The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s administration of the Household Assistance Scheme.

Summary

Introduction

1. Digital television broadcasts in Australia commenced in simulcast (alongside existing analog channels) in metropolitan areas in January 2001. In 2008, the Australian Government committed to a progressive timetable to switch off analog television broadcasting services across Australia and move to digital only television broadcasting during the period from 2010 to 2013.

2. The switchover from analog to digital television is expected to provide all Australians with access to superior television services in terms of choice, services, accessibility, usability and improved picture quality. A successful digital switchover is also important to allow spectrum to be used more efficiently.1 The closure of analog television broadcasts will allow spectrum to be ‘re stacked’ to provide a digital dividend in line with that achieved in major developed countries.2 This re-stacking will enable the spectrum to be made available to new users and generate significant revenue for the Australian Government.

Digital Television Switchover

3. In 2007, the Government announced the establishment of the Digital Switchover Taskforce (DST) in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) to oversee and coordinate the Digital Television Switchover (DTS) initiative, which includes the conversion to digital only broadcasting. The principal objective of the DTS initiative is to work with industry to support the public’s transition to digital television in each of the 33 discrete switchover regions, ensuring that those who currently have access to television in analog form, will continue to have access to television in digital form. As at December 2011, 82 per cent of Australian households had already converted to free to air digital television broadcasts.3

4. As at 1 March 2012, the DTS initiative had been rolled out to the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot region (June 2010), Regional South Australia and Broken Hill (December 2010), Regional Victoria (May 2011) and Regional Queensland (December 2011).4 The switchover in Regional New South Wales is scheduled to conclude in November 2012, with the switchover of Tasmania and major metropolitan and remote areas to occur in 2013. The regional switchover timetable was implemented back-to-back, that is, six monthly switchover windows per region, with the design to allow for lessons learned and improvements to scheme delivery to be incorporated into future rollouts as the initiative progresses, culminating in the final year’s multiple consecutive switchovers.

5. The DTS initiative provides funding5 for a number of interdependent components:

  • a communications program to help raise awareness, understanding and support television viewers as they plan, prepare for, and make the transition to digital-only television ($59.1 million over July 2009–December 2011);
  • the Satellite Subsidy Scheme (SSS) to provide a satellite conversion subsidy to eligible households currently served by ‘self-help’ transmission sites that are not upgraded to digital by broadcasters ($99.1 million over 2010–13)6;
  • the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) program to ensure digital television signals are available in areas of signal deficiency (black spots) ($375.4 million over 12 years); and
  • the Household Assistance Scheme (HAS), which is the focus of this audit, to provide practical end-to-end technical and installation services (including antenna, cabling, set-top boxes (STBs) and satellite access, where warranted) to eligible Australians receiving the maximum amount of specified government pensions, payments and supplements ($381.4 million over 2009 to 2013–14).7

Household Assistance Scheme

6. HAS—previously known as the Household Assistance Program—is the largest component of the DTS initiative. The objective of HAS is:

to provide practical and technical assistance to those who are most likely to have significant difficulties in selecting and installing the appropriate equipment to switch to digital television.

7. The establishment of HAS was in recognition that, for some Australians, switching to digital television would not be a simple or a straight forward task. HAS provides a targeted safety net of practical assistance for approximately 1.9 million potentially eligible households across Australia where at least one person is in receipt of the maximum amount of the: age pension; disability support pension; carer payment; Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) service pension; or DVA income support supplement. Only those potentially eligible households that have not already converted to digital television, and who have a working television, are eligible for assistance under HAS.

8. It is expected that many of the potentially eligible customers will have self converted to digital television broadcasting before the Scheme opens in each region six to nine months ahead of switchover. In this light, HAS is viewed as a safety net Scheme, providing support to those eligible in the community who have yet to switch to viewing digital only television.

Provision of services under HAS

9. HAS provides, at no cost to eligible customers, the supply, installation and demonstration of a high definition (HD) STB, with features to meet the needs of the elderly or those with a disability. Depending on individual circumstances, customers may be entitled to receive:

  • a HD STB;
  • installation of the STB;
  • instructions/demonstration on how to use the STB and remote; and
  • any necessary upgrades, including cabling, internal/external antenna and satellite systems.

