The audit objective was to assess how four key departments: Education, Science and Training (DEST); Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR); Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA); and Health and Ageing (DoHA) are implementing the Government's policy objective for Indigenous service delivery.
The 1967 referendum gave the Australian Parliament the Constitutional power to make laws for all Australian people, (previously people of ‘the Aboriginal race in any State' were excluded); and to take account of Aboriginal people in determining the population of Australia. From 1967, Indigenous people were counted in the Australian census and included in base figures for Australian Government funding granted to the States and Territories on a per capita basis.
Successive Australian Governments have modified the administration of Indigenous affairs with the objective of focusing attention on areas of Indigenous disadvantage. Models have included a separate department of State—the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) in the early 1970s. This was followed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) which was an elected body with a representative structure of Regional Councils.
During the ATSIC period from 1990 to 2005, administrative responsibilities were reorganised including the transfer of Indigenous health from ATSIC to the then Department of Health and Aged Care in 1995–96 and, in 2003, the transfer of most of ATSIC's funding and responsibilities to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS). Overlaying the administrative arrangements at the national level from 2002 have been initiatives by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to improve outcomes in identified areas of Indigenous disadvantage through the cooperative efforts of governments at all levels.
In 2004, the Australian Government put in place the Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) which involved the transfer of ATSIC/ATSIS administrative responsibilities and funding to ‘mainstream' Australian Government departments.
More recently, in June 2007, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs announced a number of major measures to respond to the findings of a Northern Territory (NT) Government report—Little Children are Sacred—into the alleged abuse of children in some remote communities in the NT.
The objective of this audit is to assess how four key departments: Education, Science and Training (DEST); Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR); Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA); and Health and Ageing (DoHA) are implementing the 2004 IAAs.
While the focus of this audit is on the implementation of the IAAs, the lessons learned through the audit can be expected to provide insights to inform on–going developments in the administration of Indigenous affairs, especially the current initiatives in the NT.
The approach adopted in the Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs)
The Australian Government's objective in introducing the IAAs is that over a 20–30 year timeframe:
Indigenous Australians, wherever they live, have the same opportunities as other Australians to make informed choices about their lives, to realise their full potential in whatever they choose to do and to take responsibility for managing their own affairs.1
Figure 1 Indigenous Affairs Arrangements
Source: FaCSIA, adapted from the Australian Government publication, 2006, Indigenous Affairs Arrangements, p. 3.
When implementing the IAAs, the Australian Government's approach was based on COAG's core principles set out in its National Framework for Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians.
A core principle highlighted was the establishment of an accountability framework to enable Australian Government departments and agencies to report their performance against government policy objectives and priorities in Indigenous affairs.
In addition to setting out high–level accountability arrangements, collaboration was seen as a critical feature of the Government's approach in the IAAs. This includes high–level collaborative arrangements though the Ministerial Taskforce and Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs to on–the–ground initiatives through the ICC network. It was considered that successful on–the–ground collaboration between Australian Government departments to effectively deliver services to Indigenous communities and regions depended on:
the flexible use of funds which may involve pooling them for cross–agency projects or transferring them between programmes.2
Another important Australian Government principle concerned programme design. Ensuring that Indigenous-specific and mainstream programmes were sufficiently flexible to respond to the identified needs of Indigenous clients meant:
moving away from treating programme guidelines as rigid rules—they will be revised if they prevent innovation or fail to meet local needs.3
In operationalising the IAAs, consideration was given to the role of a lead agency. Under the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) of January 2006, FaCSIA was given the role of Indigenous policy coordination. Monitoring progress over the implementation phase of a Government initiative is an important function of a lead agency. This is especially the case where successful implementation is complex, involving a number of government departments such as with the Government's approach to whole of government Indigenous service delivery.
The Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs (MTF) includes Ministers from relevant Australian Government portfolios. The MTF has articulated three national priorities in Indigenous affairs:
- early childhood intervention, a key focus of which will be improved mental and physical health, and in particular primary health, and early educational outcomes;
- safer communities, which includes issues of authority, law and order, but necessarily also focuses on dealing with issues of governance to ensure that communities are functional and effective; and
- building Indigenous wealth, employment and entrepreneurial culture, as these are integral to boosting economic development and reducing poverty and dependence on passive welfare.
These three priority areas are broadly consistent with COAGs' three priority outcomes:
- safe, healthy and supportive family environments with strong communities and cultural identity;
- positive child development and prevention of violence, crime and self-harm; and
- improved wealth creation and economic sustainability for individuals, families and communities.
The Productivity Commission (the Commission) has developed a reporting framework to measure improvements against COAG's priority outcomes. To do this, the Commission has developed, as intermediate outcomes, a set of seven strategic areas for action. These are: early child development and growth (prenatal to age three); early school engagement and performance (preschool to year three); positive childhood and transition to adulthood; substance use and misuse; functional and resilient families and communities; effective environmental health systems; and economic participation and development.
The intermediate outcomes developed by the Productivity Commission lend themselves to reporting progress against the three priority outcomes determined by both COAG and the Ministerial Taskforce.4
The Government's policy for Indigenous affairs is one of ‘mainstreaming' but in a whole of government context. The whole of government concept was elaborated in Connecting Government—whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, a Management Advisory Committee (MAC) report released in April 2004. The report noted that a great deal of policy–making involves input from more agencies than just a mainstream government department, and that what is increasingly needed to satisfy public demands is collegiality in policy–making and, where required, service delivery. All resources of government should, where necessary, be brought together to produce solutions to government service requirements.
When launching the April 2004 MAC report, Dr Peter Shergold, Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet commented:
Now comes the biggest test of whether the rhetoric of connectivity can be marshalled into effective action. The Australian Government is about to embark on a bold experiment in implementing a whole of government approach to policy development and delivery …. and the embrace of a quite different approach to the administration of Indigenous-specific programmes and services.
Departmental collaboration is represented at its apex by the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs (SGIA). The SGIA provides advice and support to the MTF and is expected to provide coordination across government departments. The work of the Secretaries' Group is supported by a standing Senior Executive Service (SES) Taskforce and by ad hoc working groups and taskforces as required. Each year, the SGIA prepares a public annual report on outcomes across government departments and agencies. It is apparent from these arrangements that governance and co–ordination to achieve the policy goals of this new approach will necessarily be complex and challenging.
Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs)
Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs) are the main vehicle for departmental coordination of Indigenous–specific programmes. ICCs are staffed by officers from a variety of relevant mainstream Australian Government departments and in rural and remote areas, operate as multi–agency units, combining coordination, planning and service functions. ICC staff are also in contact with Indigenous communities to develop individually tailored agreements (Shared Responsibility Agreements) with them to focus on issues which the community seeks to address.
Funding of IAAs
In 2003–04, there was a total identifiable Commonwealth expenditure on Indigenous affairs of $2.8 billion7, including both mainstream and Indigenous-specific expenditure.
Of the $2.8 billion, around $1.5 billion was spent through mainstream departments and agencies, such as the education, health, and social security portfolios.
ATSIC and its administrative arm—the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS)—received approximately $1.3 billion in funding from the Australian Government, (46% of identifiable Commonwealth Indigenous-specific expenditure). The Government quarantined funding for these Indigenous-specific programmes and transferred them to Australian Government mainstream departments and agencies to administer in a whole of government way.
A number of former Indigenous-specific ATSIC–ATSIS programmes were transferred under the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) of 24 June 2004 to three of the four departments which are the focus of this audit—the Departments of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), Families, Community Services and Indigenous affairs (FaCSIA), and Health and Ageing (DoHA). Under the AAO:
- DEWR received the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programme;
- FaCSIA received the Community Housing and Infrastructure Programme (CHIP) plus a number of smaller programmes. This was augmented by a revised AAO in January 2006 that resulted in the integration of the Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination (OIPC) and the programmes it previously administered with FaCSIA; and
- DoHA received one small programme—the Access to Effective Tracing and Family Reunion Services Programme.
The Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) is the fourth department included in this audit. It has had a continuing responsibility for Indigenous education, in conjunction with the States and Territories, and did not receive any additional programme responsibilities under the IAAs. Other Australian Government departments, which were not part of the audit, received the remainder of the transferred programmes.8
Australian Government Indigenous Expenditure
For the 2006–07 Budget, the Department of Finance and Administration issued revised guidelines for the presentation of Portfolio Budget Statements. As part of this revision each portfolio was required to list, in tables, the administered and departmental Indigenous expenditure for the current and previous years. These tables are referred to as the Australian Government Indigenous Expenditure (AGIE). Each portfolio compiles its own AGIE for inclusion in its Portfolio Budget Statements with administered and departmental expenditure provided at a reasonably highly aggregated level.
Table 1 outlines the total amounts of AGIE, over three fiscal years, for the four departments examined as part of the audit. Together these four departments account for around 80 per cent of the total AGIE of $3.5 billion estimated for 2007–08.
