|Title||ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE
Program 2--Resource management framework
Subprogram 2.1--Resource management practices
|Committee Name|| ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
|Department||DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE
|Program||Program 2--Resource management framework
|Questioner|| Senator PARER
|Sub program||Subprogram 2.1--Resource management practices
Senator PARER --What services, if any, does the department provide on a cost recovery basis?
Mr Barrett --I will wait for my colleague to come forward, Senator, but, to start off the answers to your question, there is a range of services. We have a small consultancy unit that is assisting departments in the implementation of accounting frameworks and particularly financial management information systems. That is fully cost recovered, that unit. Other than what we call our core financial management and budgeting and general resource management training, particularly in concert with other departments and probably mostly with the regional offices, we recover costs for training above our core training in those areas. Those are the two major ones that immediately come to mind. In general, as with other departments, where we have funds appropriated for our core activities, we provide those on a cost free basis. It is where we engage in activities that are allied to our core business but not strictly part of the core business that in fact, particularly if we are requested to, we endeavour to recover costs.
Senator PARER --Has the department charged overseas delegations for advice or briefings?
Mr Barrett --This is a question that has come up and we have discussed it. I will look to my colleague on my right in a minute to respond in particular cases. We are aware of the sensitivity in so far as ensuring that there are reciprocal arrangements, where in fact delegations from Australia are received overseas et cetera without any additional cost. There are circumstances, of course, where individual agencies requested it and then the question is what additional services are required from Finance in so far as a presentation to an international delegation is concerned. Specific instances my colleague on my right can address.
Mr Bartos --We have charged some overseas delegations and not others, the principle being that, in situations where we see some benefit for Australia in learning from the practices of an overseas country or an overseas delegation, where there has been some sort of mutual benefit, it has clearly been inappropriate to charge. In other instances where there has not been that element of mutuality then there has been a charge levied. In some instances the charge has been met through aid funding in cases of overseas delegations that are here for the purposes of overseas aid, and we have run training courses in consultation with AIDAB on that sort of basis.
There have been a number of instances of overseas delegations. The Australian public sector management framework and the management improvement initiatives that we have been undertaking over the past 10 years are widely known overseas. There is a great deal of interest in it and for that reason there is a quite heavy demand on us from overseas countries to come and learn what we have been doing. In terms of rationing that demand, we have felt that charging was appropriate. Australia's own interests in seeing even a very tiny return for the investment that we have made in developing our resource management framework also come into it.
In all of these instances, from memory, we have consulted with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Obviously, we would not want to be charging in a situation where that would lead to adverse effects on the nation in terms our relations with foreign governments and so on. Certainly there have been some visiting delegations of overseas ministers that I have spoken with, and in that sort of situation we have not obviously charged. So that gives you the general picture. I can give you instances of particular countries and circumstances, if you need those.
Senator PARER --Yes, if you could.
Mr Barrett --The point is that we, as other departments, have a limited resourcing capability in this area. As a central department that has these responsibilities, those services are in constant demand. Either it is a case of having to set priorities and refuse particular requests that are made or we have some additional resource capability, which we have to charge for. That is understood, particularly if it is being met out of the funding of the agencies concerned that made the invitation to the particular overseas government representatives.
Senator PARER --Can you give me--not now but later--the details of that? Does the department charge any Australian organisations or individuals for advice or briefings?
Mr Barrett --Not to my knowledge. There are certainly circumstances, which I outlined earlier, where we would charge for particular programs, such as training programs.
Senator PARER --But that is with agencies rather than the government, is it not?
Mr Barrett --Yes, they are agencies other than the government. We do have private sector people attending some of the training seminars, conferences and workshops.
Senator PARER --What sorts of training seminars? Give me an example of the sort of training.
Mr Barrett --On financial systems. That is a clear one. That is other than core activities, as I was saying to you earlier. There is a lot of interest out there, particularly in the commercial environment, in what is required within the Commonwealth financial system. The same would go for information technology, for instance. Where we have run seminars and workshops, we typically try to recover the costs of the venues associated with that. There have been many private sector organisations that have an interest in information technology that have been interested in attending those. Of course, they have simply paid the fee, as everyone else has done.
Senator PARER --You do not see it as fairly extraordinary that Australian organisations or individuals seeking knowledge of how the Australian financial system works should be paying you a fee to find out?
Mr Barrett --Again, it is the question of what are our core requirements, and we do provide a number of seminars and workshops that we regard as being core. It is beyond our core requirements where we have additional demands. We meet what is our public responsibility as well as we can with the resources the parliament appropriates to us but, if there are demands within the industry, which are reflected by testing the marketplace, then we feel obliged to provide those to the extent to which our resources are available. In many instances it is not simply us. In many cases it is a cooperative arrangement with the particular commercial interests involved. In fact, there would be other contributors as well. As I said, really the question is about the on-costs associated with the venues. That is the real issue.
Senator PARER --You may well have answered this previously. I think you responded by saying that it is not your core activity. I presume you have guidelines. How do you decide whom you are going to charge and whom you are not going to charge?
Mr Barrett --I think Mr Bartos did give you at least an indication of the way in which it is assessed in the circumstances he described. When we give you the examples, if you are happy about that, we will describe the basis on which we charge.
Senator PARER --Okay. How are the charges determined? Is it just straight cost recovery?
Mr Barrett --Again, it depends on their nature, as I said earlier. With the consulting unit that we have, its charges to other departments are on a full cost basis. And with some of these other training arrangements, I have suggested that we have a range. At the very least, we might charge for the venues associated with the training effort. In other cases, if we have outside speakers that we have to pay for, that would be included as part of the charging mechanism.
Senator PARER --Do you know if any other departments charge for their advice or briefings in this way?
Mr Barrett --As far as I am aware, and I leave other departments to speak for themselves, there are circumstances in which departments run a similar sort of arrangement in terms of seminars and workshops as we do.
Senator PARER --Does the Department of Finance provide guidelines to those other departments so that they have got consistency across government?
Mr Barrett --There are general guidelines in terms of financial management which are probably at a high level, but at least give an indication to departments as to how they would charge in certain circumstances, and the costing basis. We do have costing guidelines that we provide to departments. These are in printed booklets and they are updated regularly; and these are provided to departments.
Senator PARER --Could you give me a copy of those guidelines?
Mr Barrett --Yes.
Senator PARER --Thank you.
CHAIRMAN --There being no further questions, that completes program 2.