The Department of Human Services (DHS) has gotten a thumbs up in an Australian National Audit Office review for how it handled the tendering for a replacement of the BasicsCard, the income management support card for indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
The BasicsCard income management scheme was introduced by the Howard Government in 2007 as a means of protecting children and communities in areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
The card uses EFTPOS magnetic swipe technology with a PIN. A fixed percentage (between 50 and 70 per cent) of income support or family payments is put on the card, and that income can only be spent at approved stores for approved goods. Items such as alcohol, tobacco and pornography were not allowed to be bought using the card. At the end of 2010, 17,000 BasicsCards had been issued.
Many merchants found the use of the BasicsCard cumbersome and time consuming, the report said. At the time, the government was also looking to expand the scheme to the long-term unemployed and other groups at risk, indiscriminate of race. In response, the government decided to replace the system on March 2009, issuing a tender to look for a more permanent income management card system to replace the BasicsCard. Two applications were received and the three-year tender worth $11 million was won by Indue Ltd in November 2009.
The report found that by DHS extending the life of the BasicsCard while a replacement was found, the transition was smooth.
"DHS effectively managed the tender process for a replacement BasicsCard to support the delivery of the income management scheme. DHS's management of the replacement BasicsCard procurement allowed the tender to be conducted within the required time frame and budget," the report stated.
"DHS's approach to planning the replacement BasicsCard procurement responded to an important opportunity to address the existing criticisms of the BasicsCard, such as limited options for card users to make account balance inquiries and individual customers having a high number of transactions declined," it added."
The report wasn't all glowing, however, with the Australian National Audit Office stating that creating a business case for the BasicsCard replacement procurement earlier on would have defined the scope for the procurement and decreased the overall time taken for the project.
The DHS welcomed the findings and agreed with the procurement suggestions made by the Office.