4 July 2022

What the ACT Auditor-General has in his sights

| Ian Bushnell
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Auditor-General Michael Harris

Auditor-General Michael Harris has 18 audits on his list for the next two financial years. Photo: File.

Canberra’s bus services, the Acton Waterfront Project in West Basin and disability inclusion in schools are among the upcoming subjects of the ACT Auditor-General this financial year.

ACT Auditor-General Michael Harris has announced the 2022-23 Performance Audit Program after consultations across the ACT Public Service and with a range of community organisations.

He said the program was developed in consideration of high-risk areas and activities across all ACT Government agencies.

“The ACT Audit Office continues to focus on improving the accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the ACT Public Sector, with an emphasis on topics that aim to address the challenges that vulnerable sectors of the ACT community are currently facing.”

Mr Harris has also listed possible topics for the following year including public housing waiting lists, the Suburban Land Agency and the policing arrangement with the Australian Federal Police.

This brings the total number of audits planned over the next two financial years to 18.

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Investigations underway include procurement and contracting activities for the Acton Waterfront Project; implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement; the Construction Occupations Registrar’s issuing of licences to industry professionals; the Public Trustee and Guardian’s Financial management services for protected persons; the Community Services Directorate Out of Home Care Strategy for children who cannot safely live with their birth parents; and the ACT Childhood Healthy Eating and Active Living Programs.

The Acton Waterfront Project, in which the shore of Lake Burley Griffin has been realigned to expand the amount of land at West Basin, has been controversial for many years.

Development plans include parkland and community facilities but also multi-unit development.

The audit will look at contracts from 2015 to 2020 totalling $46,768,267 and assess whether the agencies’ administration of the procurement has been effective.

Catering for disability in the ACT’s schools has been a vexed issue for the government and parents and has been the subject of a major inquiry and legal action.

The audit will consider how the Education Directorate uses disability and inclusion support programs to make reasonable adjustments for students with disability to access education on the same basis as other students.

It will look at how these programs plan, measure and review educational outcomes for students with disability, the planning of physical environments, and Directorate and school accountability for Students with Disability funding.

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Transport Canberra’s attempts to provide a sustainable, efficient bus network have upset commuters and been a political headache for the government.

Its efforts have not been helped by pandemic restrictions that shredded public transport patronage.

The audit will look at pre- and post-pandemic performance, including fares and ticketing, network design and capacity, and passenger experience.

Other politically contentious topics the Auditor-General will examine this financial year include the Government Procurement Board and COVID-19 financial support schemes to ACT businesses.

The following year the Auditor-General will tackle the perpetual problem of public housing waiting lists.

The audit will assess the effectiveness of Housing ACT’s overall governance and coordination arrangements and how it allocates housing and management of its tenants.

It will also examine whether the Suburban Land Agency effectively delivers the government’s suburban development program and manages competing economic, environmental, and social interests.

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The AFP’s contracting of policing services to the ACT is often criticised, mainly for not providing enough police on the beat and resources to meet community needs.

The Auditor-General will look at the Territory’s management of the services agreement and whether the contract arrangements can ensure value of money.

Other topics on the list include ACTPS workforce management, Canberra Hospital clinic space, the Health Protection Service, the Capital Framework process for the assessment of capital works funding proposals, vocational education, environmental offsets, the energy efficiency rating scheme, the administration of the courts, urban tree management, and care and protection of ACT’s cultural heritage.

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