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Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Page: 8024


Senator LUNDY (5:03 PM) —On behalf of the Chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I present the following reports of the committee: Report No. 415—Review of Auditor-General’s reports tabled between September 2008 and January 2009 and Report No. 416—Review of the major projects report 2007-08. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the reports.

Leave granted.


Senator LUNDY —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the reports.

On behalf of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit, I present the committee’s Report 415: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports tabled between September 2008 and January 2009. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, as prescribed by its act, examines all reports of the Auditor-General and reports the results of the committee’s deliberations to the parliament. This report details the findings of the committee’s examination of five performance audits tabled in 2008 and 2009. These five reports were selected for further scrutiny from the 15 audit reports presented to the parliament between 23 September 2008 and 28 January 2009.

As usual, these reports cover a range of agencies and highlight a number of areas of concern. The two key themes the committee encountered were the need to adequately and effectively report progress towards goals and the need to maintain adequate and up-to-date customer records. The committee reviewed the business partnership agreement between the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Centrelink. While we were pleased to find that interagency dispute resolution had been improved, we were disappointed to find that the agencies have not managed to fully implement an ANAO recommendation from 2004 to ensure that the business partnership agreement is kept up to date. Accordingly, we recommended that the agencies fully implement this recommendation before the commencement of the next business partnership arrangement in 2010.

As a result of the investigation into Centrelink’s tip-off management system, we found that Centrelink was acting quickly to implement all ANAO recommendations. Through the hearing process, we found that Centrelink was still retaining data that was based on unsubstantiated claims against a number of customers. The retention of this information has the potential to prejudice further claims made against a customer, and we therefore recommended that Centrelink ensure that such information is deleted from the tip-off recording system as soon as it is identified.

In reviewing the management of Disability Employment Services by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Education, we found the agencies had effectively planned, managed and implemented their policy initiatives. Additionally, we were satisfied with their implementation of the ANAO’s recommendations. However, we found that the agencies were unable to report effectively on progress towards achieving the objective of enhancing the quality of life of people with a disability. Accordingly, we recommended that the agencies monitor and report on progress towards achieving this goal.

We also examined the Australian Sports Commission’s management of the Active After-school Communities Program. This program provides support to service providers who deliver after-school physical activity sessions for primary school children. The program has proven to be popular with students, and it has been well implemented, considering the rapidity of its rollout. We were concerned at the ANAO finding that some adults working on the program had not completed the appropriate checks for working with children but we found in our hearing that these had now been completed and were mandatory and that waivers were no longer available. We note that it is difficult to report on the success of the program outside of anecdotal evidence, but we believe the development of motor skills is a key factor in developing an interest in physical activity. We recommended that the Australian Sports Commission determine ways to measure the development of motor skills and that they seek to have funding for the measurement of motor skills development included in their next funding bid.

Finally, we looked at the administration of Job Network outcome payments. We were pleased to see the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is addressing the issues noted in the audit report; however, we remain concerned that it is difficult to determine the contribution that outcome payments make to the Job Network expenditure and we recommend the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations provide disaggregated financial data on estimated and actual expenditure on outcome payments.

I would like to acknowledge the valuable work of the Auditor-General and the staff at the Australian National Audit Office. We look forward to continuing reviews of the Auditor-General’s reports. I commend the report to the Senate. I seek leave to incorporate the tabling statement for report No. 416 in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

On 6 December 2006, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit unanimously agreed to recommend that the Australian National Audit Office receive additional funding to produce an annual report on progress in major Defence projects.  This report would detail cost, schedule and capability information for a number of large acquisition projects.  The Government agreed with that recommendation and approved funding for the report in the May 2008 budget. 

The Committee’s purpose in recommending funding for the annual Major Projects Report (or the MPR) was to provide a means by which accessible, transparent and accurate information could be made available to the Parliament and the Australian public about the state of Defence’s major acquisition projects. 

The Major Projects Report 2007-2008 is a pilot of that report - it provides information on nine selected DMO projects.  The report is comprised of a series of Defence Materiel Organisation Project Data Summary Sheets that provide a snapshot of key performance data for each of the projects, an overview by the DMO and a review undertaken by the Auditor-General. 

In accordance with its statutory obligation to examine all reports of the Auditor-General that are tabled in each House of Parliament, the Committee has reviewed the Major Projects Report 2007-2008.  Having completed that review, the Committee is very encouraged about the benefits of that report to the Parliament and the Australian public. 

However, the pilot report has also reaffirmed in the minds of Committee members that    establishing and maintaining the reporting systems that underpin the MPR is an evolving process.  Major acquisition projects are complex and often diverse in nature.  This creates challenges for both the DMO in presenting consistent data across projects and for the ANAO in reviewing this work.  The purpose of this review is to provide guidance and direction to both the DMO and the ANAO and to that end, this review outlines some of the ways the Committee believes the MPR can be improved.  For example, the review highlights again the importance of ensuring that lessons learned on previous acquisition experiences are not only documented but incorporated into future policy and practice.  The review also reinforces the need for benchmarking scores to convey as much information as possible so as to provide the reader with a tool for assessing a project’s development, and the presentation of information on capability achievement is reiterated as another key area for further development. 

It is the Committee’s intention to continue to monitor the MPR process closely. This includes keeping a watchful eye on the issues that gave rise to the scope reduction and qualification contained in the pilot report and the agencies adherence to the MPR schedule. 

The Major Projects Report is a real step forward.  It increases transparency and accountability around Defence acquisitions and provides the Parliament and the Australian public with an opportunity to assess the progress of major acquisitions while they are still in train. 

This week, we look forward to the release of the next MPR for the year 2008-2009.  The next MPR will report on a further six projects and the Committee is hopeful that by 2010-11 the Major Projects Report will be reporting progress on up to 30 of Defence’s major acquisition projects. 

On behalf of the Committee, I would like to congratulate Mr Ian McPhee, the Auditor-General and Dr Stephen Gumley, the CEO of the DMO on the cooperative manner in which they and their staff have worked to produce the MPR 2007-08.  We very much look forward to seeing the MPR evolve over time into a comprehensive, high-quality, reliable document which the Committee believes will be of great benefit both within and outside of the Department of Defence.  The Committee stands firm in its commitment to continuously monitor Defence’s acquisition processes and outcomes and to provide input where necessary.  Ultimately the MPR should provide the Australian public with confidence that Defence procurement dollars are being spent wisely to provide our highly-valued Australian Defence Force personnel with the quality support they deserve.

Question agreed to.