B. ANAO Conclusions and Recommendations

Audit Report No. 18 (2017-18) Monitoring the Impact of Australian Government School Funding

Conclusion (p. 8)

The arrangements established by the Department of Education and Training to monitor the impact of Australian Government school funding do not provide a sufficient level of assurance that funding has been used in accordance with the legislative framework, in particular the requirement for funding to be distributed on the basis of need. Further, the department has not used available data to effectively monitor the impact of school funding and to provide greater transparency and accountability. As such, the department is not well placed to determine whether the current policy settings are effective in supporting the achievement of educational outcomes. The department has, however, more recently recognised the need to improve its use of school data to monitor impact and to strengthen the evidence base underpinning its policy development processes, with steps taken to better manage its data assets.
The department is yet to establish sufficiently robust arrangements to ensure that system authorities1 have in place, and make publicly available, compliant needs-based funding arrangements. There are also weaknesses in the arrangements established by the department to collect and validate the information provided by approved authorities to account for funding. These weaknesses have reduced the level of assurance the department has that funding is allocated in accordance with the needs-based principles established under the legislative framework. Under recent legislative reforms, additional mechanisms are being established to strengthen the monitoring of needs-based funding arrangements. To complement these mechanisms, there is scope for the department to strengthen its analysis of school funding data.
While the department has established processes to monitor the progress of national reform directions and ongoing policy requirements, weaknesses in these processes and their implementation have limited the level of assurance obtained by the department. Overall, the arrangements established by the department have not delivered the level of transparency and accountability envisaged under the Act and the department has not fully utilised available data to inform the development of current and future education policy. The department is, however, working to strengthen its capacity to undertake data analysis and has, more recently, increased its use of data analysis, particularly in the context of developing legislative amendments.

Recommendations (p. 10)

Recommendation No.1
The Department of Education and Training establish a risk-based approach to monitoring compliance with requirements established under the Australian Education Act 2013 and, in keeping with the intent of the Act, increase the transparency surrounding the allocation and use of Australian Government school funding.
Department of Education and Training’s response: Agreed.
Recommendation No.2
The Department of Education and Training strengthen its analysis of school funding allocation data to gain assurance that school funding is appropriately distributed in accordance with need as required under the Australian Education Act 2013.
Department of Education and Training’s response: Agreed.
Recommendation No.3
The Department of Education and Training enforce legislative provisions that enable it to measure progress against the achievement of reform directions.
Department of Education and Training’s response: Agreed.
Recommendation No.4
The Department of Education and Training make greater use of available data to better understand the impact of funding on educational outcomes and to inform the development and refinement of education policy.
Department of Education and Training’s response: Agreed.

Audit Report No. 50 (2017-18) Primary Healthcare Grants under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program

Conclusion (p. 8)

The department’s design and implementation of the primary healthcare component of the IAHP was partially effective as it has not yet achieved all of the Australian Government’s objectives in establishing the program. The department has not implemented the planned funding allocation model and there are shortcomings in performance monitoring and reporting arrangements. However, the department has consolidated the program, supported it through coordination and information-sharing activities and continued grant funding.
The Government’s original objectives in establishing the IAHP are due to be fully achieved in 2019–20, four years later than originally planned. The majority of IAHP primary healthcare grant funding to date has been allocated in essentially the same manner as previous arrangements rather than the originally intended needs based model. Program implementation has been supported through appropriately aligning funding streams to intended outcomes and coordination and information-sharing with relevant stakeholders.
Most aspects of the department’s assessment of IAHP primary healthcare funding applications and negotiation of funding agreements were consistent with the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs). The exception to this was the poor assessment of value for money regarding the majority of grant funds. The grant funding agreements were fit for purpose, but the department has not established service-related performance benchmarks for funded organisations that were provided for in most of the agreements.
The department has not developed a performance framework for the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program. Extensive public reporting on Indigenous health provides a high level of transparency on the extent to which the Australian Government’s objectives in Indigenous health are being achieved. However, this reporting includes organisations not funded under the IAHP and, as such, it is not specific enough to measure the extent to which IAHP funded services are contributing to achieving program outcomes.
In managing IAHP primary healthcare grants, the department has not used the available provisions in the funding agreements to set quantitative benchmarks for grant recipients. This limits its ability to effectively use available performance data for monitoring and continuous quality improvement. Systems are in place to collect performance data, but systems for collecting quantitative performance data have not been effective. Issues with performance data collection limit its usefulness for longitudinal analysis.

Recommendations (p. 10)

Recommendation No.1
The Department of Health improve the quality of IAHP primary healthcare value for money assessments, including ensuring their consistency with the new funding allocation model.
Department of Health response: Agreed.
Recommendation No.2
The Department of Health assess the risks involved in IAHP-funded healthcare services using various clinical information software systems to support the direct online service reporting and national key performance indicator reporting process, and appropriately mitigate any significant identified risks.
Department of Health response: Agreed.
Recommendation No.3
The Department of Health ensure that new IAHP funding agreements for primary healthcare services include measurable performance targets that are aligned with program outcomes and that it monitors grant recipient performance against these targets.
Department of Health response: Agreed.

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