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VIC TAC Safety Levy and its misuse

Discussion in 'Politics, Laws, Government & Insurance' started by mike8863, Apr 15, 2016.

  1. #1 mike8863, Apr 15, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2016
    Came across this article over on Bike Me and thought 'there's some valid points raised there'

    Published on April 7th, 2016 | by Eva Cripps

    Any person or government agency entrusted with collecting and holding public money is burdened with an enormous responsibility. In particular, where that money has been compulsorily collected from the public to be spent solely for a specific purpose, the level of accountability and transparency when managing that money must withstand public scrutiny on every level.

    Maybe they are making forts out of it? Or mattresses?

    It therefore comes as a grave concern to discover the flippancy and nonchalance with which the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) handles the Motor Cycle Safety Levy, a compulsory payment extracted from each and every person in Victoria who owns a motorcycle with an engine capacity greater than 125cc.

    The Levy, currently set at $70.40, with a yearly CPI increase, is begrudgingly paid with many a whinge and moan and predicable calls for it to be abolished.

    Yet, despite being a festering wound which is reopened each year when the VicRoads Registration and TAC premium renewal appears, once their cash is handed over, most motorcyclists pay scant regard as to what happens with their funds: Funds that amount to over $5 million dollars a year.

    By ignoring the shambles that is VicRoads and TAC’s management of the Motorcycle Safety Levy, motorcyclists are doing themselves a massive disservice.

    The Motor Cycle Safety Levy, as described in all references made to it on any official Government website or document, is meant to go directly to initiatives to improve the safety of riders.

    However, the Report from the 2012 Parliamentary Inquiry into Motorcycle Safety (PIMS) raised serious governance and oversight concerns with the way the Levy is being managed by these Government organisations. Not only did the Inquiry find that the Levy is being used for projects that directly violate the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure – the official document outlining how the funds may be spent, but it found the financial, reporting and evaluation processes for TAC and VicRoads, completely farcical.

    Good governance is the cornerstone of a responsible and good government. It is the basis on which effective governments operate. In line with good governance principles, it is an absolute necessity that public money, particularly public money compulsorily collected for a specific purpose, is managed and spent in accordance with that purpose.

    TAC’s attitude to its responsibilities in regards to the Levy is astounding. This is demonstrated clearly in not only the findings from the 2012 PIMS report, but also from the results of a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request and the official response from the TAC to the article, ‘What’s TAC doing with your motorcycle levy?’

    When the Victorian Government made a conscious decision in 2013, against the recommendation of the 2012 PIMS report, to retain the Motor Cycle Safety Levy, it had full knowledge of the serious governance and oversight issues raised within that report – issues so serious, the Report called for the Levy to be scrapped.

    Therefore, as a direct result of retaining the Levy, the Government impliedly made a commitment to the Victorian public to ensure the Levy was managed in accordance with accepted good governance principles.

    The alternative, to retain the Levy without any intention of managing the money in a way which will withstand public scrutiny, and to continue to fund projects in violation of the Guidelines, shows complete and utter disdain for every motorcyclist who has no choice but to pay the Levy. It demonstrates appalling governance and oversight.

    This is particularly appalling given the Levy is only imposed on registered motorcyclists: It is not charged to cyclists, taxi drivers, heavy vehicle operators, pedestrians, recreational licensed motorcyclists or any other class of road user.

    Yet for more than two years after the PIMS Report was handed down, TAC continued to abrogate its governance obligations, asserting that the responsibility lay with VicRoads.

    For over two years after the Inquiry findings became public, TAC continued with woefully inadequate management and governance practices, handing over public money it collected from motorcyclists to VicRoads with careless abandon, even when it knew there were questions about whether the funding was being used for its proper purpose.

    Even now, the TAC seems to think that VicRoads is responsible for the administration of the Levy. It seems to believe that the TAC has no meaningful governance, transparency and accountability obligations to fulfil, despite it collecting and holding the money, and reimbursing VicRoads from the Motorcycle Road Safety Reserve for funding spent on projects.

