1. Engagement with the local government sector
In 2016–17, the Local Government Amendment (Governance and Planning) Act 2016 gave the Auditor-General the mandate to audit NSW local government. Since being given the mandate, the Audit Office has worked collaboratively with the sector and with audit service providers to ensure the arrangements we put in place are efficient and effective, and add value to councils and to the citizens of New South Wales. We have undertaken a wide range of stakeholder engagement activities, including workshops, briefings and attendance at conferences and regional meetings.
This year, we provided detailed comments to the Office of Local Government (OLG) as part of their update of the Local Government Code of Accounting Practice. We also partnered with OLG to deliver financial reporting information sessions for council finance staff. The sessions provided key stakeholders with the opportunity to discuss the impact of new accounting standards issued but not yet effective, audit focus areas for 2018, technical issues and changes to the final code.
The Audit Office is an active member of the Technical Advisory Group, a committee set up by OLG to provide advice on technical accounting and audit related matters impacting the sector.
2. IMPACT conference
In March 2018, we hosted IMPACT – the International Meeting for Performance Audit Critical Thinkers. This biannual conference is an initiative of the Australasian Council of Auditors-General.
Performance auditors from around Australasia and other nations gathered in Sydney for two days of interesting and thought-provoking discussion. This discussion included future challenges for the public sector and the role of performance audit in helping government to navigate those challenges. The conference was not limited to performance auditors. Professionals from private and public organisations as well as Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) came to the conference to hear from a line-up of outstanding speakers. In all, more than 180 delegates attended from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands, including many performance and financial auditors from our own office.
At the conference, we heard from some of Australia’s leading thinkers and speakers on public sector management, transparency and accountability. Some challenged us to consider how we might re-think our approach to performance audit. Others opened our eyes to new technologies that will transform how public services are delivered. We also heard from senior performance auditors from other countries, some of whom are facing similar challenges to ourselves or are experiencing unprecedented change in their own public sector. The professional connections made between our staff and those who travelled to Sydney from other states and countries will be lasting, and the feedback we received from the conference was very positive.
3. Financial Management Transformation
In 2017–18, the Audit Office worked closely with NSW Treasury during their drafting of the Government Sector Finance Bill 2018 and Government Sector Finance Legislation (Repeal and Amendment) Bill 2018 brought before Parliament in May 2018. These bills are the final pillar of NSW Treasury’s Financial Management Transformation (FMT) project. These bills will separate government sector financial management legislation and legislation relating to the Auditor-General and the Audit Office into two separate Acts:
- the proposed Government Sector Finance Act will establish a new framework for government sector financial and resource management in New South Wales. The Act aims to simplify and modernise agency management, responsibility and accountability, financial reporting, governance and performance
- the Government Sector Audit Act (formerly known as the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983) will address the audit of government sector finances and governance of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. The revised Act will recognise the role of the Auditor-General as an independent and accountable statutory officer and establishes the Audit Office to assist the Auditor-General in the exercise of her functions.
The Audit Office provided feedback to NSW Treasury as they developed the bills, working through key aspects of the bills with the FMT project team, the Crown Solicitor and the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office.
The Audit Office is continuing to work with NSW Treasury as they develop regulations and policies that support the bills.