The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA)’s duties are outlined in section 8 of the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951. They include examining all reports of the Auditor-General tabled in the Parliament and reporting on those to the Parliament; considering the operations and resources of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO); considering the draft Budget estimates of the ANAO; and determining the audit priorities of the Parliament and advising the Auditor-General of those. The Parliamentary Service Act 1999 gives the JCPAA the same responsibilities regarding the Budget estimates of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) as it has in relation to the ANAO. A full list of the JCPAA’s duties under both Acts appears as Appendix B to this report.
A duty of the JCPAA under its Act is to prepare a report on the performance of its duties each financial year, and table that report in each House of the Parliament. This chapter outlines the JCPAA’s duties relevant to activities undertaken in 2020-21; the next chapter provides detail on these activities.
Under the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951, the JCPAA’s duties include:
(c) to examine all reports of the Auditor‑General (including reports of the results of performance audits) that are tabled in each House of the Parliament; and
(d) to report to both Houses of the Parliament, with any comment it thinks fit, on any items or matters in those accounts, statements and reports, or any circumstances connected with them, that the Committee thinks should be drawn to the attention of the Parliