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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 471 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

The performance audit will examine the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of the Auditor-General's Office, including the management of resources and the extent to which programs and activities have been effective. The performance audit will ensure that the ACT Auditor-General can provide the Assembly with the highest level of professional advice and support on all facets of ACT public sector management. Mr John Parkinson, the ACT Auditor-General, has indicated that he is supportive of a performance audit of his office being undertaken. A number of comments he has made concerning the conduct of the audit will be referred to the presiding member of the standing committee for his consideration.

The performance audit will be undertaken in accordance with Part V of the Auditor-General Act 1996. This includes the independent auditor, prior to the finalisation of the report, formally seeking written comments from the Auditor-General on the proposed report and, when finalising the report, taking account of any written comments from the Auditor-General.

The independent auditor is required under the Act to provide a copy of the final report to the Speaker as soon as practicable after completing the audit. The Speaker is required to present a copy of the report to the Legislative Assembly. My department is arranging for the appointment of a new independent auditor under Part V of the Act. This appointment will reflect the requirement for the new independent auditor to undertake performance audits in accordance with Part V of the Act. I can assure members of the Assembly that an appropriately qualified and experienced independent auditor will be appointed.

Mr Speaker, I have indicated to Mr Quinlan, the chair of the Standing Committee for the Chief Minister's Portfolio, that I am very happy for him and the committee to be involved in the selection of an independent auditor. I have also indicated to Mr Quinlan that I am very happy for his committee to be involved in the terms of reference for the performance audit to be carried out. Over the last couple of days I have written to all members of this Assembly, spelling out the motion, and I urge the Assembly to support this motion.

MR QUINLAN (11.52): Members of my committee have discussed this letter, and we concur that such an audit should take place periodically. No government office should be above the audit process. I am not really so sure about the optics of the motion coming to this house via the Chief Minister and, to some extent, being imposed upon the committee. The less fair-minded of us might draw some parallels between this and Jeff Kennett in the ultimate emasculation of the audit process in Victoria, but I am reassured that the only motivation behind this motion is the pursuit of due process in government. It is refreshing, after the revelations of the past few weeks, that we are attempting to pursue due process. As I said, we accept that. We are concerned that it is being initiated through the Assembly. A phone call or a note to the committee may well have sufficed. Nevertheless, at my initiation, the Chief Minister and I have discussed this and largely hammered out a few of the administrative matters in relation to it.

In the long-term interests of maximising the objectivity of the process - and I think that is paramount, particularly given the role of the Auditor, his placement in the administration and the fact that he could become the bane of government - the process must be, and must appear to be, fully objective. I therefore give notice that I will be bringing forward a legislative amendment to separate the appointment of the compliance auditor,

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