    TAC has known, since at least before the PIMS Report was released in the first part of 2013, that it was deficient in its management of the Levy.

    During the Parliamentary Inquiry, Samantha Cockfield, TAC Senior Manager, Road Safety admitted to the Committee that ‘it was reasonable to expect more information’ with regards to financial reporting of the Levy. Incredibly, nothing has changed despite this concession to Parliament. Ms Cockfield remains in this key management role.

    Additionally, Ms Cockfield admitted that the TAC treated the reimbursement of the Levy to VicRoads as an ‘administrative process’, ergo, once the TAC was satisfied that VicRoads had expended the money, simply on the say-so of the director of finance, it reimbursed VicRoads, without any concern as to whether that money was spent in accordance with the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure. The TAC appears blindingly complacent as to whether the projects were properly completed, or the processes audited.

    While TAC is correct in saying that VicRoads expends the money, it is astounding that TAC reimburses VicRoads for that expenditure without satisfying itself that it was correctly spent in accordance with the purpose of the Levy, other than on VicRoads mere say-so.

    This is particularly shocking, given TAC had actual knowledge from the PIMS Report that some of the projects violated the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure, which in particular, specifically prohibited using Levy funding for ‘enforcement’. For example, the program named ‘Operation Yellow Flag, Black Flag’ included education, enforcement and five statewide police operations conducted over two years. The Report shows that not only was the program ineffective at improving rider safety, the Levy funds were quite blatantly and proudly used for enforcement projects and to pay for police operational costs, which raises serious probity issues around the allocation of the Levy funds.

    TAC’s duty of care in regards to the proper use of the Levy funds is so lacking as to be non-existent – as with its copy of the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure, which it did not hold at the time of the FoI request, or for some years before. It was only as a result of the FoI request that the TAC actually obtained a copy of this most important governance document in regards to how the Levy should be spent!

    The TAC cannot blame lack of corporate knowledge for its lax handling of the Levy. Ms Cockfield, who responded to the 2012 Parliamentary Inquiry and addressed the Committee’s concerns, remains the senior manager of Road Safety at TAC. Victorians will recognise her as the TAC’s favourite media spokesperson in respect of motorcycle safety and road safety generally.

    While there may be some hope on the horizon that the TAC will ultimately take its governance responsibilities seriously, the response from TAC in regards to its obligations still raises serious concerns.

    In September 2015, TAC finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with VicRoads, which apparently incorporates an assumedly updated Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure. The MoU also allegedly includes provision for a Steering Committee, comprising representatives from the TAC and VicRoads, which has oversight over the Levy.

    According to the formal response from TAC, VicRoads – and not the TAC who should be accountable – will develop project proposals designed to comply with the guidelines contained in the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure. The Steering Committee will consider the proposals, and endorse them, after which they will then be passed on to the VicRoads Chief Executive who recommend them to the Minister for Road Safety for approval.

    While this new process sounds fair, the concerns regarding the actual management of the Levy remain real. The original Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure included oversight from the Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Committee (VMAC), which was disbanded in 2011 and replaced with the Motorcycle Advisory Group (MAG), which itself had only an illusionary oversight role, if any at all during its existence.

    Almost immediately, the new MAG operated in practice as a rubber stamp for VicRoads, with any concerns raised by members of the group with regards to the expenditure of the Levy completely ignored and overridden by representatives of the Government.

    Minutes from the MAG meeting of 29 May 2014 show that several members objected strongly to the Levy funds being used for the Motorcycle Graduated Licensing Scheme (MGLS).

    The minutes confirm that the majority of the representatives from the former VMAC also opposed the Levy being used for this purpose. However, despite the clear disagreement, James Holgate, the VicRoads representative advised those present that the project met the Guideline criteria, without any further evidence other than his word.

    Additionally, members were practically told that as there was no other funding available, the VicRoads decision, already approved by the Minister, should be accepted.

    While the TAC representative, Ms Cockfield, was an apology for the meeting, TAC holds a copy of the minutes from the 29 May 2014 meeting which was eventually released under FoI. As such, the TAC representative, Ms Cockfield had, or should have had implied knowledge of the serious concerns raised about the appropriateness of using the Levy funds for the MGLS program.

