” It is very frustrating that we have another report from the Australian National Audit Office raising serious concerns about the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s management of Indigenous Affairs. ,
In this case, it is the arrangements for the evaluation of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy which is a multi-billion dollar investment.
The report tells us that five years after the introduction of the IAS, the Department is only in the early stages of implementing an evaluation framework and that there has been substantial delays.
That is not good enough for the Department in charge of the Australian public service. ”
Pat Turner NACCHO CEO
Download the full ANAO report HERE
“The prime minister’s department acknowledged the findings of the audit report but said the strategy was set up within a “very challenging timeframe”.
It was “moving into a more mature phase of implementation that draws on lessons learned”.
The report made four recommendations, which the department agreed to and was already working to meet.
It intended to revise the strategy’s guidelines, and improve the application process and its own record keeping.
The Indigenous Australians minister, Ken Wyatt, said he “acknowledges the frustration we all share that we are not seeing quick enough progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians”.
“This is why Coag has agreed governments – both commonwealth and states and territories – and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will share ownership of and responsibility for a jointly agreed framework and targets and ongoing monitoring of the Closing the Gap agenda,” he said.
Labor, the Greens and peak Indigenous groups say the government must overhaul its Indigenous advancement strategy after a report found that the $5.1bn program was not being properly evaluated and did not align with the government’s policy objectives.
From The Guardian 19 June
” After five years and $4.8 billion dollars, a new Auditor General’s report has revealed the Liberals and Nationals still can’t say whether their Indigenous Advancement Strategy is working.
Serious questions about the administration of the IAS have been swirling for years. Funding decisions have been notoriously opaque and the effectiveness of many programs is unclear.
This new report confirms the IAS has been operating for years without proper evaluation processes. Despite the former Minister being warned by his Department in 2016:
“At some point the current situation will become untenable as it is not sustainable to continue to fund activities that lack a good evidence base.”
[ANAO Report, p21, 2019]
Labor Response to ANAO report
Download Press Release Here
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C or the department) has been the lead agency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs since 2013.
With the introduction of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) in 2014, 27 programs were consolidated into five broad programs under a single outcome, with $4.8 billion initially committed over four years from 2014–15.
The Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO’s) performance audit of the IAS (Auditor-General Report No.35 2016–17) noted that the department did not have a formal evaluation strategy or evaluation funding for the IAS for its first two years.
In February 2017 the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announced funding of $40 million over four years from 2017–18 to strengthen IAS evaluation, which would be underpinned by a formal evidence and evaluation framework.
In February 2018 the department released an IAS evaluation framework document, describing high level principles for how evaluations of IAS programs should be conducted, and outlining future capacity-building activities and broad governance arrangements.
Part 1 Pat Turner comments continued
It follows a string of bad audits starting with the audit of the IAS which found that the Department had not consulted properly in designing the IAS and rolling out a disastrous application process that led to many community controlled organisations losing their funding without reason.
Now the Government has decided to set up a new executive agency, inside the Prime Minister’s portfolio but outside the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to manage Indigenous Affairs.
It is good that a separate agency for Indigenous Affairs is being re-established as it is one of the most important functions of the Commonwealth.
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders never asked or supported Indigenous Affairs being moved into the department of the Prime Minister and it is clear it has not done a good job on the IAS.
Whether setting up a new agency gets better outcomes remains to be seen.
Many say that the very disruptive shift of Indigenous Affairs into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has resulted in Indigenous Affairs being hollowed out and a loss of nearly all the capacity that it had before.
In the meantime, we are pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to a new COAG Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap which includes agreement to an Indigenous led evaluation of Closing the Gap progress after 3 years.
We think that bringing the representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into the equation, and allowing them to share decision making about Government policy, programs and evaluation will improve outcomes.
It will allow us to hold agencies much more to account for what they are doing and not doing.
But we also have to commit to building up the community controlled organisations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples to manage programs and deliver services to our people.
That is key to closing the gap and there are some signs that this is understood by the Coalition Government which committed in its election policy to increasing the Aborginal service sector.
That must go to giving them the responsibility for delivering programs and funding instead of public servants.
This audit shows that it is time for a radical shift away from governments and public servants to Aboriginal led delivery through their own community controlled organisations.
They will take responsibility for outcomes in a way that the public servants do not.