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MLA’s positive independent performance review

23 April 2020

An independent and impartial review into the performance of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) between 2016 and 2020 has shown the organisation is in good shape.

Released today, the review concludes that MLA is well managed, delivering value for money, meeting its levy payer and Government obligations, and is well positioned to effectively tackle future challenges for the red meat and livestock industry.

The Independent Review of MLA Performance 2016-2020, which includes MLA subsidiaries, Integrity Systems Company (ISC) and MLA Donor Company (MDC), will be used to inform the development of the next Statutory Funding Agreement (SFA) between MLA and the Australian Government. It also includes a number of important recommendations that MLA will look to implement heading into the new financial year.

MLA Managing Director, Jason Strong, said it was a pleasing scorecard for MLA but the organisation would not be resting on its laurels.

“On behalf of the MLA Board and Leadership Team, I want to thank MLA’s staff for their hard work which has helped deliver a successful result,” Mr Strong said.

“The review, which is entirely independent and carried out by an external organisation, shows MLA has made real progress. However, on behalf of red meat producers and the wider red meat supply chain we see this as an opportunity to learn, develop further and set the organisation up for future success. That is our obligation to levy payers.”  

The report, available in full on MLA’s website is broken down into eight clear components: introduction, operating context, governance and operations, performance against strategies, industry benefits, stakeholder engagement and partnerships, obligations and past recommendations and conclusions and recommendations.

Key findings

Key conclusions from the report include:

  • MLA is a large, complex and relatively mature organisation with ample evidence to suggest that it is well-governed and managed.
  • MLA has met the substantive obligations of its Statutory Funding Agreement and obligations to levy payers and industry to deliver high quality research & development and marketing outcomes, in a cost-effective way.
  • Over the review period, MLA has enhanced efforts to engage meaningfully with stakeholders, to deliver benefits to industry across the red meat supply chain.
  • MLA’s approach to assessing the economic impact and value of its research activities aligns with current best practise, however MLA should increase its efforts to assess social and environmental benefits and where possible quantify these.

Mr Strong said the time period covered by the review (2016-2020) had been a challenging one for the red meat supply chain.

“The chapter on operating context is therefore a really important one,” Mr Strong said.

“Firstly, it identifies some of the environmental and red meat industry factors which MLA has responded to over the review period, including ‘worst-on-record’ conditions and natural disasters. These are important in understanding the drivers for change within MLA and why MLA has taken certain actions.

“Secondly, it is useful in identifying the factors which are likely to shape MLA’s decisions into the future as we look to deliver ‘fewer, bigger, bolder’ programs of work to ensure transformational change and doubling the value of red meat sales to 2030.

“Finally, the red meat marketplace has rapidly evolved, meaning the need to factor in ‘triple-bottom line benefits’ - those that deliver value beyond straight forward economic gain, such as programs of work that deliver social and environmental benefits. All of these factors have been included in the review, which serves to highlight MLA’s commitment and steadfast focus in these crucial areas.” 

Recommendations

The main recommendations of the report - which if implemented will ‘position MLA to meet the challenges of an uncertain future’ - include:

  • Provide a clear direction and secure funding for the next 3-5 years so that ISC can better support its commitments to Australia’s red meat integrity system.
  • MLA should actively pursue the successful implementation of a Key Account Management strategy and framework (Project Auto) to form the narrative for how MLA will work with stakeholders to improve engagement and service delivery with associated reporting.
  • MLA should maintain the practice of linking KPIs to the MISP. Stretch stakeholder satisfaction KPIs should be expanded in line with the Key Account Management strategy.
  • MLA should implement a rolling schedule of facilitated self-assessment of all committees it convenes and funds. MLA should publish the findings along with the terms of reference and its service level agreement for each of the committees. Such an extension will propel MLA’s engagement function to the next level of maturity.
  • MLA should supplement its current evaluation model with more evaluation of issues that are difficult to analyse and do not fit well with a standard economic evaluation framework.

Key performance

In terms of delivery against Key Performance Indicators (KPI), the average success rate over the last three years for MLA was 76%. Over the three financial years during the review period, MLA met or exceeded its annual benchmarks on 55 occasions and failed to meet its benchmarks on 17 occasions.

“As we enter our next strategic planning period, it is important for MLA to focus on where improvements can be made. A good example of how we have previously done this is beef marketing, for which the last review said MLA must do better and we responded by launching our ‘Australian Beef. The Greatest’ campaign and partnering with Olympics and Paralympics Australia ahead of the games in 2021," Mr Strong said. 

Engagement with industry stakeholders

The review observed a considerable improvement in stakeholder perceptions of MLA and that the organisation had made considerable efforts to renew its regional consultative committees. More recently MLA has clarified and simplified its approach to adoption, driving a more targeted and supported approach. Beyond that MLA has improved the processes associated with all of its committees and Peak Industry Council (PIC) consultation and there is now a greater level of two-way engagement than previously observed.

“MLA’s engagement activities with PICs and regional and sector-specific advisory committees are examples of where MLA has demonstrated improvement in the eyes of stakeholders, and that is really pleasing to see,” Mr Strong said.

“The review has also highlighted some improvements in MLA’s ability to partner with other RDCs, government, private industry and universities.

“However, we are really clear about the need to continually improve in this area. In late 2019, MLA began the development of a Key Account Management strategy and framework called Project Auto that will better integrate our stakeholder activities across the organisation to improve performance.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, Mr Strong said the Australian red meat industry must keep on the front foot and strive to be a world leader.

“Our industry continues to face a range of tactical and operational challenges, including extreme weather events, competing proteins and global trade reforms, amongst others. We also face increasing pressures relating to industry transparency, traceability, animal welfare and environmental impacts," Mr Strong said. 

“We will continue to target major strategic challenges to ensure that higher risk but higher reward investments are not being overlooked. 

“The need to pursue a commitment to ongoing industry collaboration and developing sophisticated supply chains is more important than ever.”

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