Page 2337 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005
I think it would be great if there could be three additional performance auditors in the Auditor-General’s Office but it is not possible this year, given the tight budget we are faced with. That is the fact of the matter. It is not as if the Treasurer was not asked about this matter; he was asked. He said that we have to show economic restraint. I believe Mr Mulcahy was speaking about economic restraint continually throughout the estimates process, saying that this government was not showing enough of it. Yet here is an area where Mr Mulcahy would like us to not actually—
Mr Seselja: Just in areas of scrutiny it shows restraint. When it is about to be scrutinised, it cuts the funding.
MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Seselja!
MS MacDONALD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I ask that I be heard in silence, a courtesy I have provided to the members on the opposite side. The fact is that Mr Mulcahy would like us to expend these further funds. What will happen if we do not get these additional three performance auditors? Will the sky fall in? No, it will not. I would like to see in future budgets, if possible, provision for additional performance auditors so there can be additional performance audits done around the ACT government service where possible. The Auditor-General herself, when questioned about this, said that these things would be gotten to, but in a slower timeframe. That is the reality of the situation; that is what we have to work within. These are the constraints placed upon us by a tight budget. As I said, Mr Quinlan was questioned about this and said something along the lines of, “Yes, it would.” I would not want to place words in his mouth that he did not say, and I am sure he will respond to this one himself. The fact of the matter is that all agencies had to look at showing some restraint.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (12.04): This is an even smaller component of the overall budget—$1.4 million in the executive years. It is one of the most significant components of the budget because the auditor is separate from the rest of the ACT bureaucracy and reports directly through you to the Assembly. In fact, she does work on behalf of the Assembly. I think it is important to focus on the Auditor-General’s Office to ensure that the resources for the auditor are sufficient to carry out her role and task, and to ensure that the activities of the auditor align with the intentions of the Assembly.
I must raise and reinforce one matter that was mentioned by the Auditor-General, Tu Pham, herself. The auditor noted that when she sought additional funding it was to support more performance activity. That was supported by the public accounts committee. I understand they have written to the Treasurer saying they support that. Unfortunately, the government did not support that request. That in itself is not a problem. Governments are entitled to make decisions on their budget priorities, but the problem is that they have their priorities wrong. The problem here is that the auditor now pays the price for that, as we do in getting the reports we need to do our job properly.
The auditor herself commented that the lack of these additional resources is of concern to her. She noted that not having these additional resources has implications for the audit office in being able to perform their functions in a timely and efficient manner. In not