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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (29 June) . . Page.. 2850..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Proposed expenditure-part 1.3-Auditor-General, $1,279,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $1,279,000.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (11.15): I was pleased to see the rise in the Auditor-General's budget for this year. The public accounts committee has had for some time some concerns about the level of funding and the ability of the Auditor-General's Office to undertake the audits that it needs to undertake-in particular, the performance audits.

In regard to some amendments made by Ms Tucker in 1996 as to environmental and social questions and how to combine them into a performance audit, I think that it is fair to say that not a great deal has happened. People have been grappling with how to undertake that activity. That is a question being tackled around the world, not just around the country.

The actual budget for the Auditor-General goes to the public accounts committee for its approval. We spoke with the new auditor and suggested that we would be open to an increase in the budget. The auditor actually went away and reworked the document and came back with an expanded budget that allows for extra staff and additional training so that the office can carry out its functions as it should. With that in mind, we will be supporting the line.

I noted the discussion in paragraph 4.2 of the Estimates Committee's report about staff turnover. Like all organisations in the ACT, if we lag behind the Commonwealth or private enterprise, it is often hard to keep good staff. Some interesting figures have been provided there. The staff turnover in the Auditor-General's Office is about 25 per cent to 30 per cent and currently 50 per cent of the staff have less than two years experience. For an organisation of such importance to the confidence of people that things are being carried out appropriately in the ACT and inside the government, the lack of experience in the Auditor-General's Office is of concern. The increase in the budget, hopefully, will address some of that.

In recommendation 9 the committee recommended that the government ensure that next year's budget provide additional funding to meet the need to do more performance audits. The government, in its response, drew the attention of the committee to the basis upon which the Auditor-General's budget has been established and adjusted annually. I still think that there is room to move there and if we are serious about giving people the tools to do their jobs one of the tools, of course, is the budget to carry it out.

The job is getting more and more complex. I know that a number of members have referred issues to the Auditor-General's Office. Recently, I referred an issue concerning the workers compensation supplementation fund, for instance. As we, as members, do that, which is our right and our responsibility, we put more pressure on the Auditor-General's Office. In the case of the workers compensation supplementation fund, the auditor has written back to me to say that she will do a full performance audit of its operation. Obviously, some of the concerns that have been raised have piqued the interest of the auditor and she will now conduct that audit.

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