10. HAS assistance is available to individual customers, with a maximum of one assistance package per couple8, and is provided by service contractors selected by government. HAS provides customers with 12 month after-care assistance, 12 month in-home warranty for faulty workmanship and 12 month product warranty for equipment provided as part of the service. This arrangement allows customers to continue to receive assistance once the installation of equipment has been completed.

11. Across the first four rollouts, approximately 400 000 potentially eligible customers were invited to test their eligibility to receive services under HAS. As at 1 March 2012, 85 326 services have been provided to eligible customers at a cost of $37 million to DBCDE.9

Delivery and funding arrangements

12. HAS is jointly delivered through DBCDE and the Department of Human Services (DHS), with arrangements formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two departments. In advance of each region’s switchover, DHS identifies potentially eligible customers—that is, those in receipt of the maximum amount of specified government pensions, payments and supplements—using DHS and DVA data. DHS writes to all potentially eligible customers inviting them to contact DHS and test their eligibility for HAS assistance. Where determined eligible, DHS records HAS eligibility information on the customer’s record and, with their consent, allocates the customer to a particular service contractor engaged by DBCDE.

13. The Household Assistance Program (now HAS) received funding of approximately $3 million (DBCDE received $2.49 million and DHS received $0.543 million) to complete the digital switchover in the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot region. As part of the 2009–10 Budget, the Government approved a further $69.52 million to rollout HAS to approximately 250 000 households in the Regional South Australia, Regional Victoria and Regional Queensland rollout regions to help households convert to digital television. DBCDE received additional funding of $308.8 million as part of the 2011–12 Budget to complete the switchover across Australia.

Service contractors

14. Service contractors are selected by DBCDE through an open tender process for each switchover region. DBCDE establishes a formal deed of agreement with each service contractor that outlines the roles, responsibilities and services to be provided. DBCDE selected one service contractor for the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot. For the rollout to other regions, assistance has been provided by two service contractors.10

15. Before providing services to customers, service contractor personnel and subcontracted installers must either be endorsed under DBCDE’s Antenna Installer Endorsement Scheme (AIES)11 or have successfully completed the relevant units of competency under a registered training organisation. Service contractors are also required to have policies and procedures in place in relation to: Occupational Health and Safety12; training; risk management; incident management; electrical safety; unsafe premises and working in restricted spaces; and customer complaints management. DBCDE is responsible for approving all subcontracted installers under the Scheme.

Audit objective, criteria and scope

16. The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s administration of the Household Assistance Scheme.

17. The audit examined whether the:

  • design of HAS is robust and provides effective mechanisms for delivering the Scheme’s objectives;
  • tender selection and contract negotiation processes are robust, transparent and subject to continuous improvement;
  • DBCDE has effective mechanisms in place to manage delivery of the Scheme; and
  • DBCDE effectively monitors and reports scheme performance.

Overall conclusion

18. Digital television broadcasts in Australia commenced in simulcast with analog broadcasts in January 2001. In 2008, the Australian Government committed to a progressive timetable to switch off analog television broadcasting services across Australia and move to digital only television broadcasting during the period from 2010 to 2013. The Government also announced the establishment of a Digital Switchover Taskforce (DST) in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) to oversee the digital television switchover initiative. As at 1 March 2012, the switchover has been completed in Mildura/Sunraysia (the pilot region, in June 2010), Regional South Australia and Broken Hill (December 2010), Regional Victoria (May 2011) and Regional Queensland (December 2011). The switchover in Regional New South Wales is scheduled to conclude in November 2012, with the rollout to Tasmania, major metropolitan and remaining areas of Australia (including remote areas) to occur in 2013.

19. HAS, with announced funding of $381.4 million, is the largest component of the broader digital television switchover initiative administered by DBCDE. HAS is designed to provide in home assistance to those households anticipated to experience the most difficulty in selecting and installing the necessary equipment to switchover to digital television. The Scheme recognises that, for some Australians, switching to digital television would not be a simple or straight forward task. The in home assistance available under HAS, depending on eligibility, includes: the provision, installation and demonstration of a high definition set top box (STB) and remote that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the elderly or those with a disability; associated cabling; antenna, satellite installations or upgrades, where necessary; and after-care support and warranty services.

20. The Scheme is being delivered on a region-by-region basis with the service contractors for each region tendered and contracted separately through targeted procurement activities. This approach allows the rollout to be tailored to the specific needs of each region, with lessons learned applied to future regions. As at 1 March 2012, 85 326 HAS services have been provided to households in completed switchover regions at a total cost of $37 million. The cost of HAS installations during the early rollouts (up to and including the rollout in Regional Queensland) ranged from $157 to $1590, depending on the individual package of assistance provided to the customer. The package of assistance provided is influenced by many factors including: a customer’s location; and the requirements of the installation which can range from the delivery of a high definition STB to the installation of a satellite access package in some regional and remote areas.

21. Overall, DBCDE has effectively established and continues to strengthen its administrative arrangements for HAS to deliver a package of safety net services to those elderly and disabled customers requiring assistance to make the switch to viewing digital-only television. As HAS is a demand driven, opt in scheme, the department has established effective arrangements to encourage potentially eligible customers to test their eligibility for assistance. The tender selection and contract negotiation processes for HAS service providers were robust and transparent, with DBCDE’s progressive approaches to the market for each rollout successfully engaging service contractors based on a value for money assessment. The department has worked closely with DHS and service contractors to provide services to customers that generally meet agreed quality standards within the switchover windows for each region completed to December 2011. DBCDE has also developed sound processes for monitoring service quality and managing complaints that demonstrate generally high customer satisfaction with the provision of HAS services.

22. HAS services are to be rolled out to more populated and technically challenging areas over the next 18 months. To better manage the delivery challenges facing the Scheme, aspects of the department’s administrative arrangements could be improved. Within this context, the endorsement and regular review of HAS project management and operational documentation would support the management of the rollouts, assist in identifying delivery risks, and allow lessons learned from completed rollouts to inform administrative arrangements for future rollouts. In addition, improvements to the department’s performance and reporting framework for HAS would enhance management oversight and allow the department to better demonstrate to stakeholders the extent to which Scheme objectives are being achieved.

23. The ANAO has made two recommendations to improve DBCDE’s administration of HAS. The first reinforces the need to review, regularly update and endorse project plans, operational documents and administrative procedures. The second recommendation is aimed at DBCDE developing appropriate performance measures and targets against which the achievement of the Scheme objectives can be measured, assessed and reported to both internal and external stakeholders.

Key findings by chapter

Scheme Design and Implementation (Chapter 2)

Design of the delivery model

24. DBCDE was responsible for refining the objective and developing the detailed Scheme design. The department undertook considerable preparation work to plan and design HAS throughout 2008, prior to formal approval by the Government. This work included the establishment of an interdepartmental committee (IDC) to inform key Scheme design decisions. The IDC assessed a range of options, with an in-home assistance scheme preferred over cash payments, vouchers or subsidies, as those options did not address the target population’s lack of technical expertise, or their social or regional isolation. In December 2008, the Government agreed to an interim pilot (in the Mildura/Sunraysia region) of the preferred option of a targeted safety-net of practical assistance where at least one person was in receipt of the maximum level of aged pension, disability support pension, carers payment and equivalent DVA payments.

25. In September 2009, DBCDE commenced developing HAS guidelines in consultation with DHS, DVA and DBCDE’s internal legal group. To inform the development of the guidelines, DBCDE consulted with consumer groups and the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office to gauge the appropriateness, clarity and accessibility of the guidelines to the target group. The guidelines have been revised for each rollout.

Implementation planning

26. A draft implementation plan was developed to accompany the 2008 proposal to government for the Mildura/Sunrayisa pilot. DBCDE informed the ANAO that the draft implementation plan was not finalised. While the department did not finalise an implementation plan for HAS at the program level, it did develop project definition plans at the regional rollout level. These plans were designed as working documents, to be updated and refined throughout the implementation of HAS. There would be merit in the department developing, and regularly reviewing and updating an implementation plan to support the delivery of HAS services in major metropolitan and remote areas over the remaining 18 months of the Scheme.

27. While DBCDE did not develop a HAS risk management plan until November 2011, a series of lower level risk documents had been developed for the first four switchover regions. However, there was no formal process for reviewing risks as the Scheme matured. The delayed development of a HAS risk management plan, or sufficient evidence of the integration of lower level risk documents, means that DBCDE did not have adequate assurance that key risks had been sufficiently addressed, reviewed and updated.

28. In 2011, DBCDE established the compliance and data management section, which assumed responsibility for risk management, quality assurance and compliance audit functions. Scheme risks are now managed in accordance with the department’s 2011–13 Risk Management Framework. The alignment of HAS risk management activities with the current departmental risk management framework and the work of the recently established compliance and data management section will allow the department to better integrate and manage risks across HAS for future rollouts.

29. Staffing numbers for HAS were below those originally envisaged for the Scheme, and staff had limited experience in program delivery, which had an adverse impact on the planning and delivery of the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot. High staff turnover has also contributed to the loss of corporate knowledge and the lack of continuity in relationship and stakeholder management. DBCDE staff also had a limited awareness of program level documentation that had previously been developed to guide the delivery of the Scheme. DBCDE developed a wide range of operational documentation, including project tracking and reporting spreadsheets, a project plan and procedures manual. However, the majority of these documents were either incomplete or out of date.

HAS governance arrangements

30. DBCDE has established sound governance arrangements to support the administration of HAS. In particular, the department has established departmental and DST specific committees, with ‘traffic light reporting’ used to monitor the progress of the various elements of the digital switchover initiative, including HAS. To underpin management decision-making, the department has also implemented a management information system which better places the department to report on Scheme progress, undertake compliance checks, validate and pay invoices to service contractors, and record and report on Scheme performance.

Tender Selection and Deed Negotiation (Chapter 3)

Planning the tender process

31. The procurement processes for HAS involved separate approaches to the market for each switchover region. This staged approach was important as the industry had limited experience in the delivery of government funded services. This model allowed DBCDE to procure the latest technology available with the benefit of any fall in market prices, as well as the opportunity for continuous improvement to the procurement process, through incorporating lessons learned from each request for tender (RFT) process.

32. As the Government set specific policy parameters for HAS, DBCDE was responsible for establishing the operational policy for procurement processes. DBCDE did not, however develop a procurement plan for HAS procurements. DBCDE advised the ANAO that due to the nature of the Scheme, a one off national tender response to demonstrate readiness was not possible well in advance of switchover. Notwithstanding the staged delivery of HAS, the region by-region approach to procurement does not preclude the development of a procurement plan. The development of a procurement plan would outline the key elements of the procurement activities, helping to improve consistency across each procurement process, whilst allowing flexibility to tailor the plan to meet the needs of specific regions and to incorporate improvements and lessons learned from each rollout.

33. The RFT documents prepared for each switchover region were released on AusTender and promoted in the national media and contained sufficient information to inform the preparation of tenders by potential providers. The RFTs did not, however, outline the relative weightings attached to each of the evaluation criteria. This additional guidance would have assisted tenderers to align tender coverage with the evaluation criteria.

Tender assessment process

34. The tender assessment and evaluation process involved four stages—initial screening, detailed technical evaluation, value for money assessment, and negotiations and debriefing. All tenders were assessed and evaluated as outlined in the RFTs and the endorsed Tender Evaluation and Probity Plans and in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.

Deed negotiation process

35. The negotiations of deeds of agreement were conducted as part of the final stage of the tender evaluation and assessment process. These negotiations were generally timely, however, there was limited scope within the anticipated and actual timelines to accommodate delays in the negotiation process. As the timely commencement of the switchover in each region is dependent on the engagement of service contractors, any delay in the finalisation of negotiations with tenderers can have wider impacts on the achievement of the Government’s objectives for the switchover initiative. Given the limited time available between the switchovers, it is important for the department to effectively assess the risk from delayed selection of contractors and establish suitable mitigation strategies.

36. In general, deeds were awarded in a timely manner, which was due, in part, to the existing good working relationships between DBCDE and the service contractors. All awarded deeds were published on AusTender and DBCDE had appropriately authorised expenditure on the awarded deeds in accordance with financial management legislation.

