Chapter 2 Summary of activities for 2011–12
In 2011–12, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA)
held 20 meetings and tabled eight reports (including the JCPAA’s 2010-11 annual
report). This chapter details the activities of the Committee, including:
- reports tabled;
- other Committee
- engagement with other
parliaments and organisations.
Tabled Committee reports
Policy inquiry into National
In February 2011, the JCPAA resolved to conduct an inquiry into national
funding agreements to review and report on the operation of agreements between
the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments.
Eighteen submissions and five supplementary submissions were received.
Six public hearings were held during 2011: four in Canberra, one in Brisbane
and one in Sydney. The Committee heard from a variety of witnesses including
Commonwealth central agencies, state auditors‑general, academics and end
The Committee tabled its report in November 2011, with 15
recommendations, to address issues surrounding implementation and to ensure the
full potential of the framework is realised.
The Government response to the report was tabled in August 2012. While the
Government agreed with five recommendations, it noted eight recommendations and
disagreed with two.
Review of Auditor-General’s reports
Since the last JCPAA annual report, the Committee has undertaken three inquiries
reviewing Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit reports.
In November 2011, the Committee tabled a report reviewing in detail four
Auditor‑General’s reports selected from 31 audit reports presented to the
Parliament by the Auditor-General between December 2010 and May 2011.
The audit reports selected for further review covered the Commonwealth’s
financial management, as well as a range of programs and agencies:
- Audit Report No.22
2010–11, Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government
Entities for the Period Ended 30 June 2010;
- Audit Report No.30
2010–11, Digital Education Revolution Program - National Secondary Schools
- Audit Report No.41
2010-11, Maintenance of the
Defence Estate; and
- Audit Report No.46
2010–11, Management of Student Visas.
The Committee’s report contained four recommendations directed to
relevant agencies, with lessons for the broader public service. These
recommendations were focused on improving administration across areas such as performance
measurement, evaluation and reporting.
In May 2012, the Committee tabled a further report reviewing three of
the 34 Auditor‑General’s reports presented to Parliament between June
2011 and February 2012. The Committee held public hearings in February and
The audit reports examined were:
- Audit Report No.5
2011–12, Development and Implementation of Key Performance Indicators to
Support the Outcomes and Programs Framework;
- Audit Report No.7
2011–12, Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the
Infrastructure Employment Projects Stream of the Jobs Fund; and
- Audit Report No.21
2011–12, Administration of Grant Reporting Obligations.
The Committee’s report contained seven recommendations, addressing
issues around transparency and accountability, particularly in terms of
decision-making and performance measurement.
As at 30 June 2012, the Committee had another inquiry underway,
reviewing nine audit reports presented to Parliament by the Auditor‑General
between February and May 2012. The Committee selected two reports for further
scrutiny, and held public hearings in June 2012. These reports were:
- Audit Report No.29
2011–12, Administration of the Australia Network Tender Process; and
- Audit Report No.31
2011–12, Establishment and Use of Procurement Panels.
The Committee tabled its report in August 2012. The report included two
recommendations, and suggested lessons for all APS agencies regarding the
importance of government procurement activities being undertaken in a manner
that ensures value for money and compliance with financial framework
Review of the Defence Materiel
Organisation Major Projects Report
In May 2012, the Committee tabled its review of the ANAO/Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) Major Projects Report (MPR) 2010–11.
As part of its inquiry into the 2010–11 MPR, the Committee received two
submissions and held a public hearing. Evidence was given by representatives
from the ANAO, the Department of Defence and the DMO.
The Committee was pleased to report an overall improvement in the
preparation and presentation of data in the 2010–11 MPR but noted that there
were a number of outstanding concerns that required further work. To address
these, the Committee made three recommendations in the report aimed at improving
the accountability and transparency of major defence acquisition projects.
Following discussions with the ANAO and the DMO, the Guidelines for the
2011–12 MPR were endorsed by the Committee in May 2012.
Commissioner of Taxation public
In November 2011, the Committee tabled a report on the Ninth biannual
hearing with the Commissioner of Taxation. This report was based on submissions
received from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and another interested
party, as well as the evidence presented at the ninth biannual hearing in September
The ninth biannual hearing was held with a new format allowing the ATO’s
external scrutiny bodies to participate, including the Ombudsman, the
Australian National Audit Office and the Inspector-General of Taxation.
