Regional Clean Energy Team: Unsolicited Grant Requests Policy

1. Document purpose

1.1  The purpose of this document is to establish a policy and process for how the Regional Clean Energy Program (RCEP) within the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Sustainability Programs Branch, Regional Operations Group will deal with unsolicited grant requests. 

 2. Introduction

2.1  For the purposes of this policy, unsolicited grant requests are those which are submitted to RCEP outside of a formal grant program or call for funding submissions.

2.2  Unsolicited grant requests may come from a variety of sources including Government (the Commonwealth Government [its agencies], State Government organisations and statutory committees and Local Government Councils), Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) Groups, non-government entities including community groups, incorporated associations, cooperatives, for-profit companies, not‑for‑profit companies or individuals.

2.3  Note that unsolicited grant requests differ from, and do not include, ‘unsolicited proposals’ which are considered through a formal process by the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Unsolicited proposals are defined as:

“an approach to Government from a proponent with a proposal to:

  •  Build and/or finance infrastructure, and/or
  • Provide goods or services

Where government has not requested the proposal.”[1]

3. Initial consideration

3.1  All unsolicited grant requests that relate to RCEP which have been submitted to OEH will be directed to the Regional Clean Energy Team Senior Team Leader (STL), or their delegate, for initial review and assessment.

3.2  Once an initial review has been conducted, the STL, or their delegate, will progress unsolicited grant requests which meet the following criteria:

  • The request is able to assist OEH achieve the NSW Government’s goals related to clean energy and will deliver outcomes for NSW.
  • The request satisfies the objectives of the NSW Climate Change Fund as set out in section 34F of the Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987.
  • The request confirms that there are no other funding sources available (including other NSW, local and/or Federal Government, philanthropic or corporate grant programs).
  • The request is from a proponent as defined in paragraph 2.2 of this policy.
  • The proponent has a valid Australian Business Number and Good and Services Tax status[2].
  • There is budget available for either part or the whole amount requested in the request.
  • By agreeing to fund the unsolicited grant request, the RCEP or other contributing program budgets do not have their planned priority activities impacted.
  • The request does not seek funds for capital purchases.

3.3  Unsolicited grant requests which do not meet the initial review criteria under paragraph 3.2 will not be progressed further. The STL, or their delegate, will either redirect the request to an existing NSW Government program which may be able to support their request[3] and/or inform the proponent that OEH is unable to progress their proposal and the reason/s for this decision.

3.4  It is acceptable under this policy that unsolicited grant requests submitted as per paragraph 3.1 may seek a co-contribution from OEH of the total costs of the proposal. Under this scenario, the proposal will be required to list the names of other funding parties as well as detail the nature and level of their involvement.

4. Approvals process

4.1  Unsolicited grant requests which have undergone an initial review and assessment and meet the criteria outlined in paragraph 3.2 will be progressed to formal consideration, recommendation and decision.

4.2  Formal consideration of unsolicited grant requests will be considered by a Technical Review Panel (TRP).

4.3  A TRP will consist of a panel of two members for unsolicited grant requests requesting less than $50,000 and a TRP will consist of three members for proposals requesting more than $50,000. The STL, or their delegate, may determine who will sit on the TRP including whether an external subject matter expert (SME) is required. (See Section 5 for more on SMEs).

4.4  If the unsolicited grant request meets the criteria of a previous RCEP grants program (i.e. the Growing Community Energy Grants), then the TRP will use the established grant criteria to determine its recommendation to the Director, Sustainability Programs (the Director) consistent with paragraph 4.7.

