Page 266 - Week 01 - Thursday, 17 February 2011

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out of time in my previous dissertation, I am learning. The recommendations are focused on strengthening and safeguarding the independence of the Auditor-General, clarifying and strengthening provisions in the act and, lastly, ensuring that the Auditor-General is equipped with the necessary powers and resources to carry out its role and mandate in the emerging contemporary public sector environment.

The committee’s report examines and reflects on several key themes that have become apparent during its inquiries. These themes include the role and relationship of the Auditor-General to the Legislative Assembly and to the Legislative Assembly’s delegate, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. We also touched on the role of PAC itself. Recommendation 23 was that there should be a non-government chair and a non-government majority in PAC. While we are not in any way trying to reflect negatively on the operations of PAC at times when there has been a government chair or majority, we are saying that in terms of giving a clear signal that PAC is independent from the government, these are two things which would make it clearer to the wider public that it is an independent committee.

We have also looked at formal consultation with the Auditor-General with respect to the performance audit. That is recommendation 5. This is just codifying something which, as a matter of courtesy, the Auditor-General has done with PAC—consult about the performance audit project.

Also we have got recommendations about the appointment of a new Auditor-General—recommendation 7 and associated recommendations 8, 9 and 10. Recommendation 7 is a more “out there” recommendation. It recommends that the Auditor-General Act be amended to provide the capacity for PAC to recommend the appointment of the Auditor-General.

The first recommendation is not accepted. I have just noticed that we have got a typo here: recommendation 8 refers to recommendation 6, but the reference to recommendation 6 should be to recommendation 7. If recommendation 7 is not accepted, we have got a number of recommendations—8, 9 and 10—which clear up some of the ambiguities in the current situation so that we do not end up with a situation like the one we ended up with in relation to the advertising reviewer, where neither side was agreeing and it was not clear how to get out of the deadlock.

We have also suggested that the admin and procedure committee look at some of the issues of privilege and provision of information from the Auditor-General to all members of the Assembly. Sometimes we in PAC are very aware of our privileged position in terms of getting briefings from the Auditor-General. We are looking at ways that this might be able to be spread more amongst members of the Assembly. We note that some other parliaments have different mechanisms which give a bit more of a role for other members of the Assembly.

Let me go to other areas we looked at. There was the unique role of the office of the auditor-general in the Westminster accountability model and the audit system of democratic governance. This was an area where we had considerable debate, because it is a new concept as far as the ACT is concerned. Basically we drew heavily on the New Zealand parliament. I will mention here, and I may mention it again at the end,

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