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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (22 June) . . Page.. 2307..

Public Accounts-Standing Committee-Report 9-Review of Auditor-General's Report No 9 of 2003-Annual Management Report for the year ended 30 June 2003-Government response.

This response was presented to the Assembly on 4 March 2004. I ask for leave to make a statement.

Leave granted.

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I am pleased to present the government's response to report 9 of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its review of Auditor-General's report 9-Annual Management Report for the year ended 30 June 2003.

The committee makes four recommendations, three of which warrant a response by the government. The committee recommends that amendments to sections 34 and 19 of the Auditor-General Act, as proposed by the former Auditor-General, be included in the government's amendments to the act. I understand that this recommendation arose from material provided to the committee by the Audit Office. Unfortunately, the committee seems to have drawn the wrong conclusions from that material.

The committee suggests that the material provided by the Audit Office reflected the government's response. That is not correct. While the Audit Office was provided with certain material during the development of amendments to the act, that material did not represent a final government position and merely reflected proposed positions on particular matters. The committee itself acknowledges that the source documents were only drafts.

However, the fact that the source documents were only drafts did not deter the committee from making a recommendation on this matter. This is particularly disappointing, given that the committee does not appear to have sought or obtained any alternative views.

The final government position was, in fact, to support the former Auditor-General's suggested amendment to section 34. Members will note that the relevant amendment is included in the Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2004 that was tabled in the May sittings.

In relation to section 19 of the act, the committee considers that the government should adopt the particular amendments suggested by the Auditor-General. It should be noted that the bill currently before the Assembly does include amendments to section 19 suggested by the Auditor-General. However, one particular amendment, the one identified in the committee's report, is not included.

The former Auditor-General considered that, under section 19 of the act, the Auditor-General is legally forbidden from including certain sensitive information in a report to the Assembly. He asked that the section be amended to give the Auditor-General discretion to include sensitive information if the Auditor-General considers that the public interest would be best served by the information being generally available.

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