LIGHTHOUSE PRINCIPLE: KEY STAKEHOLDER RIGHTS
(based on ASX Principle 6)
Building effective relationships
In 2017–18, we maintained our focus on building effective relationships with our key stakeholders:
- NSW Parliament
- NSW citizens
- NSW government entities
- NSW universities
- NSW councils.
Our 2017–18 strategic initiatives ‘Influencing for Impact’ and ‘Local Government’ were key contributors to achieving effective stakeholder relations. These initiatives provided strategic direction on:
- a key international performance auditing conference – IMPACT in March 2018 – hosted by the Audit Office
- the development of a key stakeholder engagement plan
- the launch of a new project to develop a more stakeholder-friendly and citizen-centric website
- hosting a number of Audit and Risk Committee Chair meetings.
- other key Audit Office initiatives aimed at improving our reach and impact.
Stronger audit client engagement
In 2017–18, the Auditor-General met with the Secretaries Board, comprising the Secretaries of all clusters that make up the NSW public sector. The purpose of this meeting was to provide a briefing on the proposed audits of NSW government agencies over the coming three years. This is part of a stronger focus on promoting audit client engagement while still maintaining our independence.
The meeting provided an opportunity to review the proposed Performance Audit Program and to check on the status of our relationships with our clients. Several follow-up meetings were held with individual agency Secretaries and leadership teams, further strengthening existing relationships.
As part of our commitment to engaging more effectively with parliamentarians, the Auditor-General regularly meets with the Public Accounts Committee and has commenced regular meetings with the Legislative Council’s Public Accountability Committee. The Auditor-General and Deputy Auditor-General are continuing to meet regularly with NSW Treasury, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Public Service Commission, as well as having regular meetings with the Office for Local Government.
Engaging with our local government stakeholders was a key focus during 2017–18, with extensive work undertaken to get to know our new audit clients and their business. Activities included:
- local government updates on the new Audit Office mandate
- information sessions held with local councils across the state
- presentations at a number of different local government sector conferences
- regular visits to individual councils
- development and implementation of a Local Government Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Plan.
Broader stakeholder engagement
As in previous years, we consulted our stakeholders widely when developing our performance audit three-year plan.
We conducted our annual survey of parliamentarians, audit clients – including our local government clients and Audit and Risk Committee Chairs – to gain their feedback on our performance, and target areas where we can improve.
Public interest disclosures
The Auditor-General has the power to examine allegations of serious and substantial waste of public money under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. This Act protects public officials who make such public interest disclosures in good faith. We examined 17 public interest disclosures in 2017-18, none of which demonstrated serious and substantial financial waste. Thirteen of them concerned NSW government agencies and four related to local councils.
The Audit Office has an internal and external Public Interest Disclosures Policy establishing a reporting system for staff and public officials to report allegations of serious and substantial waste. These policies are consistent with the NSW Ombudsman’s model policy and the requirements of the Act. These policies were reviewed in 2017-18 to include our expanded local government mandate. In addition, we developed a set of templates based on the NSW Ombudsman’s material to help standardise our management of Public Interest Disclosures.
Number of public interest disclosures
We are committed to actively seeking and using feedback to improve our performance and services. We report bi-annually to the Office Executive on complaints received.
In 2017–18, we received 88 new complaints. The vast majority of these complaints were about the entities we audit. Of these:
- 18 (20 per cent) were about local councils
- 60 (68 per cent) were about state government agencies
- eight complaints (nine per cent) were classified as ‘other’ – covering complaints which are outside of our mandate and complaints about the government in general
- two (two per cent) were about the Audit Office.
The 88 complaints received about other NSW government agencies were varied in nature and across the ten government clusters. The majority of complaints we received in 2017–18 were about the Transport cluster (23 per cent) and local councils (20 per cent). The complaints received about the Transport cluster were mostly about large infrastructure projects such as WestConnex. The local government complaints were varied in nature with no common pattern or trend.
The majority of complaints received were referred to our financial audit branch. All of the complaints referred to financial audit were considered by the audit teams and 20 complaints were investigated further as part of our audit work. Of these 20, 19 complaints have now been closed and one is still under investigation.
Two complaints were received about the Audit Office in 2017–18. One complaint related to a local council audit and the other to communication issues with the office.
In addition to the 88 new complaints, we also received 28 complaints which were linked to existing complaints.
In 2017–18, we updated our Complaints Management Policy to reflect our local government mandate. We also refined our complaints assessment process to improve our response times to simple complaints.
Working with the public and other watchdog agencies
We work closely with other independent agencies in New South Wales and audit offices in other jurisdictions to improve our services and increase the impact of our work. This includes our important work in responding to public complaints and public interest disclosures where serious and substantial waste is involved. We refer complaints involving allegations of corruption, maladministration or privacy to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the NSW Ombudsman, the Information and Privacy Commission, the Office of Local Government or to other independent agencies.
In 2017–18, we developed processes to capture referrals made by the Audit Office to other oversight agencies, and referrals from other oversight agencies to us. We also provided our audit teams with an analysis of the referrals made to ICAC.
The year ahead
In 2018–19, under our ‘Influencing for Impact’ strategic initiative, we will:
- develop a new stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure we take a coordinated and strategic approach to stakeholder engagement
- launch a new corporate website that will enable greater interactivity and engagement with external stakeholders.
For further details see our strategic initiatives for 2018–19.