A key role at the centre of the national health funding system has been vacant for three months, but the Department of Health informs us the vacancy will “shortly” be filled.
The office of the National Health Funding Pool Administrator has been in a holding pattern, unable to publish its reports and with nobody acting in the role, since Peter Achterstraat completed his term of appointment at the end of March.
Achterstraat, a former New South Wales auditor-general and chair of the Bankstown Airport board, became the inaugural leader of the freshly established NSW Productivity Commission in May.
Between August 1, 2015, and Achterstraat’s appointment on February 23, 2016, the role had been performed by an acting administrator, Kim Snowball.
The statutory officer is appointed by the Council of Australian Governments Health Council, which has a secretariat based in South Australia. The relevant website explains it is “distinct from Commonwealth and state and territory government departments” and makes clear it is not under the control or direction of the federal minister.
With nobody even acting in the statutory role for the past few months, the office has fallen behind on its publishing schedule. Its monthly reports from February onwards cannot be published until a new administrator is appointed, and signs off on them.
“The recruitment of the new Administrator of the National Health Funding Pool is expected to be completed shortly,” a Department of Health spokesperson told The Mandarin.
The process requires “substantial consultation” with the COAG Health Council, the department explained, assuring us it is “significantly progressed” nonetheless.
“All relevant Commonwealth legislation and best practice guidelines for the appointment of statutory office holders have been followed,” the spokesperson added.
“The public release of funding information will continue once a new Administrator is appointed.
“The Commonwealth continues to make funding contributions through the National Health Funding Pool for the provision of public hospital services.”
According to the website, the functions of the little-known office, which is defined by legislation in every jurisdiction, include:
- Calculating and advising the Commonwealth Treasurer of the amounts to be paid by the Commonwealth into each pool account of the National Health Funding Pool;
- Ensuring Commonwealth funds are deposited into pool accounts accordingly and in line with the Agreement;
- Ensuring that state and territory deposits into pool accounts, and payments from the pool accounts to local hospital networks are made in accordance with directions from the responsible State or Territory Minister, and in line with the Agreement;
- Reconciling estimated and actual hospital service volumes, including advising the Commonwealth Treasurer on any amounts to be paid based on this reconciliation; and
- Reporting publicly on all national health reform funding and payment activities.