Source: Departmental Portfolio Budget Statements for 2005–06, 2006–07 and 2007–08.
Note: * adjusted based on DEWR's advice of 12 September 2007.
The audit objective and scope
The audit objective was to assess how four key departments: Education, Science and Training (DEST); Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR); Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA); and Health and Ageing (DoHA) are implementing the Government's policy objective for Indigenous service delivery.
The ANAO examined the features of the Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) to determine where changes to facilitate whole of government work had been made to Indigenous-specific and those mainstream programmes with a significant Indigenous component managed by the four departments being audited: DEST; DEWR; FaCSIA; and DoHA. Given the role of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in whole of government issues generally and the implementation of the IAAs specifically, PM&C was also involved in the audit.
To conduct this audit, the ANAO:
- examined Indigenous programmes and services delivered by the four departments being audited, including services delivered through Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs);
- conducted a census of programmes that the four audited departments identified as Indigenous-specific or mainstream with a significant Indigenous component;
- undertook a survey of DEST, DEWR, FaCSIA and DoHA managers involved in the administration of the Indigenous-specific and mainstream programmes;
- carried out three case studies; and
- held discussions with participating Secretaries.
In 2004, the Australian Government put in place the policy and priorities for the Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) to address long–term and entrenched Indigenous disadvantage, and set in train significant changes to the administration of services to Indigenous Australians to deliver on these priorities. Because the IAAs involve participation of multiple Ministers and portfolios and may involve other jurisdictions, the governance arrangements are necessarily complex and critical to managing the risks to successful implementation of such major changes.
The ‘mainstreaming' of Indigenous services has provided Australian Government departments with the opportunity to develop more integrated solutions to entrenched Indigenous disadvantage. Reforms to major Indigenous-specific programmes are taking place especially in the areas of employment (the Community Development and Employment Projects) programme and housing (the Community Housing and Infrastructure Programme).
Implementation of the Government's policy objective is progressing but it is apparent that there are opportunities to streamline the administrative arrangements supporting the delivery of services to Indigenous communities and regions. In addition, a stronger collective focus by departments on performance against the priorities established by the Government is required to assess progress being made, and to inform decisions relating to the effectiveness of on–going administrative arrangements. While departments individually identify their activities in Indigenous affairs in their accountability documentation, there is little in the way of performance information at the aggregate level to assess and inform progress in terms of the Ministerial Taskforce's identified priority areas for action in whole of government Indigenous service delivery.
Areas identified for improvement include:
- implementation of the IAAs and the role of a lead agency;
- whole of government governance and accountability arrangements;
- collaborative efforts to support effective service delivery including the development of joint funding agreements; and
- programmes responding flexibly to Indigenous need.
In addition, as for all significant reform programmes, there is a need for an ongoing focus on bringing about cultural change in the departments with responsibilities for administering the IAAs. To implement the IAAs, individuals from participating departments need to be able to work effectively together, requiring different approaches to those used when working as a single department. A consistent message from participants and stakeholders during this audit was the importance of an ongoing focus on the cultural change required to continue the development of appropriate whole of government skills and behaviours, including appreciating the benefits of aligning and using common systems.
Implementation of the IAAs and the role of a lead agency
Over the past 2–3 years, departments have been developing ways of delivering Indigenous services in a more collaborative, co-ordinated approach required in a whole of government environment. Australian Government departments are now required to deliver services to Indigenous Australians that are integrated and contribute to the Government's overall 20–30 year vision that: Indigenous Australians, wherever they live, have the same opportunities as other Australians to make informed choices about their lives, to realise their full potential in whatever they choose to do and to take responsibility for managing their own affairs.
The new arrangements are in the early days of implementation and progress reflects efforts in developing whole of government coordination arrangements. During this period, FaCSIA has played a lead role in whole of government Indigenous policy coordination.
The whole of government approach to Indigenous service delivery to date has had a strong emphasis on policy development and priority setting. Insufficient attention has been given to policy implementation to reflect the original intention of the Government that service delivery to Indigenous people involves the flexible use of funds through joint funding arrangements and that programme guidelines will be revised if they prevent innovation or fail to meet local needs. This has hindered moving from the policy environment to on–the–ground service delivery.
Departments are considering how to overcome these administrative barriers to on–the–ground Indigenous service delivery. For this to be accomplished efficiently and effectively, the lead agency requires clearer authority to escalate these issues for timely and efficient resolution.
