On 12 February 2015, the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report:
The impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Services.
The terms of reference are:
- the extent of consultation with service providers concerning the size, scope and nature of services tendered, determination of outcomes and other elements of service and contract design;
- the effect of the tendering timeframe and lack of notice on service collaboration, consortia and the opportunity for innovative service design and delivery;
- the evidence base and analysis underlying program design;
- the clarity of information provided to prospective tenderers concerning service scope and outcomes;
- the opportunities created for innovative service design and delivery, including greater service integration or improved service wrap-around, and the extent to which this was reflected in the outcomes of the tender process;
- the extent to which tenders were restricted to not-for-profit services, the clarity of these terms, and whether they changed during the notification and tender process;
- analysis of the types, size and structures of organisations which were successful and unsuccessful under this process;
- the implementation and extent of compliance with Commonwealth Grant Guidelines;
- the potential and likely impacts on service users concerning service delivery, continuity, quality and reliability;
- the framework and measures in place (if any) to assess the impacts of these reforms on service user outcomes and service sustainability and effectiveness;
- the information provided to tenderers about how decisions are made, feedback mechanisms for unsuccessful tender applicants, and the participation of independent experts in tender review processes to ensure fairness and transparency;
- the impact on advocacy services across the sector;
- factors relating to the efficient and effective collection and sharing of data on outcomes within and across program streams to allow actuarial analysis of program, cohort and population outcomes to be measured and evaluated;
- the extent of contracts offered, and the associated conditions, to successful applicants; and
- any other related matters.
Submissions were sought by 20 March 2015. The reporting date is 26 March 2015. On 2 March 2015, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 12 May 2015. On 12 May 2015, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 19 August 2015. On 17 August 2015, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 9 September 2015. On 9 September 2015, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 16 September 2015.