Auditor General’s report into funding of Volunteer Emergency and Fire Services
Volunteers may be surprised to learn that in 2022 there was a review conducted by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) into whether their LGGS funding is administered effectively.
The review was conducted without publicity and only invited submissions from DFES and some stakeholders, including WALGA, the City of Busselton, the Shire of Plantagenet, the Shire of Westonia and the four volunteer associations. It only considered BFS, SES and VFES funding, with very limited time and resources committed to it. The final report was handed to Parliament on 22 December 2022; some of the key findings are below:
- “The Grants Scheme Manual … does not fully detail the methods DFES uses to allocate ”
- “Eligible items and expenditure …[has] no clear process to have new items added to the”
- “Capital grants could better consider the strategic asset needs of LG ”
- “Funding could be more clearly linked to an assessment of ”
- “The three LG entities … reviewed had limited understanding of the cost and strategic asset priorities of their volunteer services to inform funding needs.”
There is nothing in the report that SES volunteers haven’t raised before. The SESVA-WA has long been advocating for more transparency, accountability and governance from DFES.
The review’s recommendations, earmarked for implementation by 31 December 2023, include:
- Improve its administration of Grants Scheme funding to volunteer services to better inform decision-making by:
- more completely documenting funding decisions and procedures;
- defining and communicating the process to update eligible items within the Grants Scheme Manual;
- using available volunteer, cost and incident data to periodically review funding allocations to ensure they are clearly linked to the mitigation of key risks to the community; and
- clearly defining and communicating Grants Scheme objectives and outcomes to LG
- Work with the local government (LG) sector to adopt a State-wide strategic approach to Grants Scheme funding based on a more comprehensive understanding of LG entities’ longer-term operating and capital costs.
LG entities should:
- Improve their administration of funding to volunteer services to better inform decision-making and support volunteer
- including facilities and resources of their volunteer services in their strategic asset plans;
- documenting internal funding processes to ensure that they have a clear understanding of all material costs associated with supporting volunteer services; and
- c maintaining up-to-date volunteer membership data and completing incident response forms.
DFES will take on board the recommendations “to better inform decision making and will endeavour to offer assistance to local government entities to inform a more strategic approach to requests for funding received from local governments