Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2335 ..
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure—Part 1.3—Auditor-General totalling $1,380,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $1,380,000.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.53): This is an area of some concern to members of the opposition and also to members of the committee. I am delighted to see Ms MacDonald and Dr Foskey in the chamber. They would be very well aware, as members of the public accounts committee, of the critical role played by the Auditor-General. Members should be aware that the Auditor-General sought additional funding for three performance auditors to improve the capacity of the office to do performance audits and investigations; that is, to be able to monitor, in an effective fashion, the work of government and what they are doing with taxpayer dollars. Indeed the estimates committee—and, again, it is the committee, not just the dissenting report by Mr Seselja and me—in recommendation 11 said that the government should provide additional funding to the Auditor-General’s Office in line with the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to the Treasurer in its letter of 24 March 2005.
I realise that this government would not be the first in living memory to have an aversion to performance auditing, for the obvious reason that it puts pressure on them to improve accountability in the delivery of services. The government’s denial of adequate resources for the audit office in this budget smacks of self-protection and of putting its own interests ahead of those of the community, especially in light of support for additional resources from a three-party committee of the Assembly. The committee, made up of a member of the government, a Greens member and an opposition member—namely me—agreed that these additional funds should have been made available. Indeed the committee recommended that additional funding be provided for the Auditor-General’s Office. That certainly should have been increased by $0.375 million in the 2005-06 financial year; by $0.426 million in the 2006-07 financial year; by $0.446 million in 2007-08; and by $0.468 million in 2008-09. This was the request, and it was supported by the committee.
I certainly will be looking forward to hearing the support, I would hope, from Ms MacDonald and Dr Foskey for this recommendation, given the fact that they felt confident in supporting this proposal. I will be particularly pleased to hear what the Treasurer has to say as to why the additional funding sought to do the job of ensuring adequate scrutiny of the government was knocked back. I think it is trite to simply say, “Times are difficult, we have got ourselves into some strife; we are chopping out things here and there.” The Auditor-General can, in fact, play a critical role in ensuring the efficiency of government; in ensuring that the dollars are prudently spent; in ensuring that taxes and fines and the like are collected in the best and most efficient manner; and in ensuring—in summary—that the taxpayer is receiving value for money.
The recommendation made was not taken lightly. It was probably the most significant recommendation out of both the estimates committee and the dissenting report, because it goes to the heart of government accountability. In a situation with a majority government there is limited scope for scrutiny of government. The duration of the debate over the next several days will be largely determined by the government’s wishes and what they determine in relation to their position.