The National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) IT systems do not adequately support its core focus of granting millions of dollars in research funds, according to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
In a performance audit report, the ANAO found the NHMRC's IT grant system, called the Research Management Information System (RMIS), had "substantial data anomalies" and could not "accommodate the monitoring of grants’ financial and progress reporting requirements, or capture qualitative information from submitted grant reports".
The auditor found this diminished NHMRC's capacity to properly report on the outcomes of programs worth more than $3 billion between 2000 and 2008.
The report noted, however, that the NHMRC – which in 2008 administered 3843 grants at a value of $595 million – has experienced a "period of transition" since 2006 when it separated its administrative functions away from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to become its own statutory agency.
Since 2006, it has also undertaken to develop new IT systems including a new grants system called the Research Grant Management System (RGMS), which is based on CA's Clarity product. The final rollout of the RGMS is scheduled to reach all grant programs by 2010.
The ANAO also criticised the NHMRC's governance arrangements, peer review panels for the awarding of grants, and its post-award grant management.
In a statement provided in the report the NHRMC said it welcomed and agreed with the ANAO's recommendations.
"The ANAO’s audit report affirms NHMRC’s program of continuous improvement in grant administration, which includes the implementation of a new Research Grants Management System (RGMS), being piloted prior to full implementation from December 2009," the statement read. "This new technology will address many of the weaknesses identified by ANAO."