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Review of the Public Trustee

Terms of Reference

Objective:

To undertake an independent review into the administrative and operational practices of the Public Trustee.

Background:

The Public Trustee is a Government Business Enterprise with the principal objective of offering specialist and independent trustee services to the Tasmanian community, irrespective of the value of any particular matter.

The Public Trustee’s 2019-20 Annual Report identifies the following main undertakings:

  • preparing wills, enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianships;
  • acting as an executor of estates, or estate administrator if there is no will;
  • assuming the role of executor when a person named in a will is unable or unwilling to act;
  • acting as attorney for people requiring assistance to manage their financial affairs;
  • acting as trustee for various types of trusts including accident compensation awards;
  • assisting people to manage their financial affairs when the Public Trustee is appointed as a financial administrator by the Guardianship and Administration Board; and
  • managing funds under the control of the Public Trustee in order to provide a commercial rate of return to contributor.

The Public Trustee delivers a number of non-commercial activities for the Government.

These are:

  • administration of absolute estates with a gross asset value of less than $60 000;
  • administration of continuing trust and life tenancy estates with a gross asset value of less than $100 000;
  • administration and management of minor trusts with a gross asset value of less than $20 000; and
  • management of assets for represented persons with a gross asset values of less than  $100 000.

The Government meets the cost of these non-commercial activities through a Community Service Obligation Agreement between the Crown and the Public Trustee.

A number of concerns have been raised recently, both through the media and directly to the State Government, about the operations of the Public Trustee and its dealings with clients and client outcomes.

The Government expects that the Public Trustee provides professional services, delivered with integrity and understanding to the Tasmanian community, in accordance with its enabling and other applicable legislation.

Scope:

The review will inquire into, report on and make recommendations in relation to the following matters:

  • the extent to which the Public Trustee is effectively performing its main undertakings and community service obligations with reference to relevant matters including legislative responsibilities, the current legislative framework and stakeholder feedback;
  • the extent to which the Public Trustee effectively meets its commitments under the “Mission, Vision and Values” statement, particularly in relation to a client service focus, with respect and integrity across all its functions;
  • the appropriateness of current fees and charges applied by the Public Trustee for its services, given its costs and objectives;
  • the appropriateness of the current Community Service Obligation Agreement between the Crown and the Public Trustee;
  • the financial sustainability of the entity with particular reference to ongoing changes in the number and composition of clients and commercial activities;
  • whether the current Public Trustee governance framework is appropriate in assisting the effective delivery of the entity’s main undertakings and any appropriate changes to current governance arrangements that may be required;
  • the impact that the implementation of the recommendations arising from the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute’s review of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1995 would  have on the administrative and operational practices of the Public Trustee;
  • the potential for current operational practices to benefit from the implementation of reforms to service delivery recently implemented by similar organisations in other jurisdictions; and
  • any associated relevant matters  to assist the review of the administrative and operational practices of the Public Trustee.

The inquiry timeframe should include matters within the last 10 years, that is from 1 January 2011 to the present day.

Reporting and Timeframe:

A final report is to be submitted to the Public Trustee’s Shareholding Ministers by no later than 30 November 2021.

Other Matters:

  • The Report is to be undertaken by a person or entity that is external to the Public Trustee and possessing the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience.
  • Preparation of the report is to include the opportunity for members of the public and key stakeholders of the Public Trustee, including the Board and Executive Management Team of the Public Trustee, to provide input in relation to the matters detailed in the Review scope.