Page 2485 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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everybody’s feeling the pinch.” But it is quite clear from international research, both in places like the UK and, indeed, here at home in Australia, that everyone agrees that for every dollar spent in the audit office there is a benefit to the community, indeed, to the government, of some $9 or $10 through better delivery of services, better use of money and, indeed, greater savings from organisations that are able to manage their affairs better.

We have put in place now a number of additional powers for the Auditor-General, but what we do not see is a commitment from this government to ensure that, over time, the Auditor-General’s Office receives additional funding. Mr Hargreaves agreed to it in the previous Assembly; there was some bipartisan support at one stage to see the number of performance audits go up one or two a year with a view from taking it from the current six to eight per year to closer to 14 or 16 audits per year. That will basically equate the funding that is spent on financial audits to performance audits.

We see the interest the government finally have in the Auditor-General’s Office. We see they are quite willing to reform and extend their powers. But the real question is: will they actually give the audit office the resources it needs to do its job properly? The easiest way for an executive, for a government, to knobble the audit office is, of course, to knobble the funds.

I note there is not a recommendation that the Assembly, for instance, set the budget of the Auditor-General. We are talking now about officers like the Auditor-General becoming officers of the parliament, and I think there is a natural progression, then, that we discuss how their funding arrangements are settled. We currently have advice from PAC, but, of course, that advice is often not followed by the Treasurer and the executive.

We will support the bill as proposed. I certainly do not believe it goes far enough. I have tabled bills previously in this place. In fact, the bill that probably prompted this bill was a bill I tabled that went to a very long inquiry. We had an interesting process then to appoint a new auditor, and we ended up with the government’s bill that has been presented here. But the real question will become whether or not the auditor will have the resources.

Some of the other effects of the bill will be that it will support joint or collaborative audits by commonwealth, state and territory Auditors-General. Again, if there is a new function and, with it, there potentially comes the requirement for doing additional audits, those audits may require the funding. Look at what we are doing. We are saying, “Statutorily you have to do your financial audits. We are now saying in the statutes we will have consultation on the annual performance audit program. We will allow you to audit non-government entities in certain circumstances. We want a broader approach to performance audits. We suspect there will be joint or collaborative audits with commonwealth, states and territories. But you are going to do that with exactly the same budget that you currently have.”

Auditors-General make us money; they save us money. They provide assistance for the directorates to give better service to the community. The offices of Auditors-General assist the community to get better outcomes, but they need to be supported.

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