Professional body representatives were also invited to attend.
This new format was successful in expanding the scrutiny of the ATO. However,
the Committee did note the more extensive arrangements and time involved for
witnesses. In light of this, the Committee decided to move to annual, rather
than biannual, hearings.
The Committee’s report addressed four key themes: the level of service
provided; compliance; consultation on policy issues; and external scrutiny and
The Committee made six recommendations to the ATO across these areas
highlighting the importance of early advice on potential tax policy or
legislative problems, ensuring timely publication of reviews by the
Inspector-General of Taxation, and encouraging collaboration between the
external review agencies.
Australian Public Service Annual
In August 2011, the Committee held its annual private briefing with the
heads of key agencies responsible for public sector governance and
administration. Following this briefing, the Committee decided to make future
meetings of this type open to the public—increasing transparency and scrutiny
of the Australian Public Service (APS).
In June 2012, the Committee held its first APS Annual Update as a public
hearing. Representatives from the Australian Public Service Commission, the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Finance and
Deregulation, and the ANAO updated the Committee on topical APS issues and the
status of implementation of recommendations stemming from the Blueprint for
the Reform of Australian Government Administration.
The Committee is responsible for approving annual report guidelines for
Commonwealth departments on behalf of the Parliament. Questions relating to the
proposed 2011–12 guidelines were also discussed at the public hearing. Further
details are included under ‘Other major Committee activities’.
The inaugural report was tabled in Parliament in August 2012. While the
report did not contain recommendations, the Committee did make suggestions,
largely aimed at improving the accessibility of information to assist
parliamentarians and the public in assessing the performance of the public
Responses to JCPAA reports
The table below lists Government responses received by the Committee in
2011–12, either as a policy response tabled by the Government in the Parliament
or an administrative response submitted to the Committee from the relevant
agency. For further details, including copies of the responses and dates of
submission, see the Committee’s website.
Status of response
Full response within six months
Report 418: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports Nos. 04
to 38 (2009-10)
Report 419: Inquiry into the Auditor-General Act 1997
Report 421: The role of the Auditor-General in
scrutinising government advertising
Report 422: Review of the 2009-10 Defence Materiel
Organisation Major Projects Report
Report 423: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports Nos.39
(2009-10) to 15 (2010-11)
Report 424: Eighth biannual hearing with the Commissioner
Report 426: Ninth biannual hearing with the Commissioner
Report 427: Inquiry into National Funding Agreements
Report 428: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports Nos. 16
to 46 (2010-11)
Table: Government responses received by the Committee as at 30
Other major Committee activities
Oversight of the Parliamentary
On 30 May 2012, the Committee reported to both Houses of the Parliament
on its decision to approve the appointment of the inaugural Parliamentary
Budget Officer. Since then, the Committee has instituted arrangements for regular
consultations with the Parliamentary Budget Officer to discuss: the work plan;
operations and resourcing—particularly in the establishment phase; and the
draft budget estimates of the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Audit priorities of the Parliament
In April 2012, the Committee received the ANAO’s draft audit work
program for 2012–13. The JCPAA forwarded the draft program to all other
parliamentary committees in order to assist it in determining the audit
priorities of the Parliament.
Following the JCPAA’s deliberations and other committees’ responses, the
JCPAA advised the Auditor-General that the Parliament’s audit priorities for
- food supply and
security issues, including in Indigenous communities;
- quarantine and biosecurity
systems, managing exotic pests and diseases, and live animal export;
- international mail;
- oversight of regional
Natural Resource Management/Catchment Management Authority funding and
- the Tasmanian Intergovernmental
Agreement Economic Diversification Package.
The JCPAA also expressed support for a range of audits proposed by the
Auditor‑General in his draft plan across areas related to the Committee’s
oversight responsibilities, and including the following agencies:
- Parliamentary Budget
- Defence Materiel
- Australian Taxation
Other areas of interest the Committee brought to the attention of the
- Department of Human
Services follow-up of previous ANAO recommendations;
- Department of Climate
Change and Energy Efficiency key risk areas;
- investigations of
Commonwealth Partners and any areas of significant Commonwealth spending; and
- AusTender’s potential
role as a ‘one stop shop’ for tender reporting.
