the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth) and complementary State and Territory legislation.
2 This is the recent data available. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Disability Support Services 2003–04: national data on services provided under the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement [Internet], August 2005.
3 The AIHW estimated the potential population of those in Australia who may at some time need access to specialist disability services to be 900 000 people across Australia in June 2003. The potential population of around 900 000 people is not the same as the population needing services at a particular time, or the population choosing to access services.
4 The Australian Government has direct responsibilities concerning the provision of disability employment services and advocacy, information and print disability services. State and Territory governments also have responsibilities for advocacy, information and print disability services.
5 Under the CSTDA, State and Territory governments are responsible for the planning, policy setting and management of accommodation support, community support, community access and respite services.
6 Under the CSTDA, Disability Advisory Bodies have been established for the Australian Government and in each State and Territory. These groups advise their respective Minister on issues that affect people with disabilities, their families and carers.
7 The audit does not assess the activities of the State and Territory governments in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities under the CSTDA, as this is outside the mandate of the ANAO.
8 FaCS' roles and responsibilities relating to disability employment services are significant, and vary substantially to those relating to the provision of other disability services. FaCS' organisational structures reflect these substantial differences, with clear separation between the unit responsible for disability employment and the unit responsible for administering the CSTDA. The ANAO considered, therefore, that disability employment services would be better addressed as part of a possible future separate audit, rather than included in this audit of the CSTDA.
9 In particular, the Department of Health and Ageing and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
10 As the ANAO's fieldwork for this audit was largely undertaken between September 2004 and February 2005, the audit's findings generally relate to the 2002–03 and 2003–04 financial years.
11Quality assurance processes are those mechanisms by which jurisdictions ascertain whether disability service providers are meeting the relevant disability standards. Demand management refers to the mechanisms by which jurisdictions assess eligibility and assign priority for disability services under the CSTDA.
12 The membership of the NDA group comprises representatives of the Australian Government and each State and Territory government. The NDA advise their respective Ministers on matters pertaining to the services covered by this Agreement, and oversee the development and implementation of the: CSTDA performance reporting framework; the national research and development work plan; and the Agreement's implementation plan.
13 Discussion at the National Disability Administrators' Forum of 8 August 2003.
14 Such as through the performance information framework contained in the CSTDA Multilateral Agreement, and reporting in the Annual CSTDA Public Report, the Productivity Commission's annual Report on Government Services and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's annual Disability Support Services report.
15 This report is expected to be released in late 2005.
16 Under the CSTDA, the Australian Government and State and Territory governments all have responsibilities for planning, policy setting and management of advocacy services.
17 CSTDA, Part 6–Responsibilities of the Parties, 6(2).
18 Clause 10(5) of the CSTDA states that the R&D Programme will include: investigation of the need for new services or enhancement of existing services; innovations in planning and service delivery; and the measurement of outcomes for people with disabilities using these services.