4.5  If the request does not meet the criteria of a previous RCEP grants program as per paragraph 4.4, then the TRP will consider the unsolicited grant request according to the following criteria:

  • The ability of the request to assist OEH in achieving the Government’s policy objectives (i.e. is the proposal ‘fit for purpose’).
  • The ability of the request to demonstrate OEH with ‘value for money’ (VFM)[4] including the extent by which the request includes performance measures that demonstrate VFM can be achieved.  
  • The capacity of the proponent (including operational and management capability as well as financial viability) to deliver the outcomes as outlined in the request, including the extent that the proponent has established internal controls to mitigate operational risk.
  • The innovative nature of the request and the potential for a positive spill over effect for other elements of the Government’s policies and programs.
  • The ability of the request to generate community or institutional support through positive stakeholder references or endorsements.
  • A commitment to knowledge sharing and agreeing to OEH publishing data and reports generated wholly, or in part, with the grant.
  • If relevant, a letter of support from the council area within which the project will be implemented, or letter/s of support from other stakeholders in the project.
  • An outline of how the proponent intends to engage and/or involve the local community and other stakeholders in the project.

4.6  All criteria outlined in paragraph 4.5 will be given equal weighting by the TRP.

4.7  In considering the request, the TRP will put forward a recommendation to the Director, or other OEH executives as determined by their delegation authority, to make a formal decision. The TRP will include documented reasons for their recommendation.

4.8  The recommendation in paragraph 4.7 may include the option for OEH to impose conditions as part of funding the request including suggested performance criteria that would allow OEH to monitor the progress of the funded request and demonstrate to the Minister, the Parliament and the NSW Auditor General that the Government’s policy objectives and VFM have been achieved.

4.9  The Director, or authorised financial delegate, in making their determination, will not be bound by the recommendation of the TRP.

4.10  If the Director or delegate departs from the recommendation they should explain in writing the reason for the departure, i.e. the factors which influenced them in coming to a different decision.

5. Procurement of external subject matter expert services

5.1  Consistent with paragraph 4.3, the services of external subject matter experts (SMEs) are able to be employed as part of the TRP.

5.2  The use of an external SME is only permissible if particular technical knowledge or skills are not available within OEH.

5.3  An external SME may be a public official from another NSW or Commonwealth Government agency or from the non-government sector.

5.4  RCEP is permitted to remunerate non-government SMEs for their time and expertise in activities related to TRPs. In doing so, RCEP will be required to comply with the OEH Procurement Manual[5] and the NSW Government Code of Practice for Procurement.

5.5  If under paragraph 5.4, RCEP wishes to enter into direct negotiations to procure the services of a SME, then RCEP must seek the permission of the OEH Procurement Manager before doing so[6].

5.6  Consistent with section 4.1 of the OEH Procurement Manual, procurements less than $5,000 (including GST) do not require written quotations and procurements between $5,001 and $30,000 require at least one written quotation.

5.7  All external SMEs procured by RCEP under this policy will be required to sign confidentiality agreements with OEH.

6. Conflicts of interest

6.1  All OEH officials and participating external subject matter experts will comply with the OEH Disclosing interests and managing conflicts of interests policy and procedure[7] including the completion of the OEH’s Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest Form when dealing with unsolicited grant requests under this policy. 

6.2  If the Director has either a real or perceived conflict of interest with the proponent of an unsolicited grant request, a peer of the Director or their immediate supervisor will make a determination on the unsolicited grant request consistent with paragraph 4.9 of this policy.

7. Notification of proposal approval decision

7.1  RCEP will advise the proponent of the Director’s decision as per paragraph 4.9. If the request is approved, the associated conditions or performance criteria will also be communicated to the proponents.  If the request is not approved, the proponent will be entitled to receive feedback from RCEP on why their request was not approved.

7.2  If the Director approves an unsolicited grant request, then the following will be notified of the decision:

  • The Minister for the Environment
  • The Chief Executive, OEH.
  • The CCF Administrator, OEH.

8. Intellectual property

8.1  OEH officials should seek to clarify the intellectual property status of the unsolicited proposal submitted to OEH and should not infringe the legal rights associated with any legally protected copyright material which was submitted to OEH as part of the submission process.

8.2  All OEH officials are required to comply with OEH’s Intellectual Property Policy[8].

9. Record keeping

9.1  The Director’s decision (as per paragraph 4.9) will be documented and recorded in TRIM for official OEH reporting purposes consistent with the OEH Records Management Policy 2011[9] as well as for potential financial and performance audits conducted by the Audit Office of New South Wales.