    Despite this, the VicRoads website shows the MGLS project as being approved for Levy funding, with the serious concerns that the project did not meet the criteria completely disregarded.

    Rather than funding being used in line with the purpose of the Levy, the MAG minutes provide a strong inference that the Levy is being used as a slush fund by VicRoads for any motorcycle related project. Yet TAC has knowingly reimbursed VicRoads, without exercising due care and professional oversight over whether the funds were properly spent in accordance with the Levy purpose or not.

    To add further concern to the blithering mess that is the Government bodies’ collective governance and oversight of the Levy, the Motor Cycle Safety Levy page on VicRoads website, current as at 13 January 2016, lists ‘enforcement’ as one of the four key priority areas for use of the Levy. This is despite the PIMS Report highlighting that Levy funds should not be used for enforcement projects.

    Did TAC and VicRoads change the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure when it signed off on the MoU in September 2015 in order to overcome the serious concerns raised by the PIMS Report, or is it willfully and deliberately violating the intent of the Levy and the Guidelines carefully formulated when the Levy was introduced in 2002?

    Unsurprisingly, the TAC Media Team has advised that the MoU is likely to be deemed commercial-in-confidence and therefore not to be released under an FoI request. Clearly, with such serious and obvious accountability issues, the MoU is a document that should, and must, be released in the public interest.

    The TAC is demonstrably complicit in the misuse of Levy funding by neglecting to take steps to confirm that expenditure is only reimbursed where the criterion contained within the Strategic Guide to Motorcycle Levy Expenditure is met. The fact it did not even hold a copy of the Guidelines until recently is a clear indication of its careless abandon of its governance responsibilities.

    Additionally, the recently signed MoU offers no guarantee that TAC will take its obligations seriously, given its continued assertion that the administration of the Levy is a matter for VicRoads. In particular, if the same persons currently representing the TAC and VicRoads are part of the Steering Committee, there is a real risk that the Steering Committee will become another toothless body, rubber stamping projects for VicRoads without any genuine consideration for the intent and purpose of the Levy.

    The 2012 PIMS Report also called for a full audit of the Motor Cycle Safety Levy by the Auditor-Generals office. Since the Government opted to retain the Levy, and took so long to act on any of the governance oversight recommendations from the report, if its new processes are effective at all, it is of utmost importance that the Auditor-General conduct a full audit of the Levy expenditure, which the Auditor-General’s office has advised remains under active consideration. Its findings should be considered by the Victorian Ombudsman.

    TAC cannot – and must not – continue to abrogate its governance responsibilities to VicRoads. As the PIMS report identifies, both organisations have equal responsibility for the management of the Levy. After all, the TAC’s own statute obliges it, and not VicRoads, to manage the TAC scheme as effectively, efficiently and as economically as possible and to ensure that the Scheme emphases accident prevention and effective rehabilitation of all injured motorcyclists.

    Ironically, TAC has excluded motorcyclists from its funded Monash University ‘Enhanced Crash Investigation Study’, a world-first study which will examine more than 400 serious injury crashes in ‘microscopic detail’. Given the objectives and policy intent supporting the Motor Cycle Safety Levy this unexplained omission is remarkable and should be explained.

