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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 90

(Question No. 877)

Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, upon notice, on 14 December 1993:

  (1) Is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) currently funding the training of Local Government Aboriginal-elected members through the Australian Local Government Training Board.

  (2) What is the level of funding available under the program, both in total, and for each financial year.

  (3) What was the total number of training days in the 1992-93 financial year.

  (4) Has a preliminary evaluation of the program been undertaken; if so, who undertook the evaluation and what changes, if any, to the administration of the program were suggested.

  (5) Have any additional funds been paid to the Australian Local Government Training Board by ATSIC in the 1993/94 financial year; if so, how much.

  (6) If funds were made available, were any additional requirements placed on the training board to ensure that the training provided more accurately reflected the level of funding made available.

  (7) What percentage of funding for the programs was originally budgeted for project management and has this amount varied; if so, what percentage is now being budgeted for project management.

  (8) Is the Minister aware that the Auditor of the Australian Local Government Training Board in the 1993-94 financial year report commented that the board's accounts were not presented in accordance with normal accounting standards, and that the board required an injection of funds if it was to continue.

  (9) What arrangements are in place to ensure that these Commonwealth funds are only spent on the purpose for which they were provided.

Senator Collins —The Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission has provided the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs with the following information in response to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes. This project commenced when, in June 1992, the Department of Employment, Education and Training contracted the Australian Local Government Training Board to initiate an elected member training program for Aboriginal elected members and potential elected members in the Northern Territory. Following the Government decision to transfer the community training elements of the Training for Aboriginals Program to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the project, which was supported by the Commission, was transferred in July 1992.

  (2) The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission accepted the Department of Employment Education and Training commitment of $479,500 in the transfer of the project. The grant was initially approved in the expectation that the project would be completed in one year; concluding 30 June 1993. The project was the subject of two major changes. These changes primarily concerned an initial expansion of the round of community consultations followed by community rather than regional based delivery. The changes resulted in the extension of the project to June 1994 but not an increase in the overall level of funding. Two payments, totalling $239,750 were made in the 1992/93 financial year and to date one payment of $119,875 has been made this financial year. A further final payment is due after the receipt of a detailed acquittal of past grants to the Australian Local Government Training Board.

  (3) None. Twenty five days of on site consultation with thirty eight communities were held in the financial year 1992/93. The prime outcome of the consultations was a realisation that communities felt they would learn more from the formal training if it was based upon community visits by the trainer. Such training commenced in the second half of 1993; (25 communities with 241 participants).

  (4) Yes. David Menzel & Associates, Local Government, Rural and Tourism Consultants undertook an evaluation. An interim report was addressed by a Monitoring Committee comprising representatives of the ATSIC representative and administrative arms, Department of Employment Education and Training, NT State Government, Local Government organisations and the Australian Services Union.

  The Project Consultant, Mr David Clifton, has also prepared reports on the delivery of the project. The Monitoring Committee then recommended the second major change referred to in point (2). That change required a delivery phase based upon individual community needs rather than the series of three day workshops in regional centres originally proposed. The first change had involved an expansion of the community consultation phase.

  (5) No additional funds were either requested from or provided by ATSIC for this project.

  (6) Additional funds were not made available. The Monitoring Committee has formally met on ten occasions to discuss the project and the training being provided through the project. The Local Government Training Board(NT) was sub-contracted by the Australian Local Government Training Board to implement the project.

  (7) Approximately 18% of the total cost of the project was allocated for project management for a one year project; financial year 1992/93. This increased to about 24% in a budget supplied by the Australian Local Government Training Board dated July 1993, after the Monitoring Committee recommended a second six month extension of the project. The increase in project management was not unexpected given that the project had, with the assistance of the Monitoring Committee, to go through a refinement phase. During this phase budget changes became necessary.

  (8) No. It should be noted that when the Australian Local Government Training Board, (formerly Council), sought and obtained the third release of funds from ATSIC, it forwarded a Board's audit report dated 21/9/93. In this the auditor stated that the "financial report presents fairly the financial position of the Council as at 30 June 1993 and the results of the Council for the year then ended in accordance with Statements of Accounting Concepts, applicable Accounting Standards and the requirement of the Council's constitution." On the basis of that information the third release of $119,875 was made.

  ATSIC subsequently obtained from the ALGTB another document prepared by the same auditor, dated 10/9/93, which had not been previously supplied. This document is described as a management request, not an audit report. It expressed concern with the Board's accounting procedures. Specifically, problems with the identification of direct costs attributable to particular projects. The auditor also confirmed the need for additional operational funding for the ALGTB. A detailed acquittal of the funds released to date is being sought by ATSIC from the ALGTB prior to the final release being made.

  (9) As already mentioned the developmental nature of this project has meant that the expenditure items within the overall budget have changed over time. The Monitoring Committee was aware that it was to endorse the project as it was developed and implemented. Budget changes have been brought to the Monitoring Committee's attention on four occasions since June 1992.

  ATSIC has standard project management procedures in place. The final quarterly release will not be made until ATSIC has received a detailed response to its enquiries in relation to the $359,625 released to date.