• Post implementation review of ATO consultative arrangements

    Introduction

    On 18 March 2015 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) commissioned a post-implementation review of its consultative arrangements.

    Terms of reference

    To assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the new arrangements in operation and provide recommendations on the following:

    • advice as to future approaches
    • shortcomings or opportunities for improvement to be identified
    • alternative approaches to be considered.

    This includes:

    • reviewing the effectiveness of ATO consultation arrangements against the intent as well as:
      • the means and channels used for stakeholder consultation
      • the structure and processes of the consultation arrangements, including whether consultation groups are at the right size to be effective
      • the right people are involved, including whether use is being made of the Consultation Stakeholder Register
       
    • assessing the positives and/or shortcomings of current approaches
    • assessing if best or better practice, innovative and effective consultation is used that is dynamic, fit for purpose and cost effective
    • reviewing the role of the consultation oversight body in guiding the ATO to improve informed and timely decision making and delivering system-wide dividends
    • interviewing ATO and community stakeholders to gauge their level of satisfaction with the consultation arrangements
    • considering possible measures that can be used to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the consultation arrangements
    • making any other recommendations that will assist the ATO improve the consultation arrangements, including whether the community could benefit from education material and the means by which that may be provided
    • recording the approach used to conduct the review, findings and recommendations
    • conducting the review as the individual service provider and no other.

    As part of the review, the consultant will be expected to assess whether:

    • there is clarity in the objectives of the consultations
    • technology is being used in the most efficient way
    • timeliness of consultations is right, consultation groups had set times to deliver on the intended outcomes.

    The consultant will also be expected to make assessments of the effectiveness of consultations against the principles of effective ATO Consultation as agreed by the Consultation Steering Group (CSG).

    Timelines

    The timelines for the review were:

    • ATO briefing (following the execution of a work order) – March 2015
    • Conduct review – March 2015 to May 2015
    • Draft report completed – May 2015
    • Finalised report completed – June 2015

    Context

    In 2013 the Commissioner made significant changes to the ATO’s consultative arrangements. The purpose was to establish a more effective framework that ensures that:

    • the ATO consults appropriately with the right people, about the right issues, in a timely way
    • consultation provides enduring benefits and adds value to Australia’s taxation and superannuation systems.

    This review is, in effect, a health check to see how the changes made in 2013 are performing against those objectives and to make recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the current framework.

    Approach

    The approach adopted in conducting this review was:

    • Step one – scoping
      • internal briefings and review of documentation on the purpose, structure, governance, membership and output of each of the current consultative arrangements
      • develop and agree on assessment criteria, utilising recommendations made in the 2013 Review, to assist in determining the effectiveness of each of the consultative arrangements, both from the viewpoint of the ATO and of stakeholders
      • design a short attitudinal survey, based on the assessment criteria, to provide maximum opportunity for internal and external stakeholders to provide input to the review
       
    • Step two – interviews
      • through a series of focused interviews seek input from external stakeholders involved in the consultative process
      • through a series of focused interviews seek input from ATO executives who participate in the consultative process and those responsible for taking account of consultation outcomes
      • through a series of focused interviews seek input on the effectiveness of the consultation processes (including structure, governance, membership, inputs and outcomes) and opportunities for improvement
       
    • Step three – best practice filter
      • consider and apply any recent developments in best practice since the 2013 Review
       
    • Step four –workshop
      • workshop initial findings and possible suggestions with relevant ATO executives
       
    • Step five – draft report
      • submit a draft report
       
    • Step six – final report
      • discuss the draft report with the ATO and finalise the report.
       

    The review was undertaken over 16 working days between 18 March 2015 and
    5 May 2015. Thirty-six external and ATO members of the stewardship groups and the CSG were interviewed. A number of those interviewed serve on more than one group. In addition the ATO conducted a short online survey, emailed to 188 external and internal members of stewardship groups. The survey was responded to by 82 stakeholders (55 external and 27 ATO).

    I also had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the CSG for part of its April 2015 meeting to better understand how the forums worked in practices. The limited time for undertaking this review did not permit attendance at other forums, but the opportunity to interview participants gave me important and valuable insights sufficient for the purposes of this review.

    Comparative approaches – other agencies

    The terms of reference called for identification of opportunities for improvement and alternative approaches to be considered. The ATO is one of many federal and state government agencies that have a well-developed consultation culture. In order to provide comparisons I took account of the consultation arrangements at three Federal Government agencies – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) – interviewing senior executives in those agencies. It is appropriate to record my appreciation to them.

    This report summarises the conclusions reached as a result of the review and provides recommendations on improvements that could be made to the ATO’s consultation processes to make consultation even more productive.

    Drawing on 2013 Review

    The guiding principle for the 2013 Review was that 'stakeholder engagement should contribute appropriately to efficient, effective and fair administration of the Australian taxation and superannuation system by the ATO'. That guiding principle is equally applicable to this review.

    The 2013 Review applied the Australian Government Consultation Principles in assessing the effectiveness and utility of the consultative arrangements the ATO then had in place. Those principles, and now part of the Regulator performance framework, were used in this review to assess the effectiveness of the ATO’s consultative arrangements.

      Last modified: 22 Sep 2015QC 46926