Grant Application Assessment Plan

​​To assess applications for grant funding to eligible Tasmanian native timber harvest/haulage contractors for the period 23 November 2010 to 22 November 2011

Introduction

1.1 The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has invited applications for grant funding to provide exit assistance to eligible businesses that operate in the Tasmanian native forest harvest and/or native forest haulage contracting sector, under the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Exit Assistance Program (the program).

1.2 Many of Tasmania’s native forest contracting businesses are facing difficult financial circumstances. Sales of woodchip exports sourced from Tasmania’s native forests have continued to decline. This has reduced the viability of many harvest and haulage businesses operating in Tasmania’s native forests.

1.3 The Australian Government has committed $22.4 million to help Tasmanian contractors and their employees respond to the challenges facing the Tasmanian forest industry. This funding will be provided in the 2010—2011 financial year.

1.4 The program aims to reduce business overcapacity in the Tasmanian native forest harvest and haulage contracting sector through reducing the number of businesses that currently operate in that sector.

1.5 The program will provide up to $17 million for exit assistance to harvest and/or haulage contracting businesses in the Tasmanian native forest harvest and haulage contracting sector who wish to leave the industry.

1.6 The invitation to submit applications was posted on the internet on 23 November 2010 and advertisements were published in major rural newspapers on 25 November, 27 November,
4 December and 11 December 2010 and national newspapers on 27 November 2010.

1.7 The closing date for applications was 13 December 2010.

2. Aim

2.1 This Grant Application Assessment Plan (the Plan) sets out how applications for funding through the program will be assessed and the successful applicants selected and recommended. The Plan facilitates a competent, fair evaluation and assessment and ensures confidentiality and probity throughout the process.

3. Assessment method

3.1 Guidelines for the program were agreed by the Government on 23 November 2010 and outline the eligibility and merit criteria, requirements and application process to assist potential applicants to apply for funding from the program.

3.2 To be eligible to apply for exit assistance a business must:

3.2.1 have an Australian Business Number (ABN); and

3.2.2 conduct its activities predominantly in the Tasmanian native forest harvest and/or Tasmanian native forest haulage contracting sector; and

3.2.3 have been operating as a harvest and/or haulage business for the period 1 January 2009 to 30 June 2010 and had a contract (operative or inoperative), quota or delivery arrangement; and

3.2.4 be able to show business related debt.

3.3 Eligible applications will be assessed against the following merit criteria

Criterion 1. The amount nominated for business exit. Smaller amounts will be ranked higher under this criterion due to the aim of the program to reduce the number of businesses in the sector.

Criterion 2. The percentage of the business’s Tasmanian harvest and/or haulage operations that were undertaken in the native forest sector for the period 1 January 2009 to 30 June 2010. An eligible business with all operations in the native forest sector will be ranked higher under this criterion than one with a smaller percentage of operations in the sector.

Criterion 3. The size of contracted/agreed volumes. Higher volumes will be ranked higher under this criterion as it takes greater capacity out of the industry.

Criterion 4. Level of debt. This includes the amount of money owed in employee entitlements. Higher debt, including a higher level of entitlements owed, will be ranked higher under this criterion.

4. Overview of assessment process

4.1 On receipt, applications will be handled in accordance with the DAFF Grants Management Manual. The secretariat will assess all applications against the eligibility criteria stipulated in the program guidelines. Applications that meet the eligibility criteria will progress for further assessment.

4.2 Where there is insufficient information to support the claims being made in the application, the secretariat will request further information from the applicant. This information must be provided by the applicant within five working days of the request. If this proof is received within the five day period, the department will forward the application to the Advisory Panel. If the proof is not received within the five–day period, the department may not forward the application and the application may lapse.

4.3 The department may seek clarification from an applicant at any stage of the assessment process.

4.4 Applications not meeting the eligibility criteria will be recorded as ineligible.

4.5 Copies of all eligible applications will be provided to the Advisory Panel.

4.6 The Advisory Panel will convene to assess all applications in accordance with the guidelines and may consider any other relevant information.

4.7 The Advisory Panel will assess each application.

4.8 The Advisory Panel will give the following weighting to the merit criteria:

Criterion 1 – 40 per cent

Criteria 2, 3 and 4 – 20 per cent each

4.9 To inform the assessment process, the secretariat will provide the data submitted in the applications to ABARES to undertake mathematical analysis of all eligible applications against the assessment criteria.

