Property Group manages the Commonwealth's non-Defence property portfolio.
The portfolio comprises approximately 400 properties in 50 countries
valued at $2.4 billion. It includes Australian embassies and residences
overseas, and commercial office buildings, law courts and laboratories
Commercial Leasing Arrangements
During 1999-2000, DOFA extended commercial leasing arrangements
across some 60 special purpose facilities within its portfolio.
DOFA also transferred management responsibility for overseas leased
accommodation to user agencies, which allows DOFA to focus on its
core function of managing Commonwealth owned property.
Rents were reset at prevailing market levels to ensure the cost
of occupying Commonwealth owned property is transparent and that
a commercial return is generated on the value of the Commonwealth's
real estate assets.
DOFA recorded a return on net assets of 9 per cent including realised
capital gains on sold properties, which surpassed the target of
6 per cent. DOFA paid dividends of $72 million and made an equity
repayment of $138 million to the Commonwealth from the Property
Group. A survey of tenants found that in general, they considered
property management and maintenance functions were satisfactory,
although the survey identified some areas to improve responsiveness
and consultation with tenants. DOFA will address these findings
Divestment of Under-performing Assets
DOFA continued to sell, transfer or divest under-performing properties
where no public interest reasons existed for retaining them. Ninety
nine properties were divested in 1999-2000, achieving sales revenue
of approximately $285 million which exceeded the 1999-2000 Budget
target. Since 1997, the divestment programme has returned equity
of more than $1.3 billion to the Commonwealth. Property sales valued
at $257 million are scheduled for 2000-01.
Strategic Alliance Project
The Government announced in April 1999 that it would seek to establish
a strategic alliance with the private sector to manage the non-Defence
property portfolio. In July 2000, DOFA selected PricewaterhouseCoopers
Process Solutions Pty Ltd, and expects to hand over the property
management in early 2001. The alliance gives access to international
best practice and improved rates of return, whilst maintaining the
portfolio's value. DOFA anticipates savings of around $74 million
in the first five year term of the alliance.
In 1999-2000, DOFA completed a number of major construction projects
in Australia and overseas. In line with the target of providing
cost effective, value added, quality property services, DOFA completed
all projects to high standards, within budget and on time, often
in very difficult circumstances.
A highlight was managing the refurbishment of an existing property
in Dili, to be used as the Australian Consulate. The aftermath of
East Timor's vote for independence added significantly to the complexity
of the task. Work was completed over two months, in the face of
limited local resources, logistical problems, cultural and language
differences, and the sensitive environment. The Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and the Australian Consul in Dili commended DOFA
for the quality of the service provided by DOFA staff on the project.
Removals Australia Sale
The sale of Removals Australia was foreshadowed in the 1999-2000
Budget. Toll Transport Pty LTD was the successful bidder for Removals
Australia in December 1999, with the handover taking place on 31
January 2000. The sale price of $10.4 million reflected the sound
state of the business and exceeded expectations.
The excellent outcome was a result of Removals Australia's efforts
to establish Memorandums of Understanding with clients, introduce
enhanced purchasing arrangements, and establish good business relations
with providers. Of the 113 removals firms who dealt with Removals
Australia before the sale, only three chose not to renegotiate existing
contracts with the new owner. Removals Australia's retention of
staff was critical to the business functioning through its busiest
time while the transfer of ownership took place.
During 1999-2000, 535 claims totalling $16.0 million (net of member
policy excesses) were reported to Comcover. This compared with 285
claims reported in 1998-99, totalling $7.8 million. This increase
can be attributed to a greater participation rate by members in
the Comcover Fund, increased familiarisation with their new insurance
cover and a concerted programme by Comcover to raise awareness of
the need to report claims and incidents to Comcover. Premium revenue
increased significantly during 1999-2000, compared to 1998-99.
In September 1999, the Special Minister of State, Senator the
Hon Chris Ellison, launched Comcover's risk management awareness
and education programme. The first stage of the programme's delivery
was to promote greater understanding and awareness of risk management
in the Commonwealth, using awareness seminars and training sessions
for members. Some 495 representatives from Comcover members attended
these sessions. Comcover also established a Customer Advisory Group
in February 2000 as a consultative forum in which members are encouraged
to raise matters of interest.
Access to Government Information
Two main areas of improving access to government information have
been targeted with the first being to improve quality, consistency,
ease of access and cost of information products. The second was
to increase awareness about this information. DOFA achieved both
targets, with a 97 per cent increase in the number of hits on the
Federal Government Entry Point, and international recognition of
its quality, consistency and ease of access. During 1999-2000, the
sites DOFA managed had nearly 54 million hits, indicating DOFA's
success in improving access to government information. Sites managed
by DOFA include www.fed.gov.au,
Online with e-business
DOFA made considerable progress in e-commerce by improving access
to information through online delivery. For example, it has more
than 713 suppliers together with details on 4,600 dealer outlets
registered on the Internet based pre-qualification system, the Endorsed
Supplier Arrangement. The site had more than 15,000 hits during
1999-2000. In addition, two complementary purchasing access and
accountability systems went live on the Internet in November 1999.
The Gazette Publishing System www.contracts.gov.au
was developed in conjunction with the Office for Government Online.
This Internet site provides agencies and the public with the ability
to review government procurement transactions of $2,000 or more.
The Commonwealth Government advertising web site www.ads.gov.au,
jointly developed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
with DOFA, allows business opportunities to be registered and reviewed
online, 24 hours per day.
The popularity of the Internet portal www.fed.gov.au
as a one stop shop increased dramatically in 1999-2000. This Federal
Government entry point offers a comprehensive search capability
covering 1,000 different subject areas, 300 agencies and over 450,000
Commonwealth documents. In 1999-2000, the site had 12 million hits,
compared to six million last year, with around 40 per cent international
usage. The site also was internationally recognised by the UK National
Audit Office which acknowledged Australia as leading the field in
developing a government entry point.
On 8 June 2000, the Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon
Chris Ellison, launched the new Internet gateway site for the Australian
Public Service, www.fedinfo.gov.au.
This new gateway was developed in partnership with central agencies,
and is a direct route to governance, policy and operational information
for those working in or with the public sector.
The Government Online Strategy introduced in April 2000, requires
agency compliance with the Guidelines for the Dissemination of
Commonwealth Documents in Electronic Formats, developed by AusInfo
in 1998-99 and updated in January 2000. The guidelines were highly
commended in the 1999-2000 Public Service and Merit Protection Commission
Workplace Diversity awards, for incorporating best practice in providing
access to government information for diverse audiences.