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Federal courts to share services in response to Skehill recommendations

by Pallavi Singhal •
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A more comprehensive shared services model based on the 2012 Skehill review is on the table for the Federal Court, National Native Title Tribunal, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court, which may soon have formal sharing arrangements in place for human resources, finance and information technology functions.

The Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012, which received assent on 12 March 2013, will merge the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court into one FMA Act agency, and the National Native Title Tribunal and Federal Court into another agency. While addressing many of the recommendations made in Stephen Skehill’s Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General’s Portfolio, this alone falls somewhat short of the full extent of changes suggested by the report.

Skehill suggested that the Government retain the option of merging all administrative functions of the Federal Court, Family Court, Federal Magistrates Court and the soon-to-be-established Military Court if this initial consolidation does not adequately achieve efficiencies, opening up the possibility of more extensive shared services arrangements in the Attorney-General’s Portfolio.

Corporate services included by Skehill in the minimum level of integration under the Bill are:

  • Payroll functions;
  • IT support including procurement of platforms and architecture;
  • Case management;
  • Records management; and
  • Finance processing and management.

The Bill’s consolidation of the National Native Title Tribunal and Federal Court into a single agency with consolidated administrative services is expected to generate savings of $19 million over four years.

Under the Bill, the Courts will be merged into new agency with a single budget appropriation, increasing efficiency and eliminating the cost of duplicate accounting records and audit committees, which Skehill estimates to be around $1 million per annum.

The Bill will formalise shared services arrangements currently in place between the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court (soon to be the Federal Circuit Court of Australia) by integrating them into a single agency. The two Courts have already merged all corporate and administrative services and appointed a single Chief Executive Officer (CEO) since November 2008, saving $7.8 million over four years.

The Family Court, which provides services to itself and the Federal Magistrates Court, has signed around $39 million worth of ICT contracts since 2008, according to Intermediumdata. Ongoing service deals include an outsourced payroll arrangement with Aurion until May 2013, and an IP video conferencing solution provided by ServicePoint until 2016. Telecommunications services are procured under an ongoing arrangement between the Family Court and VoIP, which will expire in November 2014. The Family Court has similar arrangements with IBSAV for video conferencing systems (expiring in September 2013), Kyocera Mita for major office machines (expiring in June 2014), IBM for data network equipment (expiring March 2016), and an ICT labour hire panel (expiring in June 2013).

The Skehill review opens up the possibility of the Courts sourcing corporate services such as personnel and financial processing from the Attorney-General’s Department. However, the review recommends case-by-case testing as this arrangement may not be economical due to departmental systems potentially being more complex than those required by the Courts.

These shared services measures are part of the $38 million federal court reform package announced in September 2012, which also includes the establishment of a Military Court of Australia and increased transparency in the complaints process.

The Skehill review recommends that the new Military Court be integrated with the Federal Court as a single FMA Act agency with joint administrative systems.

The Attorney-General’s Department has commissioned two consultancies of its shared services since July 2012. One was due to be completed on 28 February 2013, and the other is ongoing and due at the end of March.

The implementation of ICT shared service arrangements at a Federal level has largely been limited to specific ICT infrastructure management services such as Secure Internet Gateways to date.


Related Articles:

Attorney General’s portfolio could pave the way to shared services

September tender to provide gateway services for Prime Minister and Cabinet and 29 others

Final Costello report pushes for shared service reforms

For more information, please contact the Editor (02) 9955 9896.

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  • Federal
  • IT Services
  • Justice
  • Attorney General
  • Aurion
  • Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012
  • Family Court
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia
  • Federal Court
  • Federal Magistrates Court (FMC)
  • FMA Act
  • IBM
  • Kyocera Mita
  • Military Court
  • National Native Title Tribunal
  • Secure Internet Gateway Services
  • Servicepoint
  • Skehill Report
  • Stephen Skehill
  • Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General's Portfolio