Michelle Lensink

Alternative Care

A question put forward to the Hon. T.G. ROBERTS regarding any conflict of interest that may have existed within the contract process in relation to Alternative Care.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Will the government provide information regarding any conflict of interest that may have existed within the contract process?

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: I will refer that question along with the other questions to the minister in another place and bring back a reply.

  

Thursday 22 July 2004

In reply to Hon. KATE REYNOLDS (26 February).

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (26 February).

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Families and Communities has advised:

1. Will the minister confirm that prior to the middle of last year, that is after the Layton report was released, the government failed to consult with any non-government agencies, including those that have been at the front line in providing care for families and children in South Australia (for the past seven years), as to the type of service arrangements that would best meet the needs of children and families?

The government has held regular forums with alternative care service providers with a view to collaborative improvement and review of alternative care systems and services since 2001. Between May 2001 and July 2002, as part of the Review of Alternative Care in South Australia (March 2002), the government engaged in 14 months targeted consultation including extensive consultation with alternative care providers.

Since the release of the Review of Alternative Care, key stakeholders, including alternative care service providers, have met as the Pre-Implementation Steering Group. In September 2002 the steering group endorsed the review findings and made recommendations to the Minister.

The findings of the forums and review informed the development of service specifications in the July 2003 Request for Tender (RFT) document.

No consultation occurred during this phase of developing the RFT to ensure probity for the tender process.

For the same reason, there has been no further consultation on service requirements, as they pertain to the RFT, since the release of the public tender in July 2003.

It is acknowledged that future tender processes would benefit from broad consultation with service providers. Future tenders will therefore permit increased consultation without compromising probity imperatives.

2. Will the minister confirm that her own Advisory Committee on Alternative Care was not even consulted in the development of the tender material and explain why?

It would have been a breach of probity to consult with the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Alternative Care (MACAC) during the development of the tender materials as MACAC represents some, but not all, potential bidders in the open public call for Alternative Care tenders. Therefore, this could have put some members in a position of conflict of interest or given them an unfair advantage. Approximately 50% of MACAC members are associated with current service providers and potential bidders.

I am advised that there are no probity concerns regarding the recently completed tender. Future tenders will seek to maintain this standard whilst ensuring increased input by MACAC.

3. Will the minister confirm that the expert who reviewed the early tender documents believed it would have been better to scrap the process, undertake proper consultation and establish a fairer and better model?

Mr Des Semple conducted an Examination of the Request for Tender between September and November 2003. This was in response to concerns raised by some alternative care service providers regarding confusion over funding models rather than service types. This examination resulted in very minor adjustments to the RFT providing additional detail of funding factors.

4. Will the government commit to lifting funding to alternative care services in South Australia to at least bring them up to the national per capita funding level; and, if so, when?

In 2003-04 the Government committed an additional $4 million per annum over four years to alternative care in South Australia. In 2004-05 a further $20.8m over four years was allocated to Children, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) for improved diversity of core options for children requiring alternative care services and included the provision of an emergency management placement response to provide initial assessment and safe care of children and young people.

5.Will the government commit funds to intensive placement prevention programs which I understand were withdrawn as part of the alternative care tender?

Alternative care funds have been committed to intensive placement prevention programs for children and young people who have entered alternative care placements. Additionally, the 2004-05 budget committed $9.1m over four years to family support programs including services to build parenting skills and capacity.

6. When will the government commit to a real increase in foster care subsidies to bring them into line with the recommendations of the national Cost of Caring Report released more than 12 months ago?

The government is considering this matter as a component of its ongoing response to the Layton Report.

7. Will the government provide information regarding any conflict of interest that may have existed within the contract process?

As per Government procurement guidelines, all members of the Tender evaluation panel signed a confidentiality agreement and a declaration outlining any actual, possible or perceived conflicts of interest. An independent probity adviser was engaged to chair the evaluation panel. His responsibilities included ensuring that any real or potential conflicts of interest were appropriately managed.

The State Supply Board endorsed the recommendations of the Tender Evaluation Report.

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