Lead agency involvement
The whole of government Indigenous working environment requires government departments, which have traditionally been structured along a vertical responsibility and accountability basis, to develop stronger horizontal relationships to better deliver services to Indigenous communities. Initiatives that involve working across organisational boundaries face new and challenging risks. For these reasons, it is important to ensure that there is a common understanding of the risks associated with shared implementation.9
The successful implementation of a broad reaching, ambitious policy goal resulting in the efficient and effective delivery of services to Indigenous people requires the evolution of governance arrangements which better suit the service delivery phase of a collaborative model of operation. This will necessarily involve revisiting the existing accountability arrangements for programmes and related funding arrangements which have been primarily designed for departments working independently.
While in many situations, the existing collaborative arrangements could be expected to resolve issues, suitable protocols should desirably be established for those situations that are sensitive to each Chief Executive's agency responsibilities but nevertheless allow for the prompt resolution of administrative matters which cross agency boundaries. This approach recognises that there may be occasions where it is necessary for the lead agency to articulate the way forward or establish a timetable within which events are expected to occur. This can be achieved through monitoring the performance of all departments involved in the initiative to ensure their commitment is on track to meet the Government's objective in Indigenous affairs. In these situations, it is important that the lead agency exercises its role judiciously, taking into account the responsibilities and accountabilities of other participating departments. As a last resort, the protocol would need to allow for Ministerial intervention.
Whole of government governance and accountability arrangements
Governance and accountability arrangements developed in the initial phase of the IAAs were well suited to high–level stakeholder involvement and policy development through the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and the Secretaries' Group. The Ministerial Taskforce has identified three priority areas for action:
- early childhood intervention;
- safer communities; and
- building Indigenous wealth, employment and entrepreneurial culture.
The Secretaries' Group prepares an annual report which focuses on the seven strategic areas for action developed by the Productivity Commission to measure work undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments in Indigenous affairs. The Secretaries' Group annual report is not tabled in Parliament, but it is posted on FaCSIA's website. Currently this annual report is predominantly descriptive and, to improve accountability, the Secretaries' Group has convened a working party to develop a performance monitoring and reporting framework for its annual reporting purposes.
Reporting performance against government priorities in Indigenous affairs
While achievements have been made in developing whole of government priorities for Indigenous service delivery, reporting of the contribution of individual departments has not kept pace with the new way of working. Individual departments continue to plan and provide information within the Outcomes/Outputs framework concerning their individual expenditure on Indigenous programmes and activities. Under current reporting arrangements it is not possible to obtain a clear picture of whole of government Indigenous expenditure, and performance information relating to whole of government initiatives is either absent or poorly developed. As there is an underdeveloped whole of government performance information framework for use by departments, it is also difficult to obtain an understanding of individual departmental contribution to the Ministerial Taskforce's three national priority areas.
There would be real benefits in departments reporting their contribution to the three national priority areas in a similar fashion to allow a global perspective on performance against these priorities to be assessed. There are a number of models that departments could use to do this.
The first model would involve participating departments aligning the priority areas with their individual Portfolio Budget Statements and Annual Reports. This would complement the accountability arrangements primarily designed for departments working independently and provide assurance to Parliament that departments are addressing the priorities in Indigenous service delivery in a whole of government manner. Under this approach involving broad or shared outcomes which require the identification of the contribution of more than one programme or agency, the use of explanatory text in accountability documentation is one avenue for departments to better specify their influence on, and contributions to, broadly stated or shared outcomes.10 Where outcomes are at a high-level and long-term, performance can be difficult to measure and track over time. In these situations, departments can develop and use intermediate outcomes, that is, partial outcomes that can be more easily measured and achieved within a shorter time frame.
Another reporting model would involve departments providing explanatory text and performance information to FaCSIA for inclusion in the report prepared annually by the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs. This Annual Report could then be tabled in the Australian Parliament to provide an overview of Australian Government investment, and the performance of Australian Government departments, in delivering services to Indigenous Australians.
Which ever reporting model (or combination of models) is chosen, it must be sufficiently robust to provide Parliament and stakeholders with assurance that departments are addressing the Government's priorities in Indigenous affairs in a whole of government manner and for progress achieved to be assessed.
Collaborative efforts to support effective service delivery including the development of joint funding agreements
Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) in Australia are elaborate and multi–layered involving collaboration between a number of governments and their departments as well as the private sector and not–for–profit organisations. The principal areas for collaboration examined by the ANAO included higher level joint planning to support the implementation of the new arrangements and on–the–ground collaboration at the level of the Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs).