4.10 The mathematical analysis will involve:

4.10.1 Formalising the government’s objectives of the program as a mathematical objective function;

4.10.2 Identifying which sets of applications maximise this objective function within the available funding;

4.10.3 Repeating this analysis with different scaling assumptions or as directed by the Advisory Panel; and,

4.10.4 Providing the results of the analysis to the Advisory Panel.

4.11 The Advisory Panel will develop a merit order of eligible applications and determine which applications will be recommended for funding.

4.12 A report will be provided by the Advisory Panel to the delegate for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the decision–maker) for consideration.

5. Roles and responsibilities

5.1 The Tasmanian Forest Contractors Exit Assistance Program secretariat will receive, store, open, register, handle and file applications in an accountable manner.

5.2 The Advisory Panel will assess applications against the program’s objectives, eligibility criteria and merit criteria.

5.3 The Advisory Panel may draw upon material and information other than an applicant’s written submission in the assessment process. For example, advice from a financial expert may be considered by the Advisory Panel.

5.4 The Advisory Panel will score applications in accordance with the scoring regime included in this Plan.

5.5 The Advisory Panel will examine each eligible applicant’s claims against the merit criteria and attach a score rating summary to the Assessment Report.

5.6 The Advisory Panel will rank the applications in merit–order and provide justifiable reasons for the resulting merit–order.

5.7 The Assessment Report is to state any inconsistencies between the Guidelines and the successful/preferred applicant(s) offer and identify areas where the successful/preferred applicant(s) proposal could be improved by negotiation and included in the funding deed.

5.8 The Advisory Panel will work in a consensus manner. If a unanimous decision cannot be reached, this will be included in the Assessment Report.

5.9 The Advisory Panel will be prepare an Assessment Report, including recommendations on which applicants should receive funding and the level of funding to be offered, to be presented to the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Exit Assistance Program in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for submission to the decision–maker for decision.

6. Membership of Advisory Panel

6.1 The Advisory Panel will comprise:

  1. Chairperson (Australian Government official) John Talbot
  2. Member (Tasmanian Government official) Kim Creak
  3. Member (independent adviser) Rob De Fegely

9. Assessment Timeframe

The following indicative timeframe will apply:

  1. Secretariat assessment of eligibility and requesting further
    supportive information, if required by 20 December 2010
  2. Copies of applications distributed to Advisory Panel by 20 December 2010
  3. Advisory Panel meeting and report provided to DAFF by 22 December 2010
  4. Assessment Report submitted by DAFF to decision–maker by 23 December 2010
  5. Offers made to successful grantees, including identifying any
    negotiations that may be required to finalise a Funding Deed by 24 December 2010
  6. Ministerial media release that offers have been made by 24 December 2010
  7. Funding Deed negotiated and signed January/February 2011

10. Venue

10.1 Advisory Panel meetings will be conducted in Canberra.

11. Special instructions

11.1 All documents and proceedings of the Advisory Panel are CONFIDENTIAL and are to be secured when not in use by members of the Advisory Panel. The disclosure of information contained in the applications may prejudice the commercial interests of the applicant and the bargaining position of the Commonwealth during subsequent contract negotiations.

11.2 Individual Panel members must refrain from communicating with applicants about the assessment process.

11.3 Members of the Advisory Panel are personally invited to be members of the Advisory Panel and every effort should be made not to withdraw during the assessment process.

11.4 All members of the Advisory Panel must demonstrate impartiality and equitable treatment of all applicants. Members of the Advisory Panel will confirm that they have no conflict of interest regarding their roles on the Advisory Panel.

12. Assessment Report

12.1 The final process of the assessment is the production of an Assessment Report that:

  1. summarises the assessment process;
  2. makes a recommendation regarding the preferred applicant(s); and
  3. supports the recommendation of the Advisory Panel with reasons and assessment approach consistent with this Plan.

13. Endorsement by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

This Assessment Plan is endorsed by an approving officer within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Approving Officer
Tom Aldred
Executive Manager,
Climate Change and Forests Division

14. Agreement by ADVISORY panel members

I agree to the terms and conditions of the Assessment Plan.
Conflict of Interest: I am not subject to any conflict of interest and will inform the Advisory Panel if a conflict arises during the assessment process.

(Advisory Panel members to sign and date, to indicate agreement to this Grant Assessment Plan)

John Talbot ........................................................ ____/____/_____
Chairperson
(Australian Government representative)

Kim Creak ........................................................ ____/____/_____
(Tasmanian Government representative)

Rob De Fegely ........................................................ ____/____/_____
(Independent Panel member)

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