Labor’s EYQF under examination by Auditor-General
- Assistant Minister for Education
The nation’s Auditor-General will officially examine Labor’s controversial $300 million Early Years Quality Fund (EYQF).
This decision comes in the wake of an independent PricewaterhouseCoopers report late last year raising serious concerns about the processes used to create and administer it.
Labor’s EYQF was inherently unfair, inequitable and drove a greater pay divide in the sector.
I therefore welcome the Auditor-General’s decision.
It is particularly important after thousands of child care educators and operators were conned into signing new unionised enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs), despite never being able to receive a dollar from Labor’s EYQF.
We warned all along this dodgy Labor fund was never about helping child care workers - only their union mates.
The PwC report backed this up – finding Labor’s EYQF “used as a vehicle to increase membership in United Voice [Union]”.
This included unionised EBAs in the child care sector quadrupling from 100 to 400, despite only about 15 per cent of child care workers being eligible for the Labor fund.
PwC also found “key implementation decisions…significantly compromised” Labor’s EYQF.
However, serious questions still remain about HOW Labor allowed $300 million of taxpayer funds to be abused in this way and the public deserve a full and transparent examination.
The Auditor-General is an independent government statutory authority and has extensive powers of access to Commonwealth documents and information, which the PwC report did not.
The Auditor-General is therefore the appropriate body with the appropriate powers to examine these serious issues further.
The Auditor-General’s report is expected to be completed during the Spring 2014 sitting of Parliament and will be tabled in line with legislative requirements.
Concerns about the EYQF were first brought to the Auditor-General’s attention in December 2013 by Federal Member for Mitchell Alex Hawke MP, who asked for an audit to be considered following “probity issues” generated by the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, including:
• That the EYQF was exhausted within 12 hours of the fund opening and that no notice was provided to applicants of this happening.
• Fifty per cent of the EYQF was allocated to large providers which represent 19 per cent of the sector.
• A use of "First In-first served" application process instead of the competitive merit-based process required by Government and the lack of explanation as to why this was not used.
• The use of the fund for wage increases for unqualified and non-contact childcare staff, which was not within the objective of the EYQF.
• That funds went to childcare services already meeting qualification requirements and therefore the Fund failed to meet its basic objective.
• That twelve funding agreements-under the EYQF were executed on 6 September, 2013 (one day prior to the last Federal Election while the Government was In Caretaker mode).
• Perception about conflicts of interest in the actions of the Advisory Board.
• That the Board ignored a recommendation by the Inter-governmental committee that applications should be from Individual services and instead allowed multi-service providers to submit one application,
• The potential Influence on the sector and the use of the Fund by the provision of unapproved and misleading information by the union, United Voice.
• Claims that the requirement for an enterprise agreement was used as a vehicle to increase Union membership.
The full PwC report is available on the Department of Education website at http://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/ministerial_review_eyqf_final_report.pdf