Community Affairs 23 February 2011
Senator SIEWERT—I have another one that you may say to do somewhere else. I am going to be asking this in several portfolio areas: how much does the department spend on managing contracts and grants with NGOs?
Ms Halton—We probably cannot do it by NGOs. We have done quite a bit of work as part of the strategic review on what we think we spend, in macro terms, on managing grants in toto. I cannot disaggregate it.
Senator SIEWERT—Between commercial and NGOs?
Senator SIEWERT—Is it possible to get that in terms of the figures that you spend managing grants?
Senator SIEWERT—Is that possible?
Ms Halton—This is in order of magnitudes because this is a rather inexact science. Trying to work out what every single person does with every second of their day and then attributing every dollar is quite difficult but we can do orders of magnitude. Does that make sense?
Mr Stuart—In terms of a broad order of magnitude, the effort in the department across staffing to administer grants of all types, all grants under program expenditure, amounts to nearly a quarter of the department’s staffing base, which is around 1,000 people.
Senator SIEWERT—Have you got that worked out in dollar value?
Mr Stuart—Not dollar value. To get a slightly more precise number than around 1,000, I could take it on
notice and we could multiply the number by the average ASL costs that we currently apply.
Ms Halton—It would be about a quarter.
Mr Stuart—It is about a quarter of the department.
Senator SIEWERT—I am asking about the dollar value because I want to know whether you have to get
outside advice for drawing up contracts or whether you do all that internally, for example.
Mr Stuart—In the main, grant agreements within the department are done using a standard grant agreement template that has been long used inside the department and improved over time. From time to time there are particular issues on particular grants which are more tricky for one reason or another and for which sometimes external legal advice is sought.
Senator SIEWERT—Going back to your comment about the fact that you cannot tell us whether it is commercial or not for profit, is that not flagged in the computer system?
Mr Stuart—Essentially, we know what grants are going to what kinds of organisation, but we cannot separately disaggregate the staff effort inside particular programs. Often, within a program some of the money goes to a not-for-profit organisation and some may go to a for-profit entity; sometimes the line between a not-for-profit and for-profit entity can be quite small.
Senator SIEWERT—I appreciate that.
Mr Stuart—Actually, it is the disaggregation of the staff effort that would be difficult.
Senator SIEWERT—Let me tackle it another way. Would you be able to tell me what proportion of the contracts you have are commercial and, bearing in mind that I understand the fuzzy boundary, what proportion are not for profit and for profit?
Mr Stuart—We would have to take that on notice, but we could have a reasonable go at that.
Senator SIEWERT—That would be appreciated, thanks. We have a chief medical officer and a chief nurse; has any consideration been given to whether you should be looking at a chief allied health officer, someone to take responsibility for all those sorts of areas?
Senator SIEWERT—Have you ever considered it?
Ms Halton—No. Firstly, it has not been put to me, to be honest with you. Secondly, I think you have to think about what role somebody like that might play, because allied health is a very broad church. If I look round to the back of this room, there are a bunch of people back there with medical degrees, psychology degrees, nursing degrees—I could go on. There is a fairly healthy dose of professional input in the department. Nursing is an enormous employer and is a mainstay. It is huge, as you well know. Medicine goes without saying; it is the same. No, it has not been raised with me, and I cannot say it has occurred to me as being necessary.