Statement on draft estimates for
In March 2012, the Auditor-General submitted the ANAO’s 2012–13 budget
estimates to the JCPAA, and briefed the Committee on the impact of the proposed
budget on the ANAO’s capacity to meet its mandate.
The Auditor-General advised that while the ANAO faced a number of cost
pressures the appropriation was sufficient to discharge his statutory
obligations and his work program for the year ahead.
On this basis, the Committee endorsed the proposed 2012–13 budget for
the Audit Office—but noted that any reduction in the draft estimates or
additional pressure placed on the Audit Office without corresponding additional
funds would be of concern.
On budget day the Chair of the Committee made a statement to the House on
the adequacy of the ANAO’s appropriation, with a corresponding statement later
delivered in the Senate.
Annual report requirements for
Each year, in accordance with the Public Service Act 1999, draft requirements
for annual reports for departments, executive agencies and FMA Act bodies are
submitted to the JCPAA for approval.
As these provide the basis for agency reports, the Committee carefully
considers any proposals to amend, add or omit any requirement. The Committee is
also mindful that the requirements are not overly burdensome, nor result in
agencies unnecessarily duplicating information that is readily available
through other sources.
The Committee decided that its questions relating to the proposed 2011–12
Requirements for Annual Reports for Departments, Executive Agencies and FMA
Act Bodies, as well as Government reporting more generally, would be
canvassed at the JCPAA’s 2012 APS Annual Update.
Two significant improvements to reporting arrangements were agreed as a
result of the meeting:
- cessation of duplicate
reporting of contracts; and
- enhanced reporting of
timeliness of payments to small business.
On 28 June 2012, the Committee approved the 2011–12 Requirements for
Independent Auditor of the ANAO
On the 4 November 2011, the JCPAA advised the Independent Auditor of the
ANAO that it considered that the proposed audit program he submitted to the
Committee offered a balanced selection, consistent with parliamentary
priorities. Further, the Committee supported the prioritisation of the audit of
the Information Technology Audit Capability and Resourcing as the first
priority, particularly as the ANAO received additional funding to enhance
information technology capability.
Engagement with other parliaments
In August 2011, the Chair spoke at the ANAO’s celebration of 110 years
as a Commonwealth institution, reinforcing the ANAO’s contribution to improving
public sector administration and the Committee’s confidence in the ANAO’s audit
In September 2011, the JCPAA was invited by the ANAO to meet with a
delegation from the Indonesian Government. The visit was part of the ANAO's
Government Partnership Fund - Phase II program with the Indonesian Audit Office
(BPK). Delegates included representatives from: the BPK, the Audit Committee of
the Parliament (BAKN); the Anti‑Corruption Commission; and the
This meeting formed initial discussions between the ANAO, JCPAA and the
BAKN in ongoing regional engagement, including plans for a staff secondee from
BAKN. In April 2012, the Auditor-General wrote to the Chair proposing the
secondment of an officer from the Indonesian public accounts committee to work
within the JCPAA secretariat as a capacity-building exercise for the Indonesian
In March 2012, a request was received from the Papua New Guinea (PNG)
National Parliament for assistance in seconding a legal adviser from the PNG
Public Accounts Committee.
The Committee supported both secondments, and arrangements were put in
place for the Indonesian secondment to occur later in 2012. Timing for the PNG
secondment is yet to be finalised. These secondments are fully funded by AusAID.
In February 2012, at the invitation of the OECD secretariat, the JCPAA
secretariat presented an update to the OECD Parliamentary Budget Officer
Network on the establishment of the Australian Parliamentary Budget Office and
the JCPAA’s oversight role.
In April 2012, the Committee’s Chair and Deputy Chair participated in
the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committee’s (ACPAC) mid-term
council meeting in Canberra. A key outcome of the meeting was the JCPAA’s
agreement to establish and host a centralised ACPAC website for the benefit of
all members and interested stakeholders.
Robert Oakeshott MP