Meeting notes: Thursday 12 March 2015
ComVoices representatives had a productive and positive meeting with Minister Goodhew.
The discussion centred on how ComVoices could strengthen the partnership relationship with Government –define what this looks like and work together to implement it. Key to this being accomplished are the implementation of six practical steps. The first of these was:
- Acknowledgement of our different roles – as a community sector, and as Government
The Minister was assured that the sector has no desire to set policy, but asks that its responsibilities are accepted and acknowledged. Government has its priorities and a responsibility to the taxpayers for how they spend taxpayers’ money.
The Community and Voluntary sector is linked to and responds to its communities. Many are engaged in specific service delivery, including work under contract to various government departments. But we are independent agencies.
Currently the sector feels under-valued; we feel we have become functionaries in a master/servant relationship. The value to the nation and to Government is when Government and the NGO sector work together in partnership.
- Mechanisms that enable us to work together to support community-led development and define shared outcomes
The sectors role in policy development was discussed and the Minister agreed that it is better if community players take part as one size does not fit all, and local flavour and local knowledge are vital in ensuring better outcomes.
Engagement mechanisms with Government are currently ad hoc. Comvoices asked for clearer and more consistent arrangements – not to develop policy but to inform and contribute to its development. We have no specific model in mind but there are many examples of how the sector and government are working together that could be used.
The whole of Government needs to understand and acknowledge the role the sector plays and it is through the Minister that we have our entry point to access and influence ‘whole of Government’.
- Appropriate, sustainable resourcing to achieve outcomes
The Minister acknowledged it is difficult for the sector as there has been no new money for some considerable time and it is having to do more with the same or less.
The Minister said appropriate resourcing was a huge issue and she wanted to assure us that Government was looking hard at change.
A single audit process for contracts was also raised.
The Minister said Government is working towards longer contracts and streamlining the process. Duplication is a major waste of time and resources and our support for this strengthened her resolve to keep it at the table.
- Procurement processes that ensure value for money while preserving a collaborative culture
The Minister was told the NGO sector is the exemplar of people doing a lot with a little – “on the smell of an oily rag”. Good value for money is found in our sector.
Our plea is “do not require us to compete against each other”. At its heart our sector has the ethos of collaboration. Procurement is divisive and we are being set one against the other.
The meeting ended at this point. The Minister noted that the conversation had not finished and asked for another date to be set as she was confident there was great value in keeping talking.