National Compact Two Years On
22 March 2012 at 8:33 am
This week marks the second anniversary of the National Compact between the Not for Profit Sector and the Federal Government revealing that it now has 640 partners, but not everyone in the sector can see much ‘tangible improvement’.
The new Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler, says the National Compact is the backbone of the Government’s Not for Profit reform agenda and has encourged Not for Profits to become partners.
“The sector has been demanding change for more than 15 years and this Government is delivering on our promise of reform,” he said.
However, Simon Schrapel, the President of Australia’s national welfare peak body, ACOSS, is not so convinced.
“The National Compact was designed to herald a new beginning in Government and Not for Profit relationships. It included the right sentiments and words about partnership, respectful relationships and reducing red tape burdens,” Schrapel said when asked to comment on the second anniversary by Pro Bono Australia News.
“However, beyond eliminating so called ‘gag’ clauses in government contracts, it is difficult to see two years on a whole lot of tangible improvement in the way business is transacted between Government and NFPs,” he said.
“Sure the Government has led the way with a raft of proposed legislative and other reforms relating to the regulation and treatment of Charities and NFPs.
“Much of this reform was highlighted in the 2010 Productivity Commission Report and has been signalled by NFPs for several years as being highly desirable.
“However what has been noticeable in the manner in which this is being managed is that in many ways the Government really doesn’t get it when it comes to working with the NFP sector.”
Schrapel says the opportunity existed for these various reforms to be implemented in a truly collaborative way – driven by the industry as much as by Government.
“What we have witnessed is a traditional top down approach used by Governments for decades to enact change. It hasn’t facilitated a sense of shared ownership or responsibility,” Schrapel said.
“Furthermore we have seen little to date in terms of how to truly deal with the scourge of red tape which traps the Not for Profit sector – particularly in relation to management of government funding and agreements.
“There have been efforts to streamline some processes within some Government agencies but there isn’t a coordinated or concerted effort to ensure reporting and accountability arrangements are fit for purpose and add value.
“This remains one of the biggest bugbears for NFPs delivering on government contracts and is in urgent need of attention if we are to rebuild confidence in the fine intent articulated in the National Compact.”
The National Compact is described by the Federal Government as “an agreement between the Government and the Not for Profit sector to find new and better ways of working together to improve the lives of all Australians.”
It was launched with much fanfare in Canberra in March 2010 by the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
In the meantime, the Minister for Social Inclusion, has begun a campaign to encourage Not for Profits to become a National Compact partner, and ‘bring the Compact to life”
“To bring the Compact to life, I have asked the Not-for-Profit Reform Council to develop a Consultation and Policy Development Code of Best Practice to guide government engagement with the sector when designing and implementing policy,” Mark Butler said.
“I encourage you to participate in a short survey that will be used to identify issues that should be addressed through the code. The link to the survey is on the National Compact website at www.nationalcompact.gov.au.”
(See our stories here https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2010/03/pm-signs-national-compact-third-sector)