Design of CDP Not Informed Entirely by Sound Analysis: ANAO
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has tabled its report on the Design and Implementation of the Community Development Programme (CDP).
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the transition of the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP) to CDP, including whether CDP is well designed and administered effectively and efficiently.
In Jobs Australia’s submission to the ANAO Audit, we reported that a lack of transparent and formalised consultations with communities and providers has been an ongoing issue, going back to the design of CDP. RJCP had barely started before it had been determined to be failing and in need of major change, raising questions about the rationale for change that was proposed at the time. It is now clearer that reducing the so-called ‘high level of idleness in communities’ through ‘continuous’ Work for the Dole was a key policy driver.
In its main findings, the ANAO found that the transition from RJCP to CDP was largely effective, but there is scope to improve the incentives for providers to transition jobseekers from Work for the Dole into real ongoing employment.
The ANAO found that the implementation was supported by an external review (mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s Creating Parity review of Indigenous training and employment), stakeholder engagement and an effective communication strategy.
It also noted that PM&C has established appropriate governance, key program frameworks and guidance material. The performance monitoring arrangements were found to be transparent and linked to program objectives.
While the ANAO may have been satisfied about the transition from RJCP to CDP, it acknowledged the short timeframes impacted on the ability of providers to understand the changes prior to implementation. It is too early to tell whether CDP is administered effectively.
There is a lot in the report to indicate that CDP was not well designed. Firstly, the changes introduced by CDP were not informed entirely by a sound evidence base and sound analysis of RJCP data. The Report suggests that PM&C’s analysis of participation in employment and participation activities under RJCP was inadequate, because it did not take account of all the activities job seekers were engaged in, such as training and the Remote Youth Leadership and Development Corps. If all RJCP activities had been taken into consideration, 65% of RJCP jobseekers were participating in RJCP agreed activities in December 2014. Further, the Report says that PM&C were unable to provide evidence to the ANAO to support its advice to Government in October 2014 that there had been a 90 per cent reduction in job seekers achieving employment for more than 26 weeks under RJCP compared to the previous year’s employment outcomes achieved in remote areas under Jobs Services Australia.
Other criticisms in the Report included:
- The payment structure reduced incentives for providers to place jobseekers into ongoing employment
- There is scope for greater transparency on the calculation of Regional Employment Targets. A review of the RET was supposed to be finished by September, but is still underway.
- Evaluation appears to have been an afterthought. PM&C’s evaluation strategy was developed late, reducing scope to collect baseline data that could inform an evaluation of CDP’s impacts. It was also not peer reviewed by a reference group.
- 26 week outcome payments under CDP are lower than those for the most highly disadvantaged jobseekers under the mainstream Employment Services 2015 model, with no additional fees to for interventions to address non-vocational and vocational barriers.
- Stakeholders noted that there is no mechanism for communities and councils to provide input into CDP, and PM&C has advised that it is developing a detailed consultation plan for all stakeholders, as part of consultation on a potential new employment and participation model for remote Australia.
- The Employer Incentive Fund and Indigenous Enterprise fund were significantly undersubscribed.
In the media, The Australian focused on financial waste and alleged provider rorting uncovered by the ANAO Report, drawing attention to claims for dead people and prisoners, providers lying about attendance and misappropriating funds. It suggested that PM&C were not referring as many providers to their fraud team as it should. While CDP cost almost double the cost of its predecessor, it had only delivered marginal improvements over its predecessor, the RJCP.