Joint arrangements to support effective service delivery
The revised IAAs came into effect from July 2004. Since then, the practical implementation of the new arrangements has been evolving as departments fashion ways of working together. A number of areas have not received sufficient and early attention, particularly on–the–ground collaboration through the ICC network with Indigenous communities around appropriate funding arrangements with communities and service providers.
Appropriate funding arrangements with communities and service providers
Where there are a number of departments involved, suitable financial arrangements to support individually tailored agreements with Indigenous communities have yet to be developed. While a ‘header' agreement is available for jointly funded projects, each department which is a signatory has its own schedule including accountability, reporting and acquittal requirements. These individual departmental accountability requirements detract from the ICC/whole of government focus, and the level of duplication involved adds to the administrative demands on Indigenous communities. The development of suitable funding models with Indigenous communities has the potential to improve the effectiveness of ICC operations and reduce the administrative demands on Indigenous communities.
Given that departments are now 2–3 years down the track of implementing the new arrangements, the ANAO considers that a renewed focus on more efficient mechanisms to jointly fund projects and initiatives where more than one Australian government agency is involved would reduce ‘red tape' for Indigenous communities and service providers, and assist Indigenous Australians to more readily access Australian Government programmes and services. This is an issue which might beneficially be considered by the Funding and Governance Reforms Working Group to develop and oversee a strategy for addressing ‘red tape' and other funding reform matters.
There is flexibility within the current financial framework to facilitate a range of funding arrangements. Options include: contributing departments could establish a direct debit/invoicing arrangement with a lead agency; the lead agency could access the funds of other contributing departments through third party drawing rights; or establish a central account, using a new Special Account hosted by one department, accessible to all relevant departments for deposits and withdrawals.
Programmes responding flexibly to Indigenous need
One of the key principles underpinning the Australian Government's IAAs is to respond flexibly to the particular circumstance of each Indigenous community and region. This means moving away from treating programme guidelines as rigid rules where there are sound reasons for doing this. The Government's objective with the IAAs is to obtain better results for Indigenous Australians. The ANAO used a programme census of Indigenous-specific and mainstream programmes with a significant Indigenous component, a survey of managers of these programmes and case studies to examine the extent to which flexibility existed within programme guidelines enabling them to respond to the needs of Indigenous communities and regions.
ANAO programme census and manager survey
The audit identified 34 Indigenous-specific programmes and 59 mainstream programmes with a significant Indigenous component. Only a minority of programmes reported making programme guidelines more flexible or incorporating whole of government design innovations since the commencement of the new arrangements. When managers were asked to identify barriers to better working arrangements with other departments, the most frequently cited barriers were rigid funding arrangements and programme guidelines.
Flexible programme design
Being able to respond to the particular circumstances of an Indigenous community or region is an important principle of the IAAs. Based on the programme census, the manager survey and case study results, the ANAO considers that the rate at which the re–design of Indigenous-specific and particularly mainstream programmes is occurring should be reviewed. This would ensure that, where appropriate, these programmes are able to respond flexibly and in an innovative way to the particular circumstances of an Indigenous community or region. That said, it is important that changes to standard approaches are appropriately authorised by the responsible department and/or FaCSIA to maintain the integrity of delivery methods and to properly account for public funds.
Key Findings by Chapter
The high–level accountability framework (Chapter 2)
Governance processes including leadership, the identification and management of risks, appropriate budgeting and reporting arrangements and implementation planning are standard features of an accountability framework, including for whole of government programmes.
There are high–level arrangements in place at both the Australian Government and inter–governmental levels and processes to involve Ministers and departmental Secretaries in Indigenous affairs. There was strong commitment by leaders within the four audited departments to making whole of government Indigenous service delivery arrangements work. In addition, departments recognised the need for effective collaboration as the services that one department is delivering could impact on the outcomes another department is seeking.
Whole of government risk management strategies
A recurrent message from government in recent years has been for agencies to work together in a ‘whole of government fashion'.11 In 2004, the Management Advisory Committee published a report in response to Australia's priority challenges, including Indigenous affairs12, emphasising:
Whole of government denotes public service agencies working across portfolio boundaries to achieve a shared goal and an integrated government response to particular issues. Approaches can be formal and informal. They can focus on policy development, program management and service delivery.13
Models for whole of government work can result from formal ‘top–down' decisions requiring a cross-portfolio approach, such as the 2004 Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) or the day-to-day operation of government where officials from different agencies work across boundaries to deliver outcomes for the Australian community. Whichever model is chosen, it is important that the risks and opportunities are identified and managed having regard to each agency's contribution and level of responsibility or area of expertise.
