Federal Auditor-General Defunded- Government cuts teeth of watchdog
20 February 2021
What else would a PR driven government do to lessen criticism of its rorts?
Here is an SMH article today by Katina Curtis entitled:
‘Cuts Mean Government Agencies will avoid scrutiny’.
The watchdog in charge of keeping the government accountable for its use of taxpayer money says his budget has fallen so much, some agencies might only face scrutiny once every 20 years and auditors are tolerating ‘‘uncomfortable’’ risks in financial statements.Auditor-General Grant Hehir says over the next four years he has to cut the number of performance audits his office does, which in the past year has uncovered the sports rorts scandal and the $30 million paid for the Leppington Triangle land valued within a year at just $3 million.The cut will reduce the number of audits by a quarter, from a historical average of 48 a year to 36, the lowest number this century, bar 2016 when the double dissolution of Parliament meant fewer sitting weeks to deliver his reports.‘‘In effect, I am unable to provide the Parliament to the same extent with the evidence it has used to hold executive government to account, thereby reducing accountability and transparency,’’ Mr Hehir yesterday told a parliamentary committee reviewing the Australian National Audit Office.Over the past two years, the performance audit section has lost 20 staff, equivalent to the capacity for eight audits. ANAO funding as a proportion of government spending is now half what it was 10 years ago.‘‘Should it be going up proportionately? I’m not arguing that, but I think it shouldn’t be going down,’’ Mr Hehir said.Since 2013, the Australian National Audit Office’s budget has been cut by nearly $6.3 million – or more than 22 per cent in real terms – although Mr Hehir told the committee ‘‘we probably wouldn’t use the word cut, it’s fallen’’.While the budget has shrunk, the number and complexity of financial statement audits the office must do has grown. Mr Hehir said the budget squeeze meant he’d had to increase the risk tolerance of these audits to a point where he was ‘‘uncomfortable’’.As well as a reduced number of audits, their scope will be narrower, and they will focus on higher-risk activities in large entities such as the Tax Office and the Defence Department.‘‘Many smaller agencies may not be audited for extended periods of time, potentially over 20 years,’’ Mr Hehir told the committee.