Victoria to strengthen auditor-general's powers

By David Donaldson

February 2, 2018

Victoria’s public sector auditing rules are being overhauled to extend the powers of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

The reforms will give VAGO the tools they need to more effectively monitor the expenditure and performance of the public sector, says the state government.

Much has changed since the passage of the existing legislation in the early 1990s, including the digitisation of records, the mass use of the internet and everyday electronic transfers of information and money. During that time there has also been an increase in the use of contractors to deliver government services.

The Audit Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017 — which was second read in state parliament in December — “modernises” Victoria’s audit legislation so the auditor-general can more effectively monitor the expenditure of public funds and public sector performance, as well as setting out clear and effective rights and obligations for audited entities.

Reforms to the auditor-general’s jurisdiction, powers and functions in the bill include:

  • Streamlining the auditor-general’s ‘follow the dollar’ powers to ensure they can better scrutinise the use of public funding given to non-government bodies;
  • Better clarifying the auditor-general’s jurisdiction over public sector bodies to bring it into line with Victoria’s other integrity agencies;
  • Providing new powers to the auditor-general to enter and inspect premises to gather information;
  • Allowing the auditor-general to conduct assurance reviews as a targeted, swift and flexible alternative to a full audit in some lower risk situations;
  • Expanding the range of bodies and persons with whom the auditor-general can share information to help create a more flexible, clear and transparent information sharing regime;
  • Enhancing safeguards and procedural fairness requirements in relation to the use of coercive powers.

While the current legislation contains offences for failing to comply with requirements to provide information to the auditor-general, the bill will insert new offences for failing to comply with a written notice to enter and inspect premises and enhanced offence provisions for unauthorised disclosure of information.

The reforms will help to build and maintain community trust in the public sector by promoting the highest possible standards of public sector conduct in a modern and transparent framework, the government argues.

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