Erwin and Alice Springs News Online are not alone in …

Comment on With Gunner and Scullion, Batchelor doesn’t need Santa by John Bell.

Erwin and Alice Springs News Online are not alone in coming up empty when trying to extract public audit information about grants for Aboriginal education and Level III Certificates.
I had to jump through all the hoops over a three year period under the FOI Act to force the Dept if Health to release audit documents on expenditure of $2.1 million in grants to the Indigenous Marathon Project which gave out Certificate III accreditation to recipients through Rob de Castella’s SmartStart for Kids charity in 2010, 2011 and 2010.
I was required to engage the full FOI process of departmental refusal, then internal review, then Office of the Australian Information Commissioner review, then to an Administrative Appeal application and public hearing is a daunting, time consuming and mind-deadening task.
On the other hand, on isolation occasion I have experienced immediate release of Department information under FOI.
I have found that it is only when the Commonwealth Department and the grant recipient have something they don’t want the public to know, something to hide, that the public is forced to engage a daunting and often very costly process.
The process is designed to discourage the average punter from inquiry … to make him or her give up in frustration and go away.

John Bell Also Commented

With Gunner and Scullion, Batchelor doesn’t need Santa
@ Fred. I can only speak from my own experience in project design and implementation across the Commonwealth public service in remote communities. Particularly in sports administration. Saw it in housing, education, health and general employment.
I was fortunate to be in Alice in 1967 when the Training Allowance Scheme was first implemented, leading to the tsunami of idealistic and impractical project implementation madness that blossomed under Whitlam and successive governments too frightened to blow the whistle. I then saw it entrenched in Canberra through the 1980s and 90s.
From what I have experienced, I have no doubt whatsoever that there remains a bureaucratic mindset that allows a soft, patronising approach to project design, the setting and meeting of ridiculous KPIs, the granting of huge amounts of public funding that is not properly monitored and too often written off in bad debts.
There is a cancer in the administrative system that too easily allows government departments to paper over and whitewash financial mismanagement and cost ineffectiveness that would see ordinary citizens facing allegations of fraud if shown the light of day.
So many of my old colleagues can cite examples that would not be believed by urbanites today.


With Gunner and Scullion, Batchelor doesn’t need Santa
@ Fred: It was the system at Territory Administrator level 1968-1973 in Darwin that turned a blind eye to phantom trainees on the payroll in most remote communities. Auditors John Glazebrook and Terry Oldroyd picked up 100 phantoms at a single community Docker River River circa 1970. Paid for two years. Hushed up. Buried.
Then it was the system that turned a blind eye everywhere in the Whitlam era in the Toyota Dreaming time. I saw the scandalous projects dreamed up and funded in their hundreds.
Who can ever forget the Angora Goat Project at Papunya? Those who saw it all unfolding and dared to protest were told to shut their mouths and labelled racist if they were white, Uncle Toms if they were black.
This mindset has been entrenched in the system in Canberra forever now. Meeting meaningful KPIs with due diligence and Departmental transparency in the monitoring of grants are just words.
Twisted to mean anything the system wants them to mean in any given, government-favoured project. A Wonderland fantasy.
Good people have been trying to eradicate this cancer in the system ever since I can remember, but I fear they are not winning.


With Gunner and Scullion, Batchelor doesn’t need Santa
@ Fred: There are great teachers who put in 110% on communities but they are pressured by the system.
The rotten apple here is the government grant system that fudges the results. Jack pinpoints it in education. I saw it over a lot of years in Aboriginal sports admin in Canberra. Low expectations and ticking KPI boxes that do not measure up.
The 2012 audit on $2.1 million in the Indigenous Marathon Project is a classic. When these issues are picked up in audits such as this one,
http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/foi%20122-1314
there is no transparency in head office.
Note the auditors’ concerns in Document 2 about enormous expenditure amounts in the funding columns headed “Attachment A: Expenses which do not appear to be for the purposes of the Indigenous Marathon Project” and “Attachment B: Payments for management services”.
A cover up occurs and a secretive departmental strategy is put in place to make the problem disappear as if by magic, such as this one which went all the way up to Minister Snowdon.
http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/foi-030-1516
Note in page 2 of Document 3 the First Assistant Secretary’s “issues of concern to which there is an imperative to respond without further delay”.
Note the two and a half pages of blacked out strategy that we mug punters will never be privy to.
An official new broom is put thru the old org and it is given a fresh start without Joe or Josephine Public ever being any the wiser.
The wasted, diverted and siphoned money gets lost in the wash, never to be seen again.
And the core problem stays in the system. A sub culture that will continue to re-occur, dudding everyone – Aboriginal students, sport lifestyle trainees, teachers, coaches et al.

[ED – We have offered the right of reply to the Indigenous Marathon.]


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