Defence not implementing parliamentary and ANAO recommendations on time, audit finds

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday April 14, 2021

Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.
Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty. (Image: Defence)

The Department of Defence has fully implemented less than half of the recommendations made to it by parliamentary committees and the Australian National Audit Office, according to a new report.

In its latest report, published on Monday, the ANAO looked at Defence’s implementation of 32 agreed recommendations.

Of the 18 parliamentary committee recommendations and 14 ANAO recommendations made to Defence, 15 (46.9%) have been fully implemented, while no progress has been made in regard to seven (21.9%) of the recommendations.

Six of the recommendations have been ‘largely’ implemented, while four have been ‘partially’ implemented.

But ANAO’s assessment of which recommendations had been fully implemented differed from Defence’s assessment, the report noted.

“For the 14 ANAO recommendations examined in this audit, the ANAO assessed seven as implemented, four as largely implemented, one as partially implemented and two as not implemented,” it said.

“Defence considered that all 14 ANAO recommendations assessed in this audit had been implemented. For eight of the ANAO recommendations, the evidence relied on by Defence’s Audit and Fraud Control Division to close the recommendation was insufficient.”

Similarly, Defence advised the ANAO that 12 of the 18 parliamentary committee recommendations had been fully implemented, but the ANAO assessed just eight as fully implemented.

READ MORE: Analysis of ANAO audits reveals ‘systemic and unresolved deficiencies’ across APS

The department’s governance arrangements for responding to, monitoring and implementing ANAO’s recommendations were “appropriate”, the audit office concluded.

“Defence has enterprise-level governance arrangements to provide the accountable authority with advice and assurance on the implementation of agreed ANAO recommendations,” it said.

However, the report noted that governance arrangements in regard to parliamentary committee recommendations “remain a work in progress”, as the department introduced an amended Defence Audit and Risk Committee charter in August 2020.

Before then, it had no enterprise-level governance arrangements to provide advice and assurance on the implementation of agreed parliamentary committee recommendations.

Defence not meeting timeframes

Thirteen of the ANAO recommendations had target implementation dates. Of these, only three were closed before the original target date or the revised date that had been established after an extension had been granted.

The remaining recommendations were closed an average of 61 days after the implementation date, ANAO found.

The report noted that there were seven instances where extensions were sought for the implementation of ANAO recommendations, and “only one of the extension requests was made in accordance with Defence requirements”.

For the eight parliamentary committee recommendations where the relevant committee had set a timeframe for implementation, just three were implemented within that timeframe, according to the report.

The audit office has made three recommendations to Defence, relating to strengthened guidance, periodic risk review and monitoring, and improved clarity of responses. The department agreed to all three.

“Defence will continue to enhance its suite of guidance for implementing and responding to ANAO and parliamentary committee recommendations to ensure clarity of processes and responsibilities for implementing recommendations,” the department said.

“These improvements will assist business areas to ensure actions taken to address recommendations will meet the intent of the relevant recommendations and enable improved oversight of the implementation of ANAO and parliamentary committee recommendations by the Defence Audit and Risk Committee.”

READ MORE: Pull agencies in line, auditor-general tells PM&C


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