    The management of the Motor Cycle Safety Levy does not meet the expectations of the Victorian public or the motorcycling community, and is not in accordance with the accepted practices for receiving, holding and expending public funds in Australia. Further, the secrecy around the MoU, the sudden appearance of ‘enforcement’ being a key priority for the use of the Levy funds, and the continued reimbursement of Levy funds by TAC to VicRoads where questions remain about the legitimacy of the expenditure, indicates that an official audit by the Auditor General and the Ombudsman must be a priority for the Minister. Only then will TAC start to take its governance obligations seriously.
    • Informative Informative x 6
    • Like Like x 1
  2. #2 Jeffco, Apr 15, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
    who would have thought a government agency collecting money for one purpose, found to be not being used for said purpose advised to scrap said levy ignores advice change's the rules keeps the money & levy going.
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Funny Funny x 1
  3. It makes sense that since there is a credible case of TAC misdirecting funds, whether deliberately or through negligence, the levy itself should face a call for it's removal.
    No government is going to easily give up money but for once we seem to have a regime that values our vote, so it's worth a try even if it just results in it being spent better.
  4. #4 robsalvv, Apr 15, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
    Not hanging any disrespect on Eva, but whilst she has correctly deduced conclusions based on the FOI's she initiated, the FOI's were not the right questions to ask of the TAC and I think that that has lead her to come to some incorrect conclusions about the situation in Victoria. There is a lot of good stuff in the article, plenty I resonate with (TAC's motorcycle safety plan and views against training are major concerns), but a few things are off base.

    First of all, TAC doesn't run MAG. They have a seat on the MAG. They also sit on other roaduser advisory groups and I suspect that there would be holes in their TAC records regarding both attendance and filing of minutes back at TAC HQ. These are admin issues, not proof of dysfunctional advisory bodies.

    Second TAC doesn't administer the MSL. TAC only collects and hypothecates the money into a bank account, which then awaits piecemeal remittance via individual invoices from Vicroads for work carried out on approved MSL projects. The money is not being misused, it is not accessible to TAC unless there is an approved MSL project. In fact there is something like $10 - 20million sitting there unspent awaiting MSL spending so that should put paid to any suggestion of it being fraudulently abused or misappropriated or being used as a TAC slush fund.

    The negative views about MAG being a Vicroads rubber stamp WERE largely correct, but that has changed. Also the article is incorrect about one thing - MAG has met at the required schedule since inception. It is a live and functioning body reviewing motorcycling issues and giving feedback to Vicroads, which Vicroads then takes under advisement. They aren't required to adopt the input. If MAG had the kind of powers to make Vicroads adopt or do something, it would be a government authority in its own right with a legislative framework. It is not that kind of beast. Any kind of suggestion that it is that kind of beast is a misunderstanding.

    There are things that could definitely be improved both at TAC and Vicroads in relation to motorcycling and motorcycle stakeholder engagement, but both agencies have seriously stepped up their engagement efforts in recent times - well, from the VMC's perspective at least. But you wouldn't know that if you're not in the loop. From the VMC's point of view, we are routinely talking with VicPol, TAC, Vicroads, the government, government departments, local councils, other NGO's. It doesn't mean we get what we want, but if you're not part of the conversation, putting forward credible input, being asked for your opinion, you have little chance of influencing policy.

    With specific regard to the MSL, there is an MSL expenditure approval policy document, I have a copy. It ABSOLUTELY IS AN INDICTMENT that TAC could not put their hand on it - I totally agree there. The MSL is controlled via an interagency committee that reviews proposals against this document. I don't know how often they meet, where, or how proposals get on the agenda - but if a proposal meets the criteria, it gets a project number and then goes into the big bureaucratic machine to get resourced and actioned. The actioning can take a while unless it's an engineering treatment which Vicroads is very good at doing. Vicroads is a shrinking organisation at present, which only means less resources to put MSL projects in train. This is reality.

    So whilst Eva has written a decent article, it is a little off base regarding the actual picture here in Victoria. I'm pretty sure this post will make it to B i k e m e, so again, let me state, nothing I've said is a criticism of Eva - I'm not engaging in a shit fight, I'm only responding to a couple of the concerns that I think will be raised in Vic rider's minds.
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  5. I'm really puzzled why people thought the MGLS was not a proper project for funding from the levy.
  6. I read Eva's diatribe and was a bit surprised at its lack of accuracy. Read's like something that I would expect from someone from outside Victoria, who forgot to speak to those motorcycle riders closer to the coalface - specifically VMC.

