Page 2107 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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It was a recommendation that clearly the committee thought was important. In our democratic system it is essential that agencies such as the Auditor-General’s Office are properly resourced. You have to note, for instance, the change in the presentation of the ACT budget from the AAS to the GFS basis. I am encouraged that the audit office judges that this change in basis will not result in significant changes in the information content. My concern, however, about this change is the loss of comparability of data in the relevant time series, so there will be a discontinuity in the data between the AAS-based financial statements and the GFS-based financial statements. I would like to seek an assurance that an appropriate time series will be continued to enable appropriate analysis of the aggregates and the trends after the change to the GFS is made.

I note the way in which the Stanhope government presents the outcome for the annual budget in this regard, particularly the way in which the returns from the territory’s superannuation assets are identified, and I note that the Auditor-General suggested that the clarity of reporting on this information, the transparency of the reporting, could be enhanced by adding the way in which this information is presented.

The other problem for the auditor is, of course, just the sheer workload. For instance, I think members of the committee and those present at the time were quite surprised when the Auditor-General suggested that she had something like 75 performance audits on her waiting list—75 audits that she has no chance of getting to. They are currently running at about three or four and she has got 75 waiting, some of which they have decided upon, some of which she has had suggested to her by the opposition and others that come through from the community. I would like to read from the transcript:

MR SMYTH: I cannot remember your schedule for the outyears, but is there a proposed audit into Shared Services to see if it is delivering what was promised?

Mr Nicholas: It is certainly on our list.

Ms Pham: Yes, it is on our program, together with 64 other topics.

Mr Nicholas: At latest count.

Ms Pham: Actually, last night, it became 75, including others that come through from the community—for example, the gas power station. We have already got a representation from the community to audit the process of selection. In fact, we have added to our program, so it has become 75.

We asked some more questions about what might be undertaken and what would happen. One of the officers said:

A lot of research, I suspect. It is a matter that we are obviously giving some thought to at the moment. It is not necessarily going to happen overnight, in terms of a performance audit. It depends a little bit on the scoping …

But then the auditor came back a little later in the piece and said:

At this stage we have no capacity whatsoever to undertake such an audit.

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