A government grants scheme to help telcos defray the capital costs of implementing the mandatory data retention regime will face scrutiny from the Australian National Audit Office.
The ANAO says it will assess the design process for the grants scheme as well as whether sound performance monitoring, reporting, evaluation and assurance arrangements were put in place.
In total, telcos successfully applied for grants totalling $128,351,400; the smallest was $10,000 and the largest almost $40 million. The government had set aside $128.4 million for the scheme, less than the anticipated cost to industry of data retention compliance.
The government has said that most telcos that applied for funding received 80 per cent of the upfront costs associated with meeting their data retention obligations, with SMBs receiving at least 80 per cent.
Telstra, Vodafone and Optus walked away with the largest sums, receiving $40 million, $29 million and $15 million, respectively.
The rest of the top 10 grant recipients comprised Vocus ($3,444,036, including $1,618,436 for M2), MyNetFone ($3,004,000), TPG ($2,225,541, including $814,581 for iiNet), Broadband Solutions ($2,201,006), Exetel ($1,803,778), Message4U Pty Ltd ($1,264,800) and NBN ($1,067,515).
The data retention legislation was passed in 2015, with telcos’ obligations kicking in in October of that year (although telcos were able in some circumstances to defer compliance). The regime compels telcos to retain for 24 months a range of data relating to customers’ use of their services.
The ANAO is accepting contributions to the audit until 30 November.
In August, the government released its annual report on law enforcement agencies’ use of the powers granted by the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 in FY16.