Four NSW integrity agencies face audits and a parliamentary inquiry that covers the auditor, too

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday December 4, 2019

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The Audit Office of New South Wales has been asked to run the ruler over the financial arrangements and management practices of four integrity agencies, including the two anti-corruption commissions.

Auditor-general Margaret Crawford was asked to run the four performance audits in a single special request from the Special Minister of State, Don Harwin, who is also Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts. She is required to act on such requests.

“This audit will assess the effectiveness of the financial arrangements and management practices in four integrity agencies: the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, the NSW Ombudsman, and the NSW Electoral Commission,” explains a statement from the Audit Office.

“It will also consider the roles of the Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Treasury in these processes.”

The auditors will have three main questions to answer. Firstly, they will look at how the four agencies assess the amount of funding they need to meet their respective legislative mandates.

Secondly, they will consider whether existing funding mechanisms are effective in supporting the integrity agencies to achieve those statutory purposes. The audits will also look at whether the integrity agencies monitor their operational efficiency.

Separately, the upper-house Public Accountability Committee is running an inquiry into the “budget processes” of all four agencies, plus the Audit Office itself. The committee’s inquiry will also look at the budget process for the NSW Department of Parliamentary Services and the Legislative Council, in which its members sit, given they and their colleagues on the red benches also play an independent oversight role.

They have received 50 submissions, and have scheduled their first public hearing for December 12.

The Mandarin understands all four audits are expected to be completed in about six months. Premier Gladys Berejiklian commented on the four agencies earlier in November.

“We want to make sure we are doing the right thing by those bodies and the right thing by the people of NSW in ensuring accountability, integrity and security of funding moving forward,” she told parliament. “There is nothing more important than ensuring public confidence in the processes of government and the processes of our public service.”

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