Over the course of the audit, explicit risks arising from working in a whole of government collaborative environment were identified. These included:
- the existing accountability arrangements for programmes and the related funding arrangements are primarily designed for departments working independently; and
- lack of appreciation, skills and culture to support whole of government working, as well as the difficulty of maintaining skills in a growth environment.
DEST has created an Indigenous Mainstreaming Taskforce with a brief to develop and implement strategies around departmental culture and short and long–term programme flexibility. However, overall, across the four departments, little attention has been devoted to identifying and addressing risks arising from a whole of government working environment with all four departments continuing to use their existing suite of risk management arrangements to manage risks within their individual programme areas.
An overarching risk assessment would allow the effective management of the risks inherent in whole of government work by developing strategies and systems to mitigate these risks. In the light of such an assessment, individual departments would then be better placed to manage Indigenous service delivery where government–wide risks affect their administrative responsibilities.
Planning the implementation of the Government's initiative in Indigenous affairs
The successful implementation of new ways of working which involve multiple Australian Government departments and agencies, other levels of government, corporate entities and the not–for–profit sector requires the support of a high–level implementation plan coordinated by a lead agency. Shared planning provides the opportunity to define critical cross–agency dependencies and responsibilities. It also ensures that sufficient attention is given to the time, costs and resources required including the identification of specialist skills needed for a task of such magnitude.
PM&C prepared an implementation schedule to support the Government's Indigenous affairs agenda. The schedule listed a number of activities to be completed with a related time frame, including that an implementation plan be developed. The plan was to include success/performance criteria with short-term and intermediate outcomes as a means of measuring success of the broad agenda and individual phases. While the schedule listed a date for completion of the plan, there is no evidence of an implementation plan being developed and progress being monitored.
There was, however, significant cross–government coordination effort through a number of complementary, high–level and more operationally focussed processes and mechanisms. This included an interdepartmental Taskforce which was established in April 2004 in accordance with the Government's decision on the new arrangements. The Taskforce was responsible for planning and overseeing the implementation of the new arrangements up to the establishment of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination on 1 July 2004.
Implementation of the new arrangements was also supported by a number of related processes and governance arrangements over a period of time, in particular:
- the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs, established in May 2002 to oversee the COAG trials, played an important role in developing and oversighting the implementation of the new arrangements;
- the work of the Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, also set up in mid-2002 in relation to the COAG trials, informed the development of critical aspects of the new arrangements including Indigenous Coordination Centres and Shared Responsibility Agreements;
- the SES Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs was formed in mid-2004 to support the implementation of the new arrangements; and
- the COAG trials had been in place for around two years and the lessons learned from the trials at that time also informed the development of the new arrangements.
As well as developing high–level structural arrangements, implementing the IAAs would have benefited from the explicit recognition and proposed approach to executing key elements of the Government policy framework for Indigenous affairs, namely whole of government governance and accountability arrangements, shared funding arrangements and ensuring programmes had sufficient flexibility to respond to Indigenous needs.
Lead agency involvement
For whole of government initiatives, a lead agency should have the role of ensuring that:
- programme implementation is meeting the Government's objective;
- a process has been established where information is shared and flows between the agencies involved;
- performance is monitored; and
- the commitment by other agencies (as well as their own), is being met.14
Under the IAAs, FaCSIA's lead agency role is exercised through its policy arm (OIPC) and through coordination mechanisms such as the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs chairing the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and a FaCSIA Deputy Secretary chairing the SES Taskforce. State and Territory Australian Government Managers' Forums are chaired by the FaCSIA State or Territory manager and ICC managers are FaCSIA employees.
Monitoring the performance of all departments involved in the initiative is an important function for the lead agency to perform to ensure that individually and collectively the commitment of departments is on track to meet the Government's objective in Indigenous affairs. To date, the SES Taskforce, the Secretaries' Group and the Ministerial Taskforce have been involved in monitoring the implementation of the whole of government Indigenous initiative.
Budgeting and reporting
Whole of government delivery of services requires departments to work together to develop budgeting and reporting arrangements that meet both the accountability obligations of individual departments and also contribute to the collective achievement of, and accountability for, whole of government outcomes.15
Table 2 below provides an ANAO assessment of the reporting information referring to whole of government work currently provided by each of the four departments individually as well as the consolidated budgeting and reporting information available in portfolio AGIEs and the Secretaries' Group annual report.
