Govt Audit Must Engage with NFP Sector
21 November 2013 at 9:47 am
A charity sector submission to the Coalition Government’s National Commission of Audit has called on the inquiry to take into account of the largely untapped policy and program development resources that reside in Not for Profit organisations.
The submission by the Community Council for Australia (CCA) says the NCA would benefit greatly from having direct conversations with representatives of the Not for Profit sector.
“Many Not for Profit organisations are readily able to identify potential government savings that may also increase program effectiveness and impact. Peak bodies are often well positioned to identify potential savings. Engagement with peak bodies across major expenditure areas is strongly supported,” the submission said.
“These are the organisations most strongly linked to their communities, and most likely to be able to anticipate program outcomes.
“The achievement of improved outcomes and increased value from government expenditure in areas like health, welfare, employment, housing, emergency management, the environment, education, animal welfare, arts, sport and recreation, aged care, international development, etc. is critically dependent on the way government contracts and invests in the Not for Profit sector.
“CCA believes there is considerable scope to make real savings, while also achieving increased community value from government expenditure by adopting a less bureaucratic government-centric approach in these areas.”
The CCA submission addressed issues around the need to streamline Commonwealth Government operations, performance management, performance reporting and accountability, risk management and the timing and length of contracts.
It also supported the work of the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC)
“CCA believes that when considering the role of the Commonwealth government, it is important to focus on how best to achieve the priority policy goals. The default position should not be having government officials develop or prescribe program inputs and objectives,” the submission said.
“Adopting a less government centric approach in developing program objectives, mechanisms or delivery methods may provide a real opportunity to more effectively and efficiently achieve government policy goals.
“There is a dog’s breakfast of approaches to the contracting of Not for Profit organisations across Commonwealth agencies. It seems each agency has its own rationale, its own set of mandatory components and priority principles for their particular procurement practices, contract management and reporting requirements. Even within some agencies there are high levels of inconsistency in approaches and processes.
“CCA could have given many anecdotal examples about dysfunctional program management by government agencies. The reality is that despite numerous attempts to improve these processes over the years, there are some government agencies where the culture and practice of government contracting with Not for Profit organisations is counter-productive to the achievement of government policy.
“Perhaps of equal concern is that concepts such as performance management, performance reporting and risk management have been deconstructed and reassembled in forms that disguise their original purpose.
“Contrary to the perception of some government officials, there are many charities and not-for-profit organisations that not only have the skills and expertise to develop, implement and evaluate programs, but these organisations also have a real understanding of what might best achieve government policy objectives.”
CCA said it strongly supported the need for the NCA to push for real reform in the ongoing engagement between not-for-profit organisations and Commonwealth agencies.
In October 2013 the Coalition Government announced the commencement of the National Commission of Audit to assess the role and scope of Government and the spending of taxpayers’ money chaired by Tony Shepherd.
The Commission of Audit will provide an initial report to the Government before the end of January 2014 with the final report forming part of the 2014-15 Budget process.
The full terms of reference for the Commission can be found at http://www.financeminister.gov.au/docs/NCA_TERMS_OF_REFERENCE.pdf