Scheme Delivery Arrangements (Chapter 4)

Customer communication and engagement

37. The engagement of DHS to act as the service delivery partner under the Scheme provided DBCDE with access to DHS' extensive customer communication and engagement experience. HAS was promoted by DHS through posters, advertising in DHS magazines, and in the brochures distributed with letters of invitation to potential customers. To early April 2012, DHS has sent 397 458 invitation letters to potential customers, inviting them to have their eligibility for assistance under the Scheme assessed. DHS has also responded to 170 791 queries requesting information about HAS.

38. DBCDE and DHS have worked collaboratively to establish effective arrangements to invite and encourage potential customers to test their eligibility for assistance under HAS. DHS has undertaken the assessment of potential customers in accordance with agreed arrangements established under the MoU and coordinates the flow of work to service contractors. The departments have developed governance arrangements and established work groups and committees to effectively support customer communication and engagement activities.

Service contractor management

39. The delivery of HAS relies on DBCDE having mechanisms in place to effectively manage service delivery by third-party contractors. Two service contractors have entered into deeds of agreement to deliver HAS services in those regions rolled out to date.

40. In planning for HAS, DBCDE envisaged that a dedicated contract management section in the HAS Branch would coordinate the delivery of HAS services into customers’ homes. The skills and staffing profile of the section was adequate to deal with the smaller, early rollouts of HAS, until late-2010.13 However, the low staffing levels within the section became problematic as the scale of the Scheme increased, placing additional responsibility on the section. Following a staffing and skills profile review in early 2011, resourcing was subsequently increased and now includes a dedicated business/data intelligence capability. The increase in staff and the enhanced skills profile of the section has supported improved business processes, data collection and analysis, and business and quality assurance approaches. As the Scheme will be rolled out to the larger and/or more technically challenging regions throughout 2013, and the potential engagement of additional service contractors to provide HAS services, there would be merit in DBCDE regularly reviewing the capacity of the HAS contract management function to aid the effective delivery of key activities, including controls over payments to contractors.

41. DBCDE monitors the approval and qualifications of HAS subcontractors engaged by the service contractors to: properly manage scheme risks; direct quality assurance activities to appropriate areas of scheme activity; and obtain accurate information about the Scheme for management use and reporting. The use of subcontractors that had not yet been approved by DBCDE (unapproved subcontractors) by one or both service contractors has occurred during each HAS rollout subsequent to the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot.

42. Throughout 2011, DBCDE has worked closely with service contractors to strengthen arrangements to help ensure that unapproved installers were not delivering services under the Scheme. This work culminated in a revised installer approval process. As part of this process, DBCDE confirmed it would no longer approve installers in retrospect and work identified as being undertaken by unapproved installers would be treated as a breach of the deed, resulting in a financial penalty. As at 1 March 2012, DBCDE has withheld approximately $197 815 from service contractors for works completed by up to 11 unapproved installers, involving up to 922 installations. While the use of unapproved installers has occurred under HAS, the department has acted quickly to revise procedures to limit the risk of recurrence.

43. DBCDE developed effective payment validation processes during the early rollouts of HAS that resulted in tax invoices presented for services delivered under HAS being reviewed against the terms agreed to between DBCDE and the service contractors. In the early stages of the Scheme, DBCDE undertook adequate manual compliance checking to ensure the services delivered corresponded to amounts claimed. As HAS matured and expanded into progressively more populated areas, DBCDE revised its service contractor payment arrangements to accommodate a rapid increase in the amount of data and information being presented as evidence of services being delivered. Refined business processes, supported by increased use of information technology, now complement manual claims processing. The revised processes also remedied inaccurate claims for incentive payment amounts (directed at timely service delivery) that were identified during the Regional South Australia and Broken Hill rollout. DBCDE is now better placed to manage the integrity of contractor payments for the increasing scale of the Scheme.

Quality assurance activities

44. DBCDE, working with DHS and service contractors, has progressively refined HAS quality assurance (QA) arrangements and introduced more stringent requirements over successive scheme rollouts.

45. DHS is responsible for conducting QA interviews with five per cent of customers that have had an installation completed under HAS. DHS provides this data and information to DBCDE for analysis, which informs further compliance reviews of the services completed under the deeds of agreement with service contractors. The QA activities undertaken by DHS indicate that 82 per cent of customers were found to have been satisfied with the services they received from HAS subcontracted installers under the Scheme.

