Government denies Indigenous funding overhaul a 'disaster'
The Federal Government has denied it made any blunders when rolling out its flagship Indigenous Affairs funding scheme, despite a scathing report into the program.
- The Australian National Audit Office says the department "did not effectively implement the strategy"
- Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says he did not think errors were made
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the report was a "shameful indictment"
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) moved more than 3,000 existing agreements for Indigenous programs into five broad funding streams overseen by the Prime Minister's department.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said the department "did not effectively implement the strategy".
The independent watchdog said deadlines were missed, records were not kept and funding guidelines were disregarded.
But Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he did not think errors were made.
"I don't accept that this was some sort of disaster at all," Senator Scullion told the ABC.
"All of these criticisms are about departments and processes. What my job is to do is focus on what people who receive the services think.
"The fact is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as a consequence of these remarkable changes, are far better off."
Negotiations took place over short timeframe
The IAS is overseeing nearly $5 billion in Commonwealth funding over four years but was designed over just seven weeks in 2014.
The ANAO report said negotiations with grant recipients took place in a short timeframe and were largely verbal.
"There is limited assurance that negotiations were fair and transparent," it said.
"The department's grants administration processes fell short of the standard required.
"Limited assurance is available that the projects funded support the department's desired outcomes."
Program flawed from the start: Greens
Federal Opposition Leader and Indigenous Affairs spokesman Bill Shorten said the report was a "shameful indictment" and the Government's approach to Indigenous affairs was "hopeless".
"Ever since Tony Abbott introduced these policies it's been a disaster," Mr Shorten said.
"Our First Australians are worse off since the Coalition Government's been in and nothing that Mr Turnbull's done seems to have changed anything.
"What I'd like to see them do is put their hand up to take responsibility."
Greens spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said while the report was scathing, it was not surprising.
"From the start this program was flawed," Senator Siewert said.
"Those issues were raised at the time, the Government ignored it and finally a couple of years down the track we have confirmation of the flaws in the process and in the strategy.
"They need to start again in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."
Hours before the ANAO report was released, Senator Scullion announced $40 million would be spent over four years to improve the evaluation of Indigenous programmes.
He said the Government had also released new guidelines for IAS applicants and was giving more support to organisations developing funding proposals.