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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 3

Mr BALDWIN (12:40 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I present the committee’s report entitled Report 404: Review of Auditor-General’s reports 2003-2004 third and fourth quarters; and first and second quarters of 2004-2005.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mr BALDWIN —One of the important functions of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is to examine all reports of the Auditor-General and report the results of the committee’s deliberations to the parliament. This report is the first review of Auditor-General’s reports to be undertaken by the committee of the 41st Parliament. The report includes the committee’s review of 10 performance audits and one financial audit by the ANAO, these being: Audit report No. 25 2003-04—Intellectual property policies and practices in Commonwealth agencies; Audit report No. 34 2003-04—The administration of major programs, Australian Greenhouse Office; Audit report No. 36 2003-04—The Commonwealth’s administration of the Dairy Industry Adjustment Package, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dairy Adjustment Authority; Audit report No. 46 2003-04—Client service in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrate’s Court; Audit report No. 50 2003-04—Management of federal airport leases; Audit report No. 4, 2004-05—Management of customer debt (Centrelink); Audit report No. 5 2004-05—Management of standard defence supply system upgrade; Audit report No. 21 2004-05—Audits of the financial statements of Australian government entities for the period ended 30 June 2004; Audit report No. 15 2004-05—Financial management of special appropriations; Audit report No. 16 2004-05—Container examination facilities (Australian Customs Service); and Audit report No. 18 2004-05—Regulation of non-prescription medicinal product.

Three of the audit reports included in this review were selected by the committee of the previous parliament. That review was suspended upon the dissolution of the House of Representatives in August 2004. In December 2004, the new committee of the 41st Parliament resolved to complete the review of the three ANAO reports begun by the previous committee and also to undertake a busy program reviewing a further eight audit reports, selected from the 37 ANAO reports that had been presented to parliament in the previous few months.

The 11 reviews undertaken by the committee have covered a broad range of government agencies and have included subjects such as grants administration, customer service, regulatory functions, management of assets, contract management and program implementation. In each chapter of the report we have made recommendations to improve agencies’ efficiency and effectiveness in implementation of programs and to ensure that the Auditor-General’s recommendations are implemented. In total this report contains 42 recommendations of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit to the government and agencies.

Two of the audit reports, Nos 5 and 21 of 2004-05, have detailed major problems with financial management and project administration at the Department of Defence. In December 2004 the Audit Office and the Department of Defence both found that they had an ‘inability to form an opinion’ on the Defence financial statements. In layman’s terms, this meant that there was so much uncertainty surrounding some of the figures which made up the financial statements that the Audit Office felt they could not verify the accounts. This was an unprecedented event in public sector accounting in Australia. The committee held a number of public hearings on this subject and is concerned to note that further audit reports tabled since the beginning of this current inquiry, such as the report on the PMKeyS personnel management system, have revealed more problems.

The committee examined an audit report detailing Centrelink’s management of customer debt. The report highlighted problems in planning, communication across regions and consistency in managing customer debt across the Centrelink network. This report is just one of a series of Centrelink reviews undertaken by the Australian National Audit Office. The committee is continuing its work in this area with a new review of seven more audit reports on Centrelink’s customer service and a review of another report which details the failed Edge information technology system. This report will be presented to the parliament early in the new year.

One of the reports the committee reviewed concerned the container examination facilities introduced by the Australian Customs Service. These container X-ray facilities are now at all major Australian ports. The committee’s review of this program found no major problems with the implementation of the container examination facilities. However, I would like to note that the integrated cargo system computer program—

The ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The member’s time has expired.

Mr Baldwin —I thought it was 10 minutes for the whole of the report presentation.

The ACTING SPEAKER —No, I have given five minutes each. I call the member for Newcastle.