Progress of Action 3.9

Action 3.9: Where practical and appropriate, finalise harmonisation of procedures, including service level procedures between CFA and FRV and any related party to ensure the agreements support effective operations.

Action objective: Procedures, including service level procedures between CFA, FRV and any related party, are harmonised – where practical, and fit for purpose to support effective operations.

Lead agency: CFA and FRV

Year Two to Five Plan (November 2021) completion dateYear Two to Five Plan (updated May 2023) completion dateAgency reported status as at 30 June 2023
June 2022June 2024In progress - significant delay

Context

CFA and FRV have different action deliverables defined in their quarterly reporting to the Minister for this action. CFA’s deliverables against this action include:

  • Review and update interoperability procedures (IPs) underpinning the CFA/FRV Joint Operational Activity MoU.
  • Harmonisation of operational doctrine via an established doctrine working group.
  • Finalise SLDAs and schedules and execute.
  • Establish appropriate governance to ensure oversight, management, and review of the current SLDAs for operational functions.

FRV’s deliverables against this action include:

  • Finalise SLDAs and schedules and execute.
  • Establish appropriate governance to ensure oversight, management, and review of the current SLDAs for operational functions.

Under action 3.7, FRV has a deliverable to “Develop agreed IPs with progressive updates”. As noted in action 3.7, CFA and FRV agree that work to update and develop IPs sits more appropriately under action 3.9. Therefore, FSIM provides commentary on progress against IPs in this action, noting that FRV’s 3.7 action deliverable is not formally transitioned.

Progress summary

In FY 2022-23, the Minister approved CFA’s and FRV’s mutually supportive change requests to extend the due date for this action to 30 June 2024. FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22 notes that consultation processes contributed to delays in finalising agreements.[27] Agencies have taken action to address this issue. In Year Three, HoA, the governance body that approves SLDA schedules and Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments, established an agreed workflow to clarify roles, responsibilities, and consultation processes for engagement on SLDA schedules and supplementary instruments (Figure 3).[28]

Under this workflow, CFA and FRV reach approval-in-principle on a joint CFA/FRV position for schedules and supplementary instruments before going to informal consultation with key stakeholders, including working groups of the Consultative Committee. Following informal consultation, the agreed schedules and supplementary instruments are then tabled at HoA for endorsement to initiate formal consultation with the Consultative Committee. Should the Consultative Committee be unable to reach an agreement on the proposed supplementary instruments or schedules, agencies would reconvene to address issues raised by the Committee. After formal consultation, the final schedules and supplementary instruments are provided to HoA for approval, execution and implementation. It is essential to note that establishing this workflow process provides clarity, transparency and accountability between the two agencies regarding their agreed position before the formal consultation phase begins.

Figure 3: CFA/FRV Heads of Agency Steering Committee-endorsed workflow for supplementary instruments/schedules

  • Download' Figure 3: CFA/FRV Heads of Agency Steering Committee-endorsed workflow for supplementary instruments/schedules'

CFA and FRV also share a tracking document weekly via HoA that provides visibility on agency progress and work on SLDA schedules, Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments, delegation authorisations, and Tenancy Agreement schedules. FSIM supports this approach as it provides increased clarity and transparency for all parties in the process of approving key reform-related agreements.

This action has interdependencies with actions 3.7 (Joint governance), 3.10 (Delegations) and 3.11 (CFA policies and procedures to support the SLDA and schedules).

The status of SLDA schedules, Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments, and IPs are provided at Tables 13, 14, and 15 below.

1. Service Level Deed of Agreement schedules

As at 30 June 2023, CFA and FRV had finalised three of 12 schedules (Table 13).

The original SLDA intended that FRV would provide alarm assessment services for CFA, but this was mutually agreed to be unworkable. CFA and FRV agreed to manage alarm assessments within their respective areas. CFA and FRV finalised service provision arrangements for alarm assessment in January 2023.

