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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 29 June 2010) . . Page.. 2736 ..

negative from the point of view of the reasons we had to debate it at such length in the Assembly.

I am disappointed that we need to raise this issue in the financial context again this year. But we did hear in this year’s hearings that the audit office sought a very modest increase in funding of $151,000 to comply with new auditing standard requirements. Given that this request for extra funding was not agreed to by the government, I believe it will be very challenging for the office to meet its target of eight performance audits. I note that it has been doing eight performance audits over the last few years, but it has unfortunately been doing this at the cost of running a deficit, and that clearly is not sustainable. I think this year may be the year when push comes to shove as far as the audit office’s funding is concerned.

One key point that we would like to make and which Ms Tu Pham raised in her presentation to the estimates committee is that the recent independent review of the audit office by Bob Sendt concluded that the office is efficient and effective and provides value for money. However, the review noted also that the performance audit function is viable, but only just. It is cost effective on the current numbers. Were it to become smaller, it would run the risk of becoming a lot more expensive per unit because it has gone beyond the critical minimum, and I am concerned that, given that the Auditor-General did not receive the funding she asked for, that is possibly what is going to happen. It would be very distressing if in the future, due to lack of funding, the audit office became unviable and unsustainable.

I note that the increased auditing standards required by the quality assurance project have taken away resources from the usual delivery of audit reports and contributed to the office not being able to meet the usual number of performance audits in the last financial year. I also note the high level of staff turnover in the Auditor-General’s Office and the unfortunate situation that we have in the small ACT Auditor-General’s Office—and, in fact, I guess, the small ACT public service in general—that there simply are not enough career opportunities so that many of our best staff go over to the commonwealth government or to the private sector.

Given the cost of just recruiting new staff, which was about $50,000 last year, the request for an additional $151,000 seems quite reasonable. The estimates committee also noted that for the last four financial years the ACT audit office has not received any increase in funding beyond the normal CPI increase. Further, the committee noted that, notwithstanding a strong performance mandate provided to the audit office through the Auditor-General Act 1996, funding to the office in terms of whole-of-government expenditure has declined from 0.16 per cent to 0.13 per cent.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the Greens see the audit office as one of the very important oversight authorities, oversight offices, as part of our government. It is a vital part of our government. There is no way that the Assembly, without the Auditor-General’s assistance, can dig into the details of what happens to some of our more problematic programs.

It is essential for our parliamentary democracy that we have a strong, well-managed and well-funded audit office. On the basis of Bob Sendt’s report, we clearly have a

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