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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1999

Mr MOUNTFORD —I ask for leave of the House to present a copy of a letter from the Auditor-General dated 24 March 1987 concerning the report of the Standing Committee on Expenditure entitled `An efficient organisation or an efficient audit', and to make a short statement in connection with the letter.

Leave granted.

Mr MOUNTFORD —I present the letter. I have tabled the Auditor-General's interim response to our report because, and only because, he requested that his response be presented to the Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The Auditor-General refers to certain words used in the Expenditure Committee report and the tabling statement of Sub-committee chairman, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale), says the Committee conclusion and Mr Beale's observation are wrong, and, because of this, concludes that these comments are damaging and are offensive to himself and his senior officers in their unjustified reflection on their integrity. This interim response from the Auditor-General was considered by the Expenditure Committee yesterday. The Committee, after deliberating on the matter, indicated that it stands by its report and the tabling statement of the Sub-committee Chairman, Mr Beale. Briefly, the Committee is right and the Auditor wrong. Therefore, the Australian Audit Office has to live with the Auditor-General's own conclusion that certain words we have used reflect on the integrity of the auditors.

The Australian Audit Office was given our written comments which challenged the validity of Audit paragraph 2.4.1. Apparently the auditors had original calculations which supported the paragraph but chose not to give these to the Committee. The relevance of what was given was then challenged at the 27 November 1986 hearing by the Sub-committee Chairman but the response clouded the issue. In these circumstances the strong comments were aimed at the poor quality of the evidence and are justified.

The Auditor-General's interim response promises a full response to our report. After we receive and study this we propose to meet with him to discuss his response to this Committee report and his responses to other Committee reviews of other efficiency audit reports. The Committee recognises that the Auditor-General plays a very important role in the accountability process to the Parliament. The Expenditure Committee also has an important role in scrutinising the quality of public administration. During the meeting referred to in the previous paragraph I intend to initiate a full and frank discussion which will attempt to maximise our respective roles.