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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2021) . . Page.. 1839 ..

every transaction required customers to spend their own money, being double that of the value of the voucher they were seeking to claim.

I have seen commentary about the types of products customers were purchasing. Tobacco, alcohol and gambling products were excluded under the terms and conditions. Outside of this, what different businesses choose to sell and what customers buy is a matter for them, so long as the business was an eligible business to participate in the scheme. I note in particular that there were reports of gift vouchers being purchased. This is a legitimate purchase and there are some businesses―such as restaurants which might have been booked out―for whom this might have been a good solution to have available.

I know there is also a great deal of interest from Canberrans about the administrative costs of the program. Some $203,000 was allocated for both the trial and the full rollout, including one-off establishment of the program, system and hosting capacity upgrades, supports and information for businesses and consumers, and the promotional material I detailed earlier. As I noted, we had to procure additional developer hours to resolve the technical issues. On the other hand, marketing activities were cancelled due to the overwhelming popularity of the system. The final administrative costs are being compiled, and when they are finalised I will share this information publicly.

There is no indication at this point of any misuse of funds. Any specific allegations of misuse should be reported to the ACT government so they can be checked. As part of the program, businesses are required to keep proof of transactions for audit purposes. Businesses must be able to show the total sale value, the value of the ChooseCBR discount applied and the date of transaction. As part of routine checks, businesses are asked for proof of transactions and the government assesses the information provided to determine if it supports the expenditure that we have seen. If any business were found to be in contravention of the terms and conditions, the government could temporarily or indefinitely suspend or terminate a registration.

Now that the scheme has closed, the activity of 18 and 19 June will be checked to see if there are indications of irregular spending patterns. Thirty-three businesses who participated in the trial were asked to provide further information about their transactions. It was found generally there was good compliance with the program terms and conditions. One pattern of questionable transactions was identified across three merchants. The merchants were provided an opportunity to explain their transaction patterns and were not able to do so satisfactorily. The merchants were removed from the program before the full rollout.

I trust this answers some questions in Canberrans’ minds. However, it is important that we conduct a thorough evaluation of this program. This was a one-off scheme, but it was also a bold initiative for the ACT. We have never done something of this kind before. We have learnt a lot through the ChooseCBR experience and how the government can continue to use digital platforms in our service delivery, and we want to learn more.

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