It has once again been a productive, varied and rewarding year for my Office.
With increasing demand for performance and financial audits it is imperative that we are strategic in our approach to delivering quality, trustworthy and accessible information. Much of our focus this year has been just that – further enhancing the efficiency and quality of what we do and how we do it.
Timely delivery of all financial audits
This year we achieved a 100 per cent success rate in completing the audits of agency financial statements, key performance indicators and controls in time for ministers to meet the legislated deadline for tabling of annual reports. In total 190 audit opinions were issued. Next year we will need to issue 113 per cent more royalties for regions audit certifications, which will require considerable additional audit effort. In order to maintain our success rate in delivering the financial audits on time we have put a number of measures in place, including a new management structure and a more efficient delegation structure in our Assurance Services Division, which is so far demonstrating valuable efficiency gains.
Our Standards and Quality Division has also undergone some structural changes throughout the year in order to better support our financial auditors with technical quality and auditing standards guidance. This Division leads the development, implementation and monitoring of our Quality Assurance Plan, which this year included internal and external reviews of our audit engagement files, audit methodologies and our independence and audit policies.
Our Office recently underwent an external review of all our core divisions to identify operational improvement opportunities. This together with a new Office Efficiency and Effectiveness Plan will further guide our operations to meet increasing demands.
Performance audit topic selection success
In 2012-13, we submitted to Parliament 24 audit reports which identified key findings and made recommendations that aim to improve public sector performance in areas such as cost effectiveness, efficiency and regulatory and policy compliance.
The number of referrals my Office received from the public and from Members of Parliament (MPs) remained high with 90 new referrals received. Issues raised through referrals that can be examined by my Office are considered during our topic selection process. In our annual survey of MPs, 97 per cent of respondents agreed that “Reports dealt with matters of significance to Parliament”. This is positive indication that our topic selection process is working and we are choosing audit topics that are important to MPs.
Client satisfaction an ongoing challenge
While the results of our annual MP survey are consistently positive, we have seen a gradual decline in the overall satisfaction with our reports and services (83 per cent satisfied in 2012-13, down from 95 per cent in 2009-10).
This is an important indicator which we are continuing to monitor and address. We have in place a parliamentary liaison program that aims to increase awareness among MPs about the role of audit and what an audit can actually deliver.
This liaison and awareness was particularly vital following the election in March which saw long serving parliamentarians leaving and a high proportion of new members enter Parliament. The comprehensive briefings we delivered to new MPs and Parliamentary Committees were important in raising awareness of the Office, its role and functions and are an important part of our efforts to address any potential audit expectation gap.
We also conduct annual client agency surveys and while we received a record high agreement that our financial services make a valuable contribution, this year we also saw a decline in some of the responses in areas such as timeliness of our audit program and responsiveness of our audit staff. (Refer to the Our Clients section of this report for more survey information).
The results of these surveys play an important part in our ongoing continuous improvement and quality assurance efforts. We take into consideration all feedback, including areas of concern, when devising our forward audit program. I will be keeping a close eye on future survey results to ensure we promptly act on any emerging areas of concern.
First collaborative audit on a national issue
I was pleased this year to table in Parliament the results of my performance audit of the Implementation of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness in Western Australia (Report 13 – October 2012). Concurrently, a number of my fellow Auditors General across Australia also looked at the implementation of the agreement in their jurisdictions. My Australasian Council of Auditors-General colleagues and I believe that if considered together, these reports offer, for the first time, a comprehensive view of this national partnership across the country.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is set to play an important role in the collation of these jurisdictional reports, better providing a full perspective on national issues. Working collegiately with other audit offices and the ANAO to provide both a local and national perspective on important issues will be something we do more of in the future.
Innovative new online reporting launched
In order to enhance the accessibility of our audit reports for our key stakeholders, namely Parliamentarians, agencies and the wider community, this year we introduced an innovative new way of delivering our reports using an online reporting framework via our website. This style of online reporting is a first for Australian public sector auditing and allows us to deliver our reports in a more dynamic and accessible manner. Feedback so far has been extremely positive and I look forward to further developing this concept over the next few months.
Impressive recruitment and leadership training outcomes
In line with our Workforce Development Plan, this year we further refined our graduate recruitment and induction program. As a result the number of applications for our 2013 graduate intake exceeded our expectations with a 56 per cent increase in applicant numbers.
This year also saw the first two groups of senior staff graduate from our customised Leadership and Management training program. This investment aims to provide advanced leadership and management skills for all our leaders.
Our ability to attract, retain and develop the right people for our Office is particularly important as we strive to accommodate our increasing audit program and to meet emerging challenges.
Upcoming review of our Office and the Act
The Joint Standing Committee on Audit (JSCA) was formed late this year and although this was later than expected the committee has now commenced the process for the performance and legislative review of the Act and the performance of the Auditor General’s functions.
My Office is subject to various independent audits, including peer reviews and external reviews. I highly value these reviews as they provide us with assurance that our processes are effective, efficient and evolving. As such, we are looking forward to working with the Committee to ensure it has all the information it requires to effectively conduct its review.
I take this opportunity to recognise and thank the executive team and our staff for their ongoing dedication throughout 2012-13. The fact that my Office can continually deliver important work that matters to Parliament, the public sector and the community is a direct reflection on the high standard of our workforce.
The information sharing and continuous improvement opportunities presented through my involvement with the Integrity Coordinating Group is something which I also value. This Group promotes integrity and better practice principles across the public sector, further communicating the work we each do as individual bodies. Thank you to the Public Sector Commissioner, Information Commissioner, Ombudsman and the Corruption and Crime Commissioner.
I also acknowledge the important working relationships I hold with my fellow Australasian Council of Auditors-General colleagues.
Finally, I thank our key clients – the Parliament of Western Australia and within it the new Joint Standing Committee on Audit, the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates and Financial Operations Committee – for their continued support throughout the year.
COLIN MURPHY PSM