On 1 February 2020, Services Australia was established as an Executive Agency within the Social Services portfolio with responsibility for: the design, development, delivery, co-ordination and monitoring of government services and payments relating to social security, child support, students, families, aged care and health programs (excluding Health provider compliance). It also provides the Australian Government with advice on the delivery of government services and payments; and collaborates with other agencies, providers and businesses to deliver convenient, accessible and efficient services to individuals, families and communities.
Services Australia delivers services across four areas: delivery of payments and services on behalf of another entity (such as income support payments); delivery of services to another entity (for example, corporate shared services such as payroll or ICT); provision of shared premises arrangements; and exchange of data or information.
Services Australia delivers payments and services to and on behalf of 34 Australian Government entities. These services are underpinned by bilateral agreements between Services Australia and each entity.
To provide coverage of the four types of services delivered by Services Australia, three other entities were included in this audit: the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Agriculture), and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Collectively, these entities represent all four types of services that Services Australia either delivers on behalf of other entities or provides to entities.
The audit objective was to examine the effectiveness of bilateral agreement arrangements between Services Australia and other entities. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level criteria:
- Were the bilateral agreements effective in supporting the delivery of the payment or service objectives?
- Were effective arrangements in place to support the successful implementation of payments and services under bilateral agreements?
- The bilateral agreement arrangements between Services Australia and Agriculture, DVA and NDIA are largely effective.
- Services Australia’s Bilateral Agreements Framework underpins a wide range of bilateral agreements that effectively support the delivery of payments and services, except for some agreements that did not include appropriate risk statements or review points.
- Partly effective arrangements were in place to support the delivery of payments and services under the bilateral arrangements between Services Australia and the three entities. Approaches for managing bilateral arrangements across the entities were largely effective, including for recovering costs. In managing agreements, some improvements are required in risk management, specifying roles and responsibilities, and issues escalation and resolution. There was limited effectiveness in performance monitoring and reporting arrangements between Services Australia and the three entities, with missing service levels, inconsistent reporting and a lack of analysis of performance reports by the three entities receiving services.