Major issue with government's $450m anti-ice strategy

The government has no way of knowing whether its $450 million war against the drug ice is working, according to a report released on Monday.

The auditor-general has found the Department of Health has no monitoring framework for its National Ice Action Strategy, which was established to reduce ice use and the harm it was causing communities across the country.

Announced in 2015, the strategy has been given $451.5 million over six years from 2016-17 to combat the national rise in crystal meth use.

One of the strategy's action areas at the time it was proposed was to find better research and data on ice use.

The Australian National Audit Office found government funding in the drug and alcohol sector had increased, with some progress made by the department on the 19 actions under the strategy.

But the department had no way of knowing whether Australians were using less meth.

"The department does not have an evaluation approach in place for the National Ice Action Strategy, and is not monitoring progress towards the goal and objective," the report said.

About 50,000 Australians self-reported using ice at least once a week in 2016, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The auditor found an implementation plan for the strategy was drafted by the health department, but never used.

The department also had no way to assess the performance of local health departments, with no quality framework to assess whether they were effectively commissioning, monitoring or evaluating drug and alcohol services.

The department agreed to all five of the auditor's recommendations, including setting up performance measures, developing an evaluation framework and improving public reporting on its implementation of the strategy.

The auditor also found the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum, established to oversee Australia's drug strategy, had not met since June last year and hadn't tabled its annual report for 2018.

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