Page 2700 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 28 June 2011

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terms of how many staff we have, what we ask of them, what they are paid and the responsibilities—let us be honest—that fall to members both in their committee responsibilities and, on this side, in their ministerial responsibilities. But I thank other members for their support for this line in the budget.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Proposed expenditure—Part 1.3—Auditor-General—$2,214,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $2,214,000.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.31): The appropriation for the Auditor-General is perhaps one of the most important lines in the entire budget, given the Auditor-General is the independent person who has the resources to conduct the financial and performance audits of a government of the day. So there are a number of matters that I think warrant comment.

The first is the matter of the process to find a replacement for the recently retired Auditor-General, Tu Pham. I have to say I was intrigued but perhaps not surprised that the government was not in a position to name a replacement for Ms Pham when she retired several months ago. Let us face it: you had seven years in which to prepare for this replacement. You knew exactly when it was coming. It is not hard to get organised. But perhaps that is the way of this government. And I think it is extraordinary that this government was so bereft of leadership under the former Chief Minister that the replacement process was not put in place to have the new auditor ready when Ms Pham retired. Surprised? Not at all surprised!

I think there are other areas in which discretion also exists in the activities of the Auditor-General. One of the most important is the number of performance audits which the office can undertake. I am surprised that the office did not request funds to do more than simply keep up with inflation. The committee, I think, came to the opinion that we would like to see a substantial increase in the number of performance audits each year. Currently, they are doing about eight or nine audits a year. In the coming year, they are expecting to do just six. That is a reflection of the cost of doing these audits.

When you look at the outyears for the Auditor-General, it is hard to believe that it is even keeping in touch with CPI. It is unfortunate that it is not getting significantly more funding. Its revenue is increasing, though it is not increasing at a great rate. And there are a number of problems that the office faces because of the fact that the government is constraining the budget. We all understand why they are doing it. They are afraid of the reports that they get from the audit office. The audit office reports are quite stark and have caused the government a great deal of grief.

The committee did make a number of recommendations. Recommendation 194 is:

The Committee recommends that the ACT Government provides a funding path which will allow the number of performance audits to be increased by two per year over the next five years.

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