Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 6 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 2323..
may result in significant risk to the territory. If an audit of a non-government entity is conducted, the Auditor-General must explain the reason for the audit in the audit report.
Some minor changes are also made to existing sections by clauses 23 to 25. These changes build in the need for the Auditor-General to consult non-government entities on draft audit reports and to consider their comments in finalising a report. The government has also taken the opportunity to reflect the across-government role of the Head of Service, with provision for consulting the Head of Service on multi-entity audits.
Clause 35 of the bill addresses the public accounts committee's recommendations relating to independent audits of the Auditor-General's Office. The committee recommended a wider concept of strategic review, that a strategic review should occur once every parliamentary term and that it also be clear that the public accounts committee initiates these audits. This clause also reflects the recommendation that the independent auditor should be appropriately qualified.
Clauses 36 and 37 provide a redrafted section on protected information. The existing provisions have been changed to make clear that information may be provided to other auditors-general as part of the new joint or collaborative audit. This removes any doubt about an existing power to divulge information as part of the exercising of Auditor-General functions. New notes in the section provide examples of protected information. This includes the example of the Auditor-General's statement of personal and financial interests required under new section 9F.
A schedule to the bill makes consequential amendments to the Legal Aid Act 1977. This confirms the Auditor-General's power to access legal aid files to conduct performance and financial audits, although there are constraints in including this information in audit reports. This change is made in clause 26 which amends the sections dealing with protected information. This is a change agreed by both the Legal Aid Commission and the Auditor-General to make sure that access should be provided to these files, although the approach balances and respects the sensitivity of the information contained in those files.
Before finishing, I would like to mention that the government did not agree with all of the public accounts committee's recommendations in its inquiry into the Auditor-General Act and these recommendations are not included in this bill. I would refer members to the government's response to the inquiry where it sets out its reasons.
The amendments in this bill build on the existing act, provide a number of changes requested in the committee's report but also reflect the constitutional context of the ACT's parliament, and I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.
Duties (Landholders) Amendment Bill 2012
Mr Barr, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.