What do officials need to document?
- Officials must establish and document whether a proposed activity is a grant prior to applying the CGRGs (see paragraph 4.2, CGRGs)
- Officials must provide written advice on the merits of the grant, or group of grants, prior to seeking Ministerial approval. This advice must meet the requirements of the CGRGs (see paragraph 4.6, CGRGs)
- Officials must advise their Minister on whether a grant will provide for activities in the Minister’s own electorate (see paragraph 4.11, of the CGRGs)
- Where an accountable authority or official approves the proposed commitment of relevant money in relation to a grant, the accountable authority or official who approves it must record, in writing, the basis for the approval relative to the grant opportunity guidelines and key consideration of value with relevant money (see paragraph 4.5, CGRGs). See the briefing template here, and checklist here.
- Where a method, other than a competitive merit-based selection process is planned to be used, officials should document the decision and record why a different approach will be used (see paragraph 11.5, CGRGs).
- Officials should develop policies, procedures and documentation necessary for the effective and efficient governance and accountability of grants administration (see paragraph 12.4 of the CGRGs).
What do Ministers need to document?
- In addition to section 71 of the PGPA Act Ministers must record, in writing, the terms and basis for the approval of the grant, relative to the grant opportunity guidelines and the consideration of value with relevant money.
- Paragraph 4.11(a) provides that where a Minister (including an Assistant Minister) approves a proposed grant in his/her own electorate, the Minister must write to the Finance Minister advising of the details. To assist with this requirement, a template letter is available.
- Paragraph 4.12(a) provides that Ministers (including Senators) must report annually to the Finance Minister on all instances where they have decided to approve a particular grant which the relevant official has recommended be rejected. The report must include a brief statement of reasons (i.e. the basis of the approval for each grant). The report must be provided to the Finance Minister by 31 March each year for the preceding calendar year.
What must I brief my Minister on to approve a grant opportunity?
The CGRGs require officials to provide written advice to Ministers (including Assistant Ministers), where they exercise the role of grants approver. The minimum requirements are specified at Paragraphs 4.6 and 4.7 of the CGRGs. Accountable authorities and officials should note that a suggested format is contained in RMG 412. This information should be regarded as the minimum required. Of particular note is the requirements of paragraph 4.7, which requires officials and accountable authorities to advise Ministers which grants fully, partially or do not meet the selection criteria.
Any specific recommendations that are requested by delegates and Ministers should be provided in addition to the requirements of the CGRGs. This can include recommendations from an external committee.
During an election campaign, candidates may undertake to provide certain funding, services or facilities if their party is elected to government. Election commitments are often implemented through a grant. In delivering on these election commitments, it is important that the award of a grant is consistent with the PGPA Act and Rule, in particular, the proper use and management of public resources, and the CGRGs.
Entities may consider whether it is appropriate to fund election commitments through an existing grant opportunity or program, a dedicated grant opportunity or program, or as a one off, ad-hoc grant.
Existing grant opportunities
Funding of election commitments through existing grant opportunities or programs needs to be carefully considered in terms of the potential for this to:
- result in an expansion of the existing grant opportunity or program through a variation of the grant opportunity’s eligibility and assessment criteria, which may disadvantage those applications that do not relate to election commitments; or
- reduce funding that would otherwise be available under the program, thereby possibly leading to calls for the size of the program to be increased.
Existing grant opportunities or programs will have objectives, eligibility requirements and assessment criteria that have been established in relation to that opportunity or program and which a proposed grant would need to satisfy in order to be funded. The policy intent underpinning an election commitment may not be consistent with those objectives, eligibility requirements and assessment criteria and therefore is unlikely to satisfy these requirements.
Separate, ad-hoc grant opportunities
A more appropriate mechanism for the implementation of one or more election commitments relating to a particular portfolio of responsibility may be the establishment of a separate grant opportunity to be used for the exclusive purpose of administering election commitments.
Officials should consider proportionality (having regard for the policy objective of the grant opportunity) while developing robust processes to ensure the decision maker’s capacity to demonstrate that funding decisions have been taken in accordance with the relevant statutory and policy requirements.
An important role for officials is to ensure Ministers are appropriately informed as to the nature of the project and whether it is likely to make proper use of relevant money.
Seeking project proposals from proposed grantees
Given election commitments are typically announced in broad terms, this process will usually involve project proposals being sought from proposed grantees. Those proposals are then to be assessed against the guidelines in order to determine their suitability for a grant, including assessing relevant risks to the Commonwealth, and achieving value with relevant money and the extent to which those risks might be able to be treated or mitigated. They must be approved in accordance with the relevant sections of Part 1 of the CGRGs.
The guidelines established for such grant opportunities, provide the vehicle for advising proposed grantees of election commitment projects, including:
- that funding can only be approved where the Government is satisfied that the project would be an efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of relevant money
- of the factors that will be considered in making that determination (including as appropriate, the standards their project proposal will need to meet), and
- of the obligations that proposed grantees will be expected to satisfy.
Can election commitments be grants?
Yes, during an election campaign, government and non-government candidates may undertake to provide certain funding, services or facilities if their relevant party is elected or re-elected to government. Election commitments are often implemented through a grant. It is important that the award of a grant is consistent with the PGPA Act and Rule, in particular, the proper use and management of public resources, and the CGRGs.
Do election commitment grants need to comply with the CGRGs?
Yes, the CGRGs are largely principles based and do not differentiate between proposed grants which stem from an election commitment and any other grant proposal. As such, election commitments implemented through a grant need to comply with the CGRGs. They must be approved in accordance with the relevant sections of Part 1 of the CGRGs.
A checklist is available for officials when they are proposing a granting activity.