Source: ANAO, based on departmental PBSs and Annual Reports for 2005–06, portfolio AGIE in
2005–06 PBSs and the SGIA annual report 2005–06.
Australian Government departments have the discretion to present their Portfolio Budget Statements (PBSs) and Annual Reports in a format that assures clarity of the information. Within this planning and reporting framework, departments currently do not provide performance information on their contribution to the Ministerial Taskforce's three priority areas for action or other whole of government activities in Indigenous affairs.
The Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs (SGIA) produces an annual report which focuses on the seven strategic areas for action developed by the Productivity Commission to measure work undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments in Indigenous affairs. While these seven intermediate outcomes could be used to report progress towards the three higher order outcomes determined by the Ministerial Taskforce, the Secretaries' Group annual report for 2005-06 contains little performance information against the seven strategic areas for action.
Published performance information, which provides a top level strategic overview of progress against the Government's three national priorities for Indigenous affairs, should be supported by information on the contribution of individual agencies. The contribution of participating departments could be against intermediate outcomes and indicate shorter term objectives on the path to achieving higher level outcomes. This would enable agencies to monitor their performance over time and their contribution to broader government outcomes. The ANAO notes that the Secretaries' Group has convened a working party to develop a performance monitoring and reporting framework for annual reporting purposes.
Mechanisms for whole of government collaboration (Chapter 3)
Collaboration is an important ingredient in whole of government work. This includes high–level arrangements developed by the Council of Australian Governments through to the day-to-day matters that affect the operation of departments and agencies in a whole of government context.
Bilateral agreements on Indigenous affairs
Bilateral agreements on Indigenous affairs have been developed between the Australian Government and a number of State/Territory governments. These agreements provide a useful framework for improved collaboration and outcomes between governments.
Joint planning is a critical element for departments in successful whole of government work. There were a range of joint planning processes in operation including at the national level with the development of the Single Indigenous Budget Submission (SIBS) which supports the Federal Budget process. As well, regional planning processes had been implemented to support the Government's objective of mobilising the contribution and commitment of a range of stakeholders to develop local solutions to local problems.
Staff capabilities to support whole of government work
The Management Advisory Committee (MAC) report Connecting Government 2004 suggests that culture and capability critically shape the success or otherwise of whole of government activities. Departments and agencies are expected to support whole of government activities by taking steps to become more responsive to whole of government demands through more intensive training for those involved in whole of government work.
A clear message from international and national experience (including the COAG trials) is that culture and capability critically shape whole of government working arrangements. New ways of collaborative working require staff to have particular skills and attributes. Training, for staff at all levels of an organisation, is an important practical support to those involved in whole of government initiatives.
In the manager survey the ANAO asked what specific training managers had received in relation to the IAAs. Survey results show that 36 per cent of respondent managers had received training in relation to the IAAs. Further analysis of this result revealed that the majority of respondents who had received training were non–Canberra based managers, with only a minority of Canberra-based manager respondents reporting that they had received any IAA training.
Training is of critical importance to the implementation of the whole of government effort in Indigenous service delivery. More could be done by departments in the area of developing staff competencies, at all levels in their organisations, in the capabilities necessary for whole of government Indigenous service delivery.
Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs)
A key finding of the audit was that funding arrangements need to support the new approach to Indigenous service delivery. This is especially relevant for ICCs.
ICCs are the Australian Government interface with Indigenous communities and service providers. Effective collaboration between Australian Government departments in the ICC network provides the basis for improving service delivery to Indigenous people. ICCs deliver a mix of grant-based programmes and other departmental Indigenous-specific programmes. ICCs are also responsible for developing agreements with Indigenous communities to address issues brought forward by the communities.
In the ICCs visited as part of the audit, the ANAO found their performance, from a whole of government perspective, to be mixed. The current ICC design relies on the ability of ICC managers to influence the operations of individual departments at the local level. At the same time, departmental staff within an ICC remain accountable to their departmental management. FaCSIA has developed a protocol for ICCs to use to resolve administrative disagreements.
Within ICCs, individual Australian Government departments continued to use their own mechanisms for making payments to communities, monitoring contracts, reporting outcomes and acquitting funds. There is an impact on communities from these multiple arrangements in managing their contractual obligations—for example, if five government departments are signatory to a contract, individual departmental schedules are attached to the cover document each with its own reporting, monitoring and acquittal requirements. This can result in a community developing five separate financial and performance monitoring reports for the one project.
