The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) is the Parliament’s joint public administration committee. The Committee scrutinises the governance, performance and accountability of Commonwealth agencies, and has the power to inquire into all expenditure of Commonwealth money.
The Committee’s inquiry into Australian Government Funding was based on the following Auditor-General reports:
Monitoring the Impact of Australian Government School Funding, No. 18 (2017-18) – administered by the Department of Education and Training (Education)
Primary Healthcare Grants under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program, No. 50 (2017-18) – administered by the Department of Health (Health)
The transparent and accountable administration of Commonwealth funding is integral to the way the Australian Government supports the critical areas of education and health, so the Parliament and the Australian public can be assured of the effectiveness of government programs.
The Committee has strong interest in how Government departments approach, establish and support administration arrangements to appropriately monitor the impact of government funding and ensure effective program delivery.
By taking a thematic approach to some of its Commonwealth public sector inquiries, the Committee seeks to encourage improvements and shared learning in key areas of public administration. The effective administration of Government funding will continue to be a strong focus of the JCPAA in its role in scrutinising the governance, performance and accountability of Commonwealth agencies.
In the inquiry into Auditor-General Report No. 18, the Committee examined the arrangements established by Education to monitor the distribution and impact of Australian Government school funding under the Australian Education Act 2013.
The Committee was strongly of the view that the current monitoring arrangements established by the Department of Education and Training do not provide sufficient assurance that Australian Government school funding is administered in a way that is transparent, accountable and compliant with the Australian Education Act 2013. School funding is highly significant in that education represents the third largest budget expense for the Australian Government, with $16.1 billion and $17.5 billion in funding allocated to schools funding in 2016 and 2017 respectively, with over 60% provided to non-government schools.
The Committee recommended action on the following matters, as set out in Chapter 2:
that Education establish arrangements to monitor the impact of Australian Government school funding in accordance with the Australian Education Act 2013, and provide greater assurance that funding is being distributed on the basis of need
that the Australian Government amend the Australian Education Act 2013, and the accompanying Regulation as required, to provide a specific legislative requirement that the Department of Education and Training monitor compliance and provide assurance that Australian Government school funding is delivered in accordance with the Act
that Education conduct a risk-based analysis and review of existing compliance and accountability arrangements of Australian Government school funding under the requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013, and report back to the Committee on the findings and plans for improvement
that Education report back to the Committee on the development and implementation of improvements to its administrative arrangements for compliance certificates for Australian Government school funding and acquittal certificates under the Australian Education Act 2013
that Education develop and implement a monitoring program of needs-based funding arrangements for Australian Government school funding to ensure compliance with the funding principles of the Australian Education Act 2013, and report back to the Committee on its progress
that Education improve its approach to measuring progress against the achievement of reform directions under the National Education Reform Agreement and report back to the Committee on the progress and outcomes of the proposed National School Resourcing Board review
that the Auditor-General consider conducting a follow-up audit of the monitoring arrangements for Australian Government School Funding
In the inquiry into Auditor-General Report No. 50, the Committee focused on Health’s design, implementation and administration of primary healthcare grants under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program (IAHP).
The Committee was concerned by the four year delay in the implementation of the ‘planned funding allocation model’ for the IAHP, and views the swift implementation of the new funding model as a matter of priority for the department.
The Committee notes the Auditor-General’s finding that the current level and reporting measures being used by Heath were ‘not specific enough’ to measure the extent to which IAHP program outcomes were being achieved. The Committee believes that taking action to establish transparent evaluation, monitoring and reporting of program performance is critical to ensuring the effective delivery of primary healthcare grants under the IAHP.
The Committee recommended action on the following matters, as set out in Chapter 3:
that Health report back to the Committee with an update on the status of the delayed implementation of the planned funding allocation model, and on the development and implementation of measurable national Key Performance Indicators for the IAHP
that Health report back to the Committee with an update on the status of the implementation deliverables under the IAHP
that Health review its approach to using public reporting to monitor the achievement of program outcomes, and implement a targeted framework in its application of wider statistics to inform program evaluation mechanisms
that Health conduct an evaluation of the initiatives implemented to support the assessment and mitigation of risk of multiple software systems for the IAHP, and report back to the Committee on the findings
that Health report back to the Committee with a detailed outline of the value-for-money considerations to be included within the proposed national funding model
that Health review the current procurement approach to ensure that IAHP grant funding is allocated based on a competitive procurement environment
The Committee notes that Health acknowledge the ANAO audit finding that the quality of the IAHP primary healthcare value for money assessments are in need of improvement, and advised the Committee that it is currently working to address this.