Happy financial new year: what’s changing in the APS from July 1

By David Donaldson

Monday July 2, 2018

A new financial year has dawned, and with it several new federal government initiatives have begun.

Below is a selection of changes affecting public servants that take effect from 1 July, according to the federal budget papers.

ASD becomes a statutory authority

The Australian Signals Directorate restarted life as a statutory authority under the Defence portfolio yesterday. This is the most significant change to the organisation since the Defence Signals Bureau was established in the aftermath of the Second World War. It also assumes responsibility for the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

This is recognition of its increased national responsibilities, especially in relation to cyber security and the critical operational capabilities that ASD provides to the Australian Defence Force. The change was recommended in the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review.

Mike Burgess becomes the first Director General of the agency, though he has been in charge as director since January, taking over from Dr Paul Taloni.

Illegal tobacco taskforce

The formation of a multi-agency illicit tobacco taskforce, comprising members from a number of law enforcement and border security agencies, to increase the resources and capabilities dedicated to combatting illicit tobacco smuggling. The new taskforce, which builds on the approach of the Australian Border Force tobacco strike team, will have additional powers and capabilities to enhance intelligence gathering and proactively target, disrupt and prosecute serious and organised crime groups at the centre of the illicit tobacco trade.

Going after tax dodgers

The government is providing $130.8 million to the ATO from 1 July to increase compliance activities targeting individual taxpayers and their tax agents. The ATO has identified a number of significant compliance issues for individual taxpayers which result in a significant loss of revenue each year. This measure will continue four income matching programs that would otherwise terminate from 1 July to allow the ATO to detect incorrect reporting of income, such as foreign source income of high wealth individuals.

The measure will also provide funding for new compliance activities, including additional audits and prosecutions, improving education and guidance materials, pre-filling of income tax returns and improving real time messaging to tax agents and individual taxpayers to deter over-claiming of entitlements, such as deductions by higher risk taxpayers and their agents.

APVMA technology upgrade

The government will also provide $10.1 million over three years from 2018-19 to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, which recently moved to Armidale as part of the government’s decentralisation agenda, to support its ICT systems and digitise its most important and frequently used paper files.

“We will use this funding to immediately address the APVMA’s ageing and fragmented ICT environment, digitise our records and modernise regulatory services for clients,” said APVMA boss Dr Chris Parker.

“Our approach is to establish the foundational ICT that will enable improvements through cloud based services, a unified communications solution and joined up applications that connect data and people across our business.

“This promise of enhanced digital capability will mean more self-service options for clients, greater workflow automation and a reduction in the manual processes that have slowed application assessment and hindered efforts to improve timeframe performance.”

A budget typo?

Although the budget said the APVMA would get a governance board from 1 July 2018, it’s expected to commence in a year as the legislation hasn’t yet passed. Word is that the agency was expecting it to start in 2019 all along and was surprised by the date printed in the budget.

The board will set the APVMA’s strategic direction, drive operational performance and accountability, and set its risk appetite.

Disability jobs funding

The government will provide $9.9 million over two years from 2018-19 to ensure continuity of the Disability Employment Services program as providers transition to the new disability employment services framework and funding model announced in the 2017-18 budget. Commencing from 1 July 2018, the new framework and funding model will place greater weight on achieving employment outcomes, and will provide recipients with a greater choice in providers.

AudTender changes

Agencies will now be required to publish the justification for using a limited tender above relevant thresholds on AusTender. Government agencies reported over 64,000 contracts on AusTender in 2016-17, with a value of $47.4 billion.

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