    Absolutely agree with everything that Rob has said. Things have changed considerably, and relationships have improved since the formation of VMC. Thanks to the approach taken by VMC in establishing good relationships with VicPol, TAC, Vic Roads etc - sensible discussions now take place - with positive outcomes, which were all but impossible 10 years ago.
  7. TAC have been against training ever since MUARC dug up an insurance industry study that correlated skills training with increased insurance risk.
    MUARC took the position that it was the training that increased the risk, and not the user group.
    TAC strategy is all about reducing kms travelled and travel speeds.
  8. "Minutes from the MAG meeting of 29 May 2014 show that several members objected strongly to the Levy funds being used for the Motorcycle Graduated Licensing Scheme (MGLS)."

    Who were the objectors?

    Anyway from what I now understand TAC are merely the 'bankers' and it is the MAG that actually make the decisions.
    I know that MUARC is often accused of believing the conclusions of that study (which had more holes than a summer textile jacket) but Haworth is now at CARRS-Q so maybe the influence has waned?
  9. Er who makes the decisions? *SMH*
  10. oh ffs what have I said wrong now? Isn't that what you posted above^^ ie that TAC basically only pay the invoices? so what decision making input do they have into how the money is spent other than 1 x seat on MAG who advises Vicroads? Or do they have veto?
  11. Sydney Morning Herald?

    Fractals, could you please explain how you came to this conclusion from what Rob stated? Or is that a typo and you meant "VicRoads" where you wrote "MAG"?
  12. How could you possibly have read the article Eva wrote and my response and have misunderstood the role of MAG so significantly? *SMH*
  13. *SMH = shakes my head I believe :) ... it could stand for something far more lewd but I won't go there LOL

    Oh yes ... VicRoads has the final 'stamp and wax seal' on projects but takes what MAG advises on-board - that was my take from what Rob posted. How it all pans out for each project would I assume come down to the individual project managers. I don't think there is anything sinister in the process.

    I think the flurry about TAC not being able to put their hands on the MSL expenditure approval policy document is funny ... typical bureaucracy stalling until after the next HoD meeting LOL
  14. #14 robsalvv, Apr 15, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
    What this highlights is how easy someone can put their own spin on things, even inadvertently.

    Anyway, projects funded by the MSL are decided by the interagency committee. That committee has nothing to do with MAG.

    MAG has no direct say on where the MSL gets spent.

    MAG rider reps will grizzle about or accept, i.e., freely offer their opinion, where the MSL ends up.

    The reason that riders in the MAG weren't pleased that MSL money was spent on the MGLS is that the whole car GLS revamp, other motorvehicle crash studies, bicycle safety programs, pedestrian safety studies and road engineering treatments are totally funded from general revenue and not by a hypothecated levy applied on those road users. Riders are being slugged a levy and paying for stuff the community should be paying for.

    As shown by the interim report from the Motorcycle case controlled crash study, road layout and other vehicles firmly take the lion share of what is hurting a lot of motorcyclists in Victoria. The MSL penalises riders, blames them for the level of rider KSI's when a lion share actually relates back to "community" type reasons.

    There are good reasons to jump on/argue against the MSL.

    Having said that, I have to balance my views by the fact and realisation that MSL money has actually resulted in fewer injured riders on specially MSL funded engineering treatments on motorcycle black routes and black spots. Those routes and spots wouldn't have featured as a high enough priority to attract general revenue funding, but certainly did with this hypothecated MSL monies. The sting in the tail is that all other road users benefitted from the engineering treatments, so again, the work should have been funded by the community...
    • Like Like x 1
  15. A reduction in KSIs in black spots has to be a good thing I would think. If other road users (who could also be motorcyclists) also benefit then surely that's a good thing overall?
  16. Motorcyclists are community members and on the whole have no problem contributing to community resources whether directed at them particularly or not.

    Share the road. Share the funds.

    Making roads safer for riders also makes them inherently safer for drivers which likely has a knock-on affect by less driver errors on dodgy roads causing less problems for riders.
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
  17. As you don't identify as a motorcyclist I guess you may not understand the culture :)
  18. Ever wonder why you're shunned and considered a pariah?

    Seriously? Motorcyclists are community members so they pay for everyone else's safety too?


    Keep it up Judith.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Do you enjoy the fruits of funding for other road users???