Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Senator Sue Boyce Announces Agreement To Recommend Improvements To The Public Scrutiny of NEHTA. A Good Thing!

The following was sent to me today by her office.
September 26 2012


The Senate Community Affairs Committee had taken the unusual step of recommending that a Government agency, the National E-Health Transitional Authority, be required to report annually to Parliament, Queensland LNP Senator Sue Boyce said today.
At present NEHTA is not required to provide an annual report because of its corporate structure, despite the fact that it has already spent up to $1 billion dollars of taxpayers' money on the attempted introduction of a national E-Health system.
The authority is "owned" by the Federal and State Governments with the secretaries of all Health Departments as directors.
NEHTA has attended a number of Senate Estimates hearings, at the request of the Committee, and has received a significant number of questions on notice arising from those hearings, including questions around the issues of funding, expenditure and governance.
“It has also been the subject of on-going questions and criticisms about its performance and the delivery of products and outcomes that work and further the roll out of a national E-health system," Senator Sue said.
“I believe it would be fair to say both the Government and the Coalition have reservations about the performance of NEHTA.
“In its regular review of annual reports supplied by Government departments and agencies the all-party Senate Community Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, has recommended: 'Given NEHTA's significant public funding and responsibilities that go to Commonwealth policy and funding, the committee asks the government to consider whether, as a principal shareholder in NEHTA, it should make arrangements for the report to be presented to Parliament'.
“I've tried to ensure NEHTA is accountable so I really welcome this recommendation. The Gillard government must surely take it up in the interests of transparency and accountability,” Senator Sue said.
“NEHTA was to launch the cornerstone of the E-Health system, the Personally Controlled E-Health Record (PCEHR), on July 1 this year after five years of work but all they launched was a toll free number that didn’t work.
“Taxpayers should be able to scrutinise how Government bodies spend their money and making NEHTA supply a detailed annual report will greatly assist that process in regard to E-Health,” Senator Boyce said.
The link is to the relevant committee page:
The italics are the important part of the release.
I asked Senator Boyce’s office about the possibility of the ANAO conducting an audit of all this. The answer was just wonderful.
“Auditor has replied to our entreaties by saying
a. They have it on a list of future possibles
b. They believe that they need outcomes before an audit would have value!!!!
(We have expressed the view that expenditure=no outcomes =need for urgent audit)”
Catch 22 in alive and thriving in Canberra!
Amazing and horrifying stuff!


Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...


An audit is conducted in order to determine if the the process has been conducted according to the appropriate laws and regulations. (Think a tax audit - has someone broken a tax law?)

The question they ask is "did they break any laws?"

Assurance asks the question "did you do what you said you would do?". If you said you would manufacture concrete life jackets, then they would ask questions to see if see if you did.

They would not ask "are concrete life jackets any use?"

In both cases they do not assess if the expected outcome was reasonable.

The audit office in not really about questioning policy outcomes, just mechanisms.

I doubt that they have the expertise to identify if the technical decisions were reasonable or valid, even it they were permitted to.

That's why they said "they believe that they need outcomes before an audit would have value"

It's only what they are allowed do. So don't blame ANAO, they don't have the power or authority to do what you would like them to do.

I suspect the best they could come up with is:

1. They were a bit late, and

2. NEHTA and DOHA could have consulted more widely

which is a slap on the wrist.

Anonymous said...

NEHTA provides an excellent distraction whilst the real PCEHR action is happening at DOHA, and NEHTA is far removed from implementation and governance of actual systems in use. By all means hold NEHTA to account for what it said it would do and actually did, but if you have an interest in knowing what is really going on, follow the money and the power ... to DOHA.

And if that is where the focus shifts, senate estimates is still the best game in town.

Anonymous said...

Although not orthodox- maybe the productivity commission should be involved in a far more reaching set of recs looking at performance policy & future - we all know e health is imperative to future health system effective functioning but australians deserve much better roi than the current nehta - doha coupling