46. As part of the deeds of agreement, DBCDE specifically requires service contractors to undertake QA audits on not less than five per cent of all services provided under each deed. The audit requirements comprise two per cent of post-installation audits and three per cent of customer satisfaction/OH&S telephone audits. Service contractors have provided monthly QA reports to DBCDE since the Regional Victoria rollout. In addition, DBCDE has undertaken random QA reviews of subcontracted installers for Regional South Australia and Broken Hill, Regional Victoria and Regional Queensland.

47. The QA activity, undertaken by service contractors, is undertaken as a self assessment, and therefore gives DBCDE limited assurance regarding the quality of HAS services. In November 2011, DBCDE established the External Quality Assurance Program (EQAP), to provide an independent assessment of the quality of installations completed under HAS. DBCDE engaged a consultant to develop and manage EQAP inspections of installations. EQAP undertakes three types of inspections for HAS.14 As at April 2012, 734 out of a planned 1165 EQAP inspections had been completed and, where necessary, remediation action has been initiated. The introduction of an external QA program provides DBCDE with greater assurance regarding the quality of HAS installations, and better places the department to monitor quality standards.

Complaints Management

48. Under the deeds currently in place with service contractors and the MoU with DHS, DBCDE has established mechanisms to receive and manage complaints relating to HAS. The department has generally addressed complaints promptly, remedying the issues that have resulted in specific complaints. DBCDE has used the information obtained from complaints to incorporate improvements into the delivery of the Scheme.

49. Overall, the number of complaints made about HAS have been relatively low, with a total of 1096 complaints made during the Regional South Australia and Broken Hill, Regional Victoria and Regional Queensland rollouts, out a total of 75 791 HAS services delivered. This represents a complaint rate of 1.4 per cent.

Scheme Performance and Reporting (Chapter 5)

Measuring performance

50. The delivery of HAS, along with the other components of the digital television switchover initiative, contributes to departmental outcomes through the Broadcasting and Digital Television program. Performance information, including key performance indicators, developed to measure scheme achievements was initially established at the broader initiative level during the early roll-out of HAS, reflecting the scale of the Scheme at that time. More recently, the department has established and reported against the HAS specific key performance indicator—Number of households assisted through the Digital Television Switchover–Household Assistance Scheme—in its Portfolio Budget Statements and Annual Report.

51. While the development of a HAS-specific quantitative performance indicator has provided stakeholders with additional insights into Scheme progress, the existing measure does not sufficiently inform an assessment of progress against the Scheme objective. The establishment of a set of performance measures, which are consistent over time, would better position the department to monitor progress and report performance to internal and external stakeholders.

Scheme performance

52. The cost of the Scheme to 1 March 2012 is approximately $37 million, which represents around 9.7 per cent of the announced $381.4 million budgeted for all rollouts to the end of 2013. The initial relatively low level of expenditure reflects: the early, small population areas that have been serviced by the Scheme to date; the lower-than-expected take-up rate of the ‘safety net’ assistance offered under the Scheme; and the conservative approach taken by the DBCDE when developing budgets for future rollouts.

53. The invoiced cost of HAS installations delivered to customers has ranged from $157 to $1590 during the early rollouts of the Scheme. The cost of installations varies considerably according to the individual package of assistance installed, influenced by factors including: a customer’s location; the technology used; and the instruction and follow-up assistance customers require to successfully make the switch to viewing digital only television. As rollouts continue into major metropolitan and remote areas, the cost of installations is likely to continue to vary considerably.

54. For the Mildura/Sunraysia, Regional South Australia and Broken Hill and Regional Victoria rollouts, around 95 per cent of potentially eligible customers who opted-in to receive a service under HAS ultimately received assistance. Of the remaining five per cent that did not receive assistance under HAS, service contractors found that the majority of these customers were not in need of the assistance, that is, they had already converted to digital television and were therefore not eligible for the Scheme. The high rate of service completion supports the view that people identified as requiring HAS assistance were provided with the practical assistance necessary to make the switch to digital-only television.

