27 September 2023

Audit short-circuits Indigenous network

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An audit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s management of a regional network for delivering programs and engaging with Indigenous Australians has found its effectiveness to be “mixed”.

In his report, Management of the Regional Network, Auditor-General, Grant Hehir said the network, which consisted of 12 geographic regions and two support branches, was designed to simplify reporting structures and enable decisions to be made closer to the people and communities that were impacted.

“The effectiveness of the Department’s management of the Regional Network is mixed,” Mr Hehir said.

“The full potential of the network to facilitate the design and delivery of local solutions to local problems by leveraging its understanding and connection to communities is not being maximised.”

He said the network operated as an important on-the-ground presence for the Australian Government, overseeing the delivery of programs and engaging with local communities.

“It is fundamental to the Government’s commitment of doing things ‘with’, not ‘to’ Indigenous people,” Mr Hehir said.

“The network is also a key mechanism for liaison with other Australian Government and State Government Departments that operate in similar arenas.”

He said the Department, through the network, had not effectively embedded arrangements to coordinate with key stakeholders; input into policy was inconsistent, and network officers had limited authority to make decisions that impacted on local Indigenous communities.

He said that while the Department had established appropriate reporting arrangements, performance monitoring was compromised by shortcomings in the performance measurement framework, and the Department had not evaluated the performance of the network.

The Department agreed to the Auditor’s five recommendations aimed at improving the performance of the network.

The Auditor-General’s 70-page report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Meegan Reinhard, Kelly Williamson, Clyde Muthukumaraswamy and Deborah Jackson.

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