New NSW Digital Restart Fund Act 2020

Thursday 30 July 2020 @ 1.56 p.m. | Legal Research

On 3 August 2020, the Digital Restart Fund Act 2020 (NSW) was assented as Act 15 of 2020, after the Digital Restart Fund Bill 2019 passed through Parliament on 28 July. According to the Bill Digest, the object of the Act is to establish the Digital Restart Fund “for the purpose of providing funding for digital and information and communications technology initiatives across the government sector.” In his second reading speech, Victor Dominello, the Minister for Customer Service, stated that information and communications technology systems “are the backbone of our service delivery” and are “crucial to the day-to-day running of government.” The Minister particularly emphasised the agile and iterative delivery approach and the seed investments required to develop these systems. The Minister stated:

“The fund moves away from the approach of funding large capital projects where benefits may not be realised for many years. Instead, the fund is designed to draw focus to smaller, iterative solutions linked to the life events and customer experiences that matter to people. The fund will assist in generating benefits more quickly, reducing duplication in investment and eliminating inefficient legacy systems.”

Where does the money for the Digital Restart Fund come from?

The Digital Restart Fund is to be established in the Special Deposits Account. The Fund will primarily consist of money appropriated by Parliament, or advanced by the Treasurer, for the purpose of payment into the Fund. According to the Minister’s second reading speech, the initial funding will consist of $100 million over two years.  Alternatively, the Treasurer can direct money into the Fund which has been appropriated by Parliament to the Treasurer for the general purposes of Government. Proceeds of investment and money received from voluntary contributions by government agencies or other bodies are also payable to the Fund. Furthermore, money may be directed to the Fund through statutory authorisation.

Who controls and manages the Digital Restart Fund?

The Minister for Customer Service will control and manage the Fund. Furthermore, the Minister will be able to delegate the exercise of any function of the Minister under this Act to the head of a Public Service agency or any other person employed by a Public Service agency. The Minister will also be required to produce annual reports relating to the Fund and provide information of payments into and from the Fund. The annual report will also require an audit of the Fund by the Auditor-General and should be made publicly available within 6 months after the end of the relevant year. In conjunction with the requirements of annual reporting, the Bill requires the Minister  to provide a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the Bill in achieving its policy objectives after a period of 5 years.

How will the money from the Digital Restart Fund be used?

Money from the Fund will predominantly be used to fund all or part of projects that promote the purpose of the Fund and are approved by the Minister on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service. The Minister in his second reading speech stated:

The scope of the fund is four-fold. It will fund initiatives that deliver on whole‑of‑government citizen journeys and life events, shared capabilities that create cost savings and consistent user experiences for our customers, modernisation of our aging systems to reduce the risk of failure and overhead costs to maintain them and initiatives that grow the digital capabilities of the New South Wales Government.

 Alternatively, money can be paid from the Fund in accordance with a statutory authorisation. Furthermore, money from the Fund will also be used to meet administrative expenses related to the Fund.

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Sources:

Digital Restart Fund Act 2020 (NSW), Bill and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

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