External reporting

55. DBCDE and DHS have reported some HAS performance information in their annual reports, predominantly in narrative form, related to general information on Scheme establishment. As scheme implementation matured, DBCDE introduced and reported against a HAS-specific quantitative key performance indicator and performance target. In DBCDE’s 2009–10 Annual Report, the department reported that over 2562 households received HAS installations during the Mildura/Sunraysia pilot. In 2010–11, DBCDE reported that 37 838 households received assistance under HAS in the rollouts to Regional South Australia and Broken Hill, and Regional Victoria.

56. The development of an expanded set of HAS-specific key performance indicators encompassing the performance of the Scheme against agreed service standards and customer satisfaction would allow DBCDE to better use the information it currently collects to report on the effectiveness of the Scheme.

Summary of agency responses to the proposed report

Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

57. DBCDE’s summary response to the proposed audit report is provided below, while the full response is provided in Appendix 1.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (the department) accepts the two recommendations of the 2012 ANAO audit report on the Administration of the Digital Television Switchover Household Assistance Scheme.

The audit report has clearly articulated the role of the HAS as a safety net to assist those who have not been able to make their own arrangements to switch to digital TV. I am pleased to note the report’s conclusions that the department has established effective arrangements to encourage potentially eligible customers to test their eligibility, that procurement processes have been robust and transparent and that the department has sound processes in place to monitor service quality and manage what has been a low level of complaints in relation to the HAS.

As the department progresses from its regional switchovers to the major task of delivering the HAS in metropolitan areas, I note the further conclusions that some aspects of our administrative processes can be improved to support the management of the HAS. This will continue the successful approach of applying lessons learnt from each rollout.

Department of Human Services

58. DHS’ summary response to the proposed audit report is provided below, while the full response is provided in Appendix 1.

The Department of Human Services (the department) welcomes the ANAO’s performance audit. I note there were no recommendations in the report requiring a formal response from the department, however the audit provided a welcome opportunity to review the processes and procedures the department is using to assist the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to implement the scheme. The assurance provided by the audit is particularly timely given that the next phases of the switchover include Australia’s large metropolitan areas, with a commensurate increase in customers being included in the scheme, as well as very remote areas of Australia.

Footnotes

[1]   Spectrum refers to a continuous range of frequencies within which waves have some specified common characteristic—for example, audio-frequency spectrum and radio‑frequency spectrum

[2]   Re‑stacking involves clearing digital broadcasting services from the digital dividend frequency range and reorganising them more efficiently in the remaining broadcasting spectrum. The digital dividend describes the radio‑frequency spectrum that will become available when the transmission of analog television signals ceases in 2013.

[3]   Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Digital Tracker Report, Quarter 4 October to December 2011, pp. i–ii.

[4]   The geographical areas for determining switchover are based on licence areas for commercial television broadcasting services.

[5]   The funding amounts for each component represent the announced funding. These amounts have been revised as the DTS has progressed.

[6]   Self-help transmission sites are located mainly in regional and remote areas of Australia and are designed to obtain, or improve, analog television reception in areas unable to obtain adequate reception from existing broadcaster-operated transmission sites.

[7]   As a demand driven program, any funds not required have been, and will be, returned to consolidated revenue.

[8]   Under HAS, where there are two customers on the maximum rate of an eligible payment who are in a couple or couple-like relationship, as defined by Department of Human Services (DHS), only one assistance package is provided to the couple.

[9]   The figure of 85 326 installations includes those installations completed in Southern New South Wales to 1 March 2012. HAS expenditure, includes payments to service contractors, the cost of the external quality assurance program and departmental administrative costs.

[10]   Skybridge Australia Pty Ltd and Hills Holdings Limited (trading as Techlife Solutions) have delivered HAS services for the completed rollouts.

[11]   AIES is part of the digital switchover initiative. To qualify for endorsement, installers must undertake an on-line testing process, which assesses their skills and knowledge against industry agreed minimum standards. There are three levels of endorsement (based on the complexity of the systems to be installed): domestic; commercial; and/or satellite.

[12]   New Work Health and Safety legislation replaced the OH&S legislation on 1 January 2012.

[13]   A total of three staff, five fewer than first envisaged, were initially responsible for contract management within the HAS Branch.

[14]   The three types of inspections include: a desk-top review of service contractors’ Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) management systems; on‑site OH&S inspections of two per cent of installations; and a technical inspection of three per cent of installations.