Online version of the 2014-15 Department of Health Annual Report

3.2: External Liaison and Scrutiny

We value transparency and accountability

Page last updated: 16 October 2015

In 2014-15, the Department, through its Audit and Fraud Control Branch, worked with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) providing responses to proposed audit findings and recommendations prior to the Auditor-General presenting his reports in Parliament.

The Department also liaised with the Commonwealth Ombudsman on complaints relating to aspects of the Department’s administrative activities. Information on the Auditor-General’s reports and the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s complaints is set out below.

Australian National Audit Office

During 2014-15, the ANAO tabled four audits specific to the Department:

  • Administration of the Medical Specialist Training Program43
  • Administration of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement44
  • Diagnostic Imaging Reforms45
  • Implementation of Audit Recommendations46

There were no cross-agency audits involving the Department in 2014-15.

Audits specific to the Department

Audit: Administration of the Medical Specialist Training Program
Audit Report No.26 of 2014-15, tabled 10 March 2015
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of the Department’s administration of the Specialist Training Program (STP).

The audit focused on key aspects of the Department’s administration of the STP since the consolidation of funding programmes in 2009, and the achievement of key programme targets and objectives. To assess the Department’s grants administration, the ANAO focused on the fourth annual grant funding round (the 2014 round) which was completed in December 2013 and funded training positions from the beginning of 2014.
Recommendations: The ANAO made one recommendation aimed at improving the transparency and equity of the Department’s grants administration by: reviewing programme guidelines and assessment criteria to incorporate lessons learned from funding rounds; and providing operational guidance to staff on moderation or other quality control processes to be applied to assessments by third-party advisers.
Audit: Administration of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement
Audit Report No.25 of 2014-15, tabled 5 March 2015
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of the development and administration of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement (5CPA), and the extent to which the 5CPA has met its objectives.

The audit examined the development and negotiation of the 5CPA by the then Department of Health and Ageing (now the Department of Health), and the administration of the 5CPA by the Department. The audit also examined aspects of the 5CPA that were implemented by the Department of Human Services (Human Services) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).
Recommendations: The ANAO made eight recommendations aimed at improving the overall administration of the 5CPA and informing the development of the next community pharmacy agreement. Seven recommendations are directed to the Department, and relate to: the development of costings; improving the clarity of the next agreement and related public reporting; record-keeping; and improving performance information. A further recommendation directed to the Department, Human Services and DVA focuses on improving the accuracy of the Department’s calculation of pharmacy remuneration for reporting and evaluation purposes.
Audit: Diagnostic Imaging Reforms
Audit Report No.12 of 2014-15, tabled 11 December 2014
Objective: The audit objective was to assess the effectiveness of the Department’s implementation of the Diagnostic Imaging Review Reform Package, some three years into the five year reform period.
Recommendations: The ANAO has made two recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of the Department’s implementation of remaining initiatives by: assessing progress made to date; developing an overall implementation plan to provide strategic direction and a basis for assessing the realisation of anticipated outcomes and benefits; and preparing targeted plans which identify proposed actions to progress key initiatives not yet implemented, including the review of Medicare Benefits Schedule fees for diagnostic imaging and ‘appropriate requesting’ of diagnostic imaging services.

To achieve full implementation of the reform package by 30 June 2016, as announced in the 2011-12 Budget context, will be challenging and will require a strong Departmental focus and effective engagement with key stakeholders.
Audit: Implementation of Audit Recommendations
Audit Report No.8 of 2014-15, tabled 26 November 2014
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of the Department’s monitoring and implementation of both ANAO performance audit and internal audit recommendations.

The ANAO examined a sample of 220 ANAO performance audit and internal audit recommendations to assess the timeliness of the Department’s implementation of the recommendations. The ANAO also analysed in detail a subset of seven closed ANAO performance audit recommendations and seven closed internal audit recommendations to assess the adequacy of the implementation of the recommendations.
Recommendations: The ANAO made one recommendation focusing on the introduction of measures to improve the Department’s internal processes for monitoring the implementation of audit recommendations, including: the recording of expected deliverables and timeframes; requiring formal requests for extensions to implementation dates; seeking appropriate assurance of implementation before closing recommendations; and recording the basis of decisions to close audit recommendations as implemented.

Other Parliamentary Scrutiny

During 2014-15, the Department received a total of 87 Parliamentary Questions on Notice from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and 946 Senate Estimates Questions on Notice.

Attendance at Senate Estimates hearings

Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs

The Department appeared before the Community Affairs Legislation Committee (Senate Estimates) on three occasions during 2014-15 for a total of four days:

  • Supplementary Budget Estimates – 22 October 2014
  • Additional Budget Estimates – 25 February 2015
  • Budget Estimates – 1 and 2 June 2015.

Senate Standing Committees on Finance and Public Administration

The Department appeared before the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee on three occasions during 2014-15 for a total of three days:

  • Supplementary Budget Estimates – 24 October 2014
  • Additional Budget Estimates – 27 February 2015
  • Budget Estimates – 29 May 2015.

Evidence and/or submissions to Parliamentary Committee inquiries

Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs

Legislation Committee
  • Health Workforce Australia (Abolition) Bill 2014 [Provisions]
  • Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014 [Provisions]
  • National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014
  • Private Health Insurance Amendment (GP Services) Bill 2014
  • Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014
  • Private Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2014.
References Committee
  • Out-of-pocket costs in Australian healthcare
  • Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia
  • Grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren
  • Availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia
  • Adequacy of existing residential care arrangements available for young people with severe physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in Australia.

Senate Standing Committees on Economics – Legislation Committee

  • National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2015 [Provisions].

Senate Select Committee on Health

  • The Department appeared before the Committee on seven separate occasions during 2014-15.

Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs – Legislation Committee

  • Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014.

Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport

Legislation Committee
  • Biosecurity Bill 2014 and Related Bills Inquiry.
References Committee
  • Current requirements for labelling of seafood and seafood products.
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health
  • Inquiry into skin cancer
  • Inquiry into hepatitis C.

Judicial Decisions and Decisions of Administrative Appeals Tribunals

During 2014-15, the Department was involved in two matters in the High Court, three matters in the Full Federal Court, 16 matters in the Federal Court, 29 matters in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and three decisions were made by the Australian Information Commissioner.

Freedom of Information

The Information Publication Scheme is a requirement under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) that requires all agencies subject to the FOI Act to publish information about what is available to the public. The Department’s plan showing the information published in accordance with this requirement can be found at the Department of Health website.

Documents that the Department has released in response to FOI requests can be found on the Disclosure Log at the Department of Health website.

Decisions of the Australian Information Commissioner

The Australian Information Commissioner made three decisions on applications for review of FOI decisions by the Department: two decisions were affirmed and one decision was varied.

Reports on the operations of the Department by the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Anyone with concerns about the Department’s actions or decision-making is entitled to make a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, to determine whether the Department was wrong, unjust, discriminatory or unfair. Further information on the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman is available at the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.

During 2014-15, the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated six complaints against the Department’s administrative practices. These six complaints investigations are now closed. Two investigations were carried over from 2013-14 but were subsequently closed by the Ombudsman’s Office.

During 2014-15, the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office released one report regarding the Department; Department of Health: Avoiding, acknowledging and fixing mistakes - Investigation of a complaint about the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority.47

Reporting Requirements under Section 108 of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011

The Department, pursuant to section 108 of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (the Act), reports that in the financial year 2014-15, 226 alleged contraventions of the Act were investigated. Of those matters investigated, none have resulted in criminal prosecutions or civil penalty orders.

A copy of this report has been provided to the Minister for Health.