These multiple arrangements also limit the efficiencies that departments may be able to garner through the ICC model.
Co-ordinated funding arrangements
A precursor to efficient and effective whole of government work in delivering services to Indigenous Australians, is the seamless joint funding of services and initiatives.
The ANAO found that departments were making changes to the design of agreements and contracts to be used when jointly funding services. However, there was considerable duplication in this work and administrative burden for both departments and service providers. There was no comprehensive framework or clear guidance for departments as to how best engage in jointly funding Indigenous services.
In September 2007, the Department of Finance and Administration advised the ANAO of the financial arrangements that were developed for the Northern Territory Emergency Response which commenced in June 2007. These arrangements take the form of a Special Account established under section 20(1) of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) and provide a single funding pool, managed by a lead agency, FaCSIA, from which funds will be disbursed on an as needed basis for nominated employment initiatives delivered by a range of Commonwealth agencies. The Northern Territory Flexible Funding Pool Special Account came into effect on 21 September 2007.
Programme design for whole of government work (Chapter 4)
An important feature of the IAAs is the requirement that both Indigenous-specific services and mainstream programmes, through their policies and procedures, are able to respond flexibly to the identified needs of Indigenous clients. A specific focus of the ANAO programme census, manager survey and case study work was concerned with changes that had been made to programme guidelines enabling a flexible response to the needs of Indigenous people.
Through its programme census, the ANAO found that only a minority of programmes reported making programme guidelines more flexible: seven (22%) Indigenous-specific programmes and 14 (36%) mainstream programmes with a significant Indigenous component. In addition, the ANAO found that a minority of programmes reported incorporating whole of government design innovations since the commencement of the new arrangements: ten (29%) Indigenous-specific programmes and three (8%) mainstream programmes with a significant Indigenous component.16
When managers were asked to identify barriers to better collaboration with other departments, the most frequently cited barriers were:
- departmental culture and systems; and
- rigid funding arrangements and programme guidelines.
The following joint response to the audit was agreed by the Secretaries of: Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA); Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR); Health and Ageing (DoHA); Education, Science and Training (DEST); and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C):
‘The departments accept the two recommendations.'
The ANAO has made two recommendations to assist Australian Governments departments involved in whole of government Indigenous service delivery arrangements.
1 The Australian Government, 2004, Indigenous Affairs Arrangements, p. 14.
2 The Australian Government, 2004, ibid.
3 The Australian Government, 2004, ibid.
4 To further support wide-ranging reforms in Indigenous service delivery, in March 2006, the Ministerial Taskforce agreed to a Blueprint for Action in Indigenous Affairs. An important element of the Blueprint is the role of Australian Government departments in particular locations. This policy direction is further elaborated in Appendix 1 of the report.
5 The concept of mainstreaming requires government departments and agencies with responsibility for all policies in a particular area to take over the responsibility for the delivery of programmes to Indigenous people. The delivery of Indigenous health and education programmes had previously been mainstreamed with the relevant Australian Government departments.
6 Shergold, P, April 2004, a speech to launch Connecting Government: whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges.
7 Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Current Issues Brief No 4 2004–05, The End of ATSIC and the Future Administration of Indigenous Affairs.
8 The remaining programmes were transferred to portfolios such as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Portfolio, the Attorney–General's Portfolio, the Communications, Information and the Arts Portfolio, the Environment and Water Resources Portfolio, the Finance and Administration Portfolio and the Transport and Regional Services Portfolio.
9 The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian National Audit Office, October 2006, Better Practice Guide—Implementation of Programme and Policy Initiatives, p. 20.
10 Department of Finance and Administration and the ANAO, 2004, Better Practice in Annual Performance Reporting, p. 10.
11 Australian Government, 2005 Working together: Principles and practices to guide the Australian Public Service, p. 1.
12 Management Advisory Committee (MAC) 4, 2004,Connecting Government—Whole of Government Responses to Australia's Priority Challenges.
13 Management Advisory Committee (MAC) 4, ibid, p. 4.
14 The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian National Audit Office, op cit.
15 ANAO Audit Report No. 23 2006–07, p. 86.
16 The ANAO notes the extensive redesign of one of the largest Indigenous-specific programmes, the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programme, undertaken by DEWR over the past two years. See Appendix 2 for details.