CFA and FRV executed two schedules relating to structural fire investigation and bushfire investigation in FY 2022-23 and issued joint communications recognising a complementary approach to fire investigation that utilises volunteer capabilities supported by career counterparts.

FSIM summarises the progress for key SLDA schedules below and provides data, where available, to demonstrate average compliance rates and time for referral completion since the reform’s inception.

Specific data relating to service delivery timeframes and compliance in the following examples were drawn from CFA’s Quarter Four 2022-2023 Community Infrastructure Report.

2. Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments

As at 30 June 2023, CFA and FRV had finalised two of eleven supplementary instruments supporting the Secondment Agreement (Table 14). CFA and FRV executed the ‘Authorisation of expense claims’ instrument and the ‘Additional secondee positions’ instrument in the reporting period.

FSIM observed that the ‘Additional secondee positions’ instrument was agreed to and executed by both CFA and FRV without having formally progressed through the Consultative Committee approval process, which contributed to delays.

FSIM notes that steps were taken in April 2023 to clarify the consultation process, including how CFA and FRV consult with each other and when FRV undertakes consultation with the UFU. However, agencies continued to experience delays in finalising remaining supplementary instruments.

For example, CFA and FRV continue to discuss supplementary instruments relating to performance and misconduct management, leave, vacancy and relief management. CFA and FRV developed a draft and agreed-in-principle position for each of these instruments, and FRV proceeded to informally consult with the UFU.

Application of the workflow, supported by clear version controls, engagement activities and transparent records of discussions should support the agencies to determine:

  • what version of the document was provided for consultation and when
  • where changes were made to the agreed-in-principle position before providing the document to UFU
  • what discussions FRV undertook on behalf of CFA through the engagement process with UFU
  • which body had proposed amendments (FRV or UFU) to the agreed-in-principle position, noting that amendments were strongly opposed by CFA.

FSIM attempted to follow the workflow, using documentation provided to HoA (e.g. tracking documents, draft instruments and discussions with agencies), however was unable to establish the above outcomes. FSIM notes that at the end of the reporting period, CFA and FRV were in various stages of redrafting the remaining supplementary instruments, and there is an opportunity to improve the transparency of how, when and by who, changes are made to the agreed-in-principle drafts as they are revised.

3. Interoperability Procedures

Two existing IPs, ‘Mutual operation command support’, and ‘PTA/Corporate staff support to CFA operations’, were both executed in FY 2021-22. Two additional IPs, ‘Activation for Incidents where CFA requires FRV support for fire investigation’ and ‘CFA FRV Breathing Apparatus (BA) Cylinder filling at FRV locations’ were executed in FY 2022-23. Both agencies ensure that executed IPs are accessible on their respective intranets.

Findings

Overall, FSIM finds action 3.9 is progressing, however there are a number of risks and issues that should be considered as agencies continue to work through action deliverables.

Overall decline in compliance with statutory referral timeframes where services are co-delivered

As noted in the FSIM Annual Report 2021/22, there is no formal, agreed understanding of complementary fire services and how that translates to individual agency service provision under the SLDA schedules to ensure the best outcome for the community. Agencies continue to rely on interim arrangements, which have now been in place for three years and are impacting service provision standards.

FSIM has observed that for the SLDA schedules that remain outstanding, require FRV to provide services, and require CFA to undertake quality assurance and final sign off due to the current legislative arrangements, compliance with statutory timeframes has declined overall (from 92 per cent in Q4 2020 to 79 per cent in Q4 2023).

There are possible risks associated with these delays to referral completion. For example, an incident may occur due to a safety issue while the site is waiting for fire service advice. FSIM received information from FRV stating that this risk is managed by triaging referral work, with priority given to:

  • sites that WorkSafe Victoria have reported to FRV has an issue
  • issues that have been identified by local fire crews
  • sites featured on WorkSafe Victoria’s Dangerous Goods Strategic Inspection list.

FSIM finds that work to finalise schedules commenced in October 2020 and remains incomplete. While the SLDAs were executed at the commencement of fire services reform, the development of underpinning schedules to provide clarity of service delivery is complex and requires time, resources and clear direction (based on agreed underlying principles of a complementary fire service) to guide development and implementation.

Allocation of functions contradicts legislative responsibilities for some schedules

CFA and FRV acknowledge that, in some instances, what was set out initially in the SLDAs is not workable. For example, CFA is unable to lawfully delegate powers to FRV for end-to-end service delivery for Dangerous Goods services.

As such, a decision is required on a pathway forward for how these services will be delivered (e.g., maintain a co-delivery arrangement or transfer the function to a single agency and make the required legislative changes). Depending on the agreement of service delivery arrangements, government could then determine a pathway forward on the need to amend relevant legislation.

Application of the consultation workflow

Agency transparency throughout the development of schedules and supplementary instruments is key to the successful delivery as these difficult negotiations continue. Agencies can achieve this by consistently applying the agreed workflow, providing clear version controls on documentation, and providing transparent records of negotiation discussions with stakeholders.

For example, FSIM considers it may be useful at the “Key Stakeholder Engagement” step of HoA’s workflow, that:

  • CFA and FRV formally confirm the ‘agreed-in-principle’ position – e.g. via a “request to consult” paper submitted to and approved by HoA
  • CFA and FRV provide each other with a dated copy of the document that is sent for consultation, approved by both agencies
  • that a summary of discussions had with UFU be provided to enable HoA to consider next steps.

At the end of the reporting period (and noting the process had been in place for three months), FSIM believes there is a risk that changes could be made by an agency (i.e., amending the ‘agreed-in-principle’ position) ahead of consultation without the other party being made aware. The issue of clarity of the final agreed position has been raised at HoA and agencies were considering options for improving transparency.

FSIM will seek evidence in Year 4 that demonstrates both agencies working in accordance with the agreed workflow, based on an established the agreed-in-principle position and being transparent with each other on the progress through consultation activities.

Ambitious completion dates for supplementary instruments to the Secondment Agreement

FSIM finds that CFA and FRV have revised completion dates for the majority of schedules and supplementary instruments to 30 September 2023. Given the challenges to date in finalising these instruments, particularly those supplementary instruments to the secondment agreement, these dates are ambitious.

FSIM finds that for supplementary instruments to the secondment agreements, there are instruments (specifically performance management, leave, vacancy and relief management) that will likely take significant negotiation to complete due to the intersection with and obligations under the relevant EAs.

Interoperability Procedures

FSIM finds that the program of work to review and update IPs is complex and requires significant resources and subject matter experts. CFA and FRV have experienced ongoing issues with resource availability to support the Doctrine sub-committee of FSOC to complete this work. Given the significant role IPs play in harmonising service delivery, where practical and fit for purpose to support effective operations, FSIM will continue to closely monitor and seek evidence and data on IP development and FSOC’s ability to progress this work in future reports.

Opportunity to review and consolidate activity under actions 3.7, 3.9, 3.10 and 3.11

FSIM finds that there are overlaps in deliverables between actions 3.7, 3.9, 3.10 and, by extension, 3.11. As outlined in FSIM’s recommendation number five in Section 3 of this report, a review of the Year Two to Five Plan should consider which remaining implementation plan activities most significantly contribute to the intended success at year five for each priority area and be updated, with pragmatic and achievable timelines, to focus on those activities. The review should be guided by the broader outcomes in the Fire Services Statement, leverage a shared definition of complementary fire services and consider the impacts of other enabling instruments (e.g., Secondment Agreement, legislation).


Footnotes

[27] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22, pg. 55.

[28] HoA consultation workflow – endorsed 24 April 2023

[29] Activation for Incidents where CFA requires FRV support for fire investigation IP.

[30]Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22, pg. 59.

Updated