10. Negotiation protocol

10.1  If OEH believes that greater VFM can be obtained through amendments to the unsolicited grant request, OEH may enter into direct negotiations with the proponent.

10.2  Negotiations will be conducted based on OEH Procurement protocols and policies.[10]

10.3  RCEP will be responsible for leading the negotiations with the proponent. RCEP will be required to complete a ‘Negotiation Plan’ before the negotiations with the proponent begin[11].

10.4  In addition to paragraph 10.2, relevant participants representing OEH and the proponent who are participating in the negotiation, will be required to complete and sign the ‘OEH Negotiation Protocol’[12].  (This requirement has been mandated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption).

10.5  If any negotiated amendments to the unsolicited grant request are reached, then those amendments will be reflected in the funding agreement consistent with Section 11 of this policy.

11. Funding agreements

11.1  OEH will require the proponents of approved unsolicited grant requests to enter into a funding agreement with OEH. Such funding agreements outlines the roles and responsibilities of the respective parties, funding schedule, performance criteria, reporting requirements, protection of intellectual property, indemnity and insurance and dispute resolution.

11.2  This funding agreement will state that OEH intends to make data/information publically available.

11.3  The funding agreement will be signed by both parties before the disbursement of funds.

12.  Grant-performance management

12.1  RCEP Sustainability Programs Branch will designate a contract manager who will be responsible for ensuring that the proponent meets the terms and conditions and/or performance criteria under the OEH funding agreement consistent with paragraph 11.1.

12.2  The contract manager will be accountable to the Director (or equivalent) for the management of the funding agreement and the acquittal of the grant.

12.3  A final milestone/outcomes report is required in order to satisfy annual reporting requirements.

12.4  The contract manager will advise the Director when the grant recipient has fulfilled their obligations under the grant agreement and draft an acquittal letter for the Director to sign.

Publication of approvals of unsolicited grant requests

13.1  All unsolicited grant requests which have been approved and funded by RCEP will be published on the OEH website within one month of the funding decision being made by the Director.[13]

13.2  The exception to 13.1 will be where the grant relates to material that is commercial or cabinet in confidence material.  

13.3  Any exceptions to 13.1 will be noted in the funding agreement.


Notes

[1]http://www.treasury.nsw.gov.au/data/assets/pdf_file/0003/22683/Unsolicited_Proposals_Guideline_August_2012.pdf

[2] As noted in the DPC’s, Good Practice Guide to Grants Administration: ”Applicant organisations are required to provide their Australian Business Number ABN and their GST status. It is recommended that the funded department checks the validity of each applicant organisation’s ABN and GST registration on the Australian Taxation Office’s website.”

[3] This may include directing the proponent to the Environmental Trust or to the whole-of-government unsolicited proposal process managed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

[4] VFM is the “differential between the total benefit derived from a good or a service against its total cost, when assessed over the period the goods or services are to be utilised.” 

https://www.procurepoint.nsw.gov.au/policies/nsw-government-procurement-information/statement-value-money

[5] Available on request.

[6] See paragraph 3.6.11 of the OEH Procurement Manual

[7] Available on request.

[8] http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/whoweare/intellectual-property-policy-160362.pdf

[9] Note that this OEH Records Management Policy 2011 is currently under review.

[10] In negotiating with an external party, OEH should seek to provide general guidance on an unsolicited proposal and should not seek assume control and redevelop the proposal which gives the external party an unfair advantage.

[11] Negotiation plan templates are available on request.

[12] Negotiation protocols are a process that the Independent Commission Against Corruption requires all NSW Government agencies to adopt (See 2006 publication – “Direct Negotiations – Guidelines for Managing Risks in Direct Negotiations”)

[13] This publication of the final decision is consistent with the guidance outlined on page 12 of DPC’s Good Practice Guide to Grants Administration.

Page last updated: 16 February 2017