Veteran Affairs’ ‘wasteful’ $70,000 social splurge

A DEPARTMENT of Veterans' Affairs decision to spend up to $70,000 on "24 hours a day, seven days a week" social media monitoring has been slammed as "wasteful".

It comes just a week after a scathing Productivity Commission report called for "fundamental reform" of the nation's "out of date" and "overly complex" $13.2 billion veterans' affairs compensation system.

DVA is seeking the 24-hour social media monitoring software in a bid to be more in touch with "public sentiment" on veterans' issues.

The department made an approach to market last week on July 4, the same day the Productivity Commission handed down its highly critical report.

Labor's new Veterans' Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann labelled the timing "questionable" while saying the department should have higher priorities.

"Monitoring social media and engaging with the veteran community is something DVA officers should be doing already without the need to spend more money on this," he told News Corp.

Labor’s new Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann says the timing is “questionable”. Picture: AAP
Labor’s new Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann says the timing is “questionable”. Picture: AAP

"The PC report released on the same day as this tender found the veteran support system is complicated, inequitable, poorly administered, outdated and needs fundamental reform," he said.

"Given these findings, social media monitoring should not be a high priority for DVA right now."

Mr Neumann called it "wasteful spending" given $40 million had been cut from allied health care for veterans in last year's budget.

DVA's tender states that the department needs the new social media monitoring software to "improve the situational awareness of its senior executives" and to inform stakeholders about "public sentiment" on key topics.

Lance Corporal Patrick Carr of 8/9 RAR pays his respects to Australia's fallen Diggers from Gallipoli to the bloody fields of Afghanistan in Taji in Iraq, in 2016. Picture: Gary Ramage
Lance Corporal Patrick Carr of 8/9 RAR pays his respects to Australia's fallen Diggers from Gallipoli to the bloody fields of Afghanistan in Taji in Iraq, in 2016. Picture: Gary Ramage

It also notes that "insights gained" from monitoring social media will be used to update DVA's policies and strategies and to "enhance" the department media team's ability to respond to issues.

Some of the issues highlighted on Twitter by members of the public are veteran homelessness, the need for better access to physical and mental health treatment, and calls for a royal commission into military suicides, an analysis by News Corp shows.

A DVA spokesman said the department was seeking the software to assist with scheduling and posting for DVA's social media accounts, to allow DVA to monitor and respond to queries, and to report on the "social media landscape".

"Scheduling, posting, responding and reporting are all currently performed manually," he said.

"Procuring this software allows for faster response times in regards to answering requests for information, anticipating the provision of services, and responding to feedback from veterans and the community.

"DVA monitors a wide range of topics on public forums relating to its policies, programs, and service delivery, as well as general feedback from veterans and the veteran community ensuring services and support are continuously improved."

RSL Australia national president Greg Melick welcomed the DVA seeking new ways to monitor social media, saying authorities and groups needed more than just traditional methods to reach out to the community.

"It's a good idea," he told News Corp.

"We have a significant problem with veterans' suicides in this country, and with youth suicide more generally.

"The way youth communicate is on social media."

Legacy chairman Rick Cranna also backed the social media strategy if it improved the provision of services to veterans and their families.



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