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  Chapter Title - Outcome 2 - Improved & more efficient government operations
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  Spacer Image Chapter 5> Introduction > Performance Information for Outcome 3 - Efficiently Functioning Parliament
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INTRODUCTION

DOFA's Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Group contributes to both outputs under the outcome of an efficiently functioning Parliament. Other groups involved during 1999-2000 were Business Services Group (COMCAR) and Resource Management Framework Group (Parliamentary Superannuation). They do this through providing a range of support services to Senators, Members of Parliament and their staff.

In line with the 1999-2000 Portfolio Budget Statement indicators, DOFA improved customer satisfaction and service provision, as well as awareness of and access to guidance on entitlements for Senators and Members of Parliament. Analysis of client calls shows that levels of client satisfaction improved over the past year. In 1999-2000, only 2 per cent of calls indicated dissatisfaction or problems requiring resolution - better than the targeted 2.5 per cent and better than the previous year's performance of 3 per cent. DOFA also surpassed targets for personnel variations, benefit payments processed and service problems rectified within timeframes. More detailed performance information and resource tables for Outcome 3 are at the end of this chapter.

Services to Senators, Members of Parliament and Their Staff
DOFA introduced new internal procedures for providing services to Senators, Members of Parliament and their staff. For example, it established an integrated service centre that replaced previously separate units that provided travel, personnel and other service facilities. It also allocated an Account Manager to each Senator and Member of Parliament, as a single point of contact for all issues. This enabled DOFA to contribute to the outcome through offering more responsive services, and better management of the complex entitlements available to Senators and Members.


Professional Development and Training for Staff Employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MoP[S] Act)

Early in October, the Special Minister of State approved a significant investment in professional development and training for the electorate and personal staff of Senators and Members of Parliament. DOFA offered a number of Australia-wide training courses, designed to improve presentation, time management and constituent management skills. The response to these courses was so positive that in future they will be offered on an ongoing basis. DOFA also surveyed these staff to understand better their development needs and assist in designing a professional development programme.

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Internet Access for Parliamentarians
After the 1999-2000 Budget provided for the roll out of Internet access to electorate offices of all Senators and Members of Parliament, DOFA coordinated the roll out. To ensure appropriate levels of security and performance, the roll out was accompanied by an upgrade of the network infrastructure. Information Kits were provided to offices and training held with very positive feedback received during the roll out.

New Systems and Online Services
As part of DOFA's efforts to meet and exceed its targets for services to Senators and Members of Parliament, it introduced the Parliamentary Systems Suite on 3 October 1999. This new system replaces a number of aging systems and incorporates financial management, entitlements processing, superannuation and human resource management systems. Its implementation contributes to DOFA meeting its quality targets in processing personnel variations and benefits, rectifying service problems and paying accounts. It also facilitates more reliable and timely capture of data for the six monthly tabling of reports. DOFA also successfully trialed a pilot system that has an electronic capability to lodge a number of claim forms. During 2000-01, DOFA will review the pilot and further develop its online capabilities.

Political Exchange Programme
DOFA provides a secretariat function to the Australian Political Exchange Council. In 1999-2000, the council sponsored five delegations of young Australian political leaders to study the political, economic and cultural systems of China, the United States, Japan, Germany and Vietnam. The council also hosted delegations from China, the United States and Germany. In addition, two delegates attended the Asia-Australia Young Leaders' Forum in Hong Kong, and two delegates participated in individual Congressional Study Tours to the United States.

The Council Secretariat also focused on strengthening the network of former delegates who assist it in hosting delegations from DOFA's exchange partners. A key event for 2000-01 will be the celebration of the council's twentieth anniversary.

Tabling Reports in Parliament
DOFA prepares a report of payments covering Senators' and Members' of Parliament travel entitlements, which the Special Minister of State tables every six months. During 1999-2000, DOFA improved the timeliness, accuracy and credibility of these reports. For example, it dedicated a project manager and team to the report, and introduced better quality assurance processes. In addition, DOFA identified areas for improvements in data capture and processing, which it will implement in 2000-01.

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Newsletters on Entitlements
One way DOFA sought to improve communications with Senators and Members of Parliament was through the introduction of a regular newsletter. The SMOS News, introduced in September 1999, contains information on Ministerial and Parliamentary Service issues; it is easy to read and is delivered to Senators' and Members' Parliament House offices on a bi-monthly basis. The SMOS News supplements the Senators and Members Entitlements Handbook, and identifies current issues about entitlements. It also introduces initiatives which subsequent circulars then explain in detail.

Internal Risk Management
One of the key issues requiring attention in 1999-2000 was the need to improve the management of risk and to reduce errors in processing entitlements. DOFA's investment in process improvement and upgrading systems were important elements in dealing with the issue. Improved account management and better quality service delivery, supported by the development of internal service level agreements between account managers and the service centre, have brought the management of risk into sharper focus. Dedicated teams have been allocated to key projects and external expertise and resources applied in critical areas where internal skills were not available.

COMCAR
COMCAR delivers car-with-driver services to a range of clients, including present and former federal parliamentarians, the federal judiciary and holders of high office. COMCAR also provides services to official guests of Government. For example, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Australia in 2000, COMCAR played an important role, providing car transport and associated services in all states visited during the tour. In addition, driver training increased after January 2000; this will ensure appropriately trained drivers will be available for the Olympic Games in September 2000.

In 1999-2000, COMCAR initiated a range of reforms in workplace relations and general operations. These reforms, which are in line with the recommendations from the Strategic Review of COMCAR that Justice Alan Barblett AO conducted, will enable COMCAR to deliver a cost-effective service, tailored to meet its clients' needs. DOFA prioritised negotiations with drivers for a new certified agreement, a fatigue management strategy for drivers and training for both drivers and reservations staff. Although DOFA marginally fell short of its target in responding to calls for services, it surpassed the target in relation to reducing reservation service failures, with less than 0.5 per cent of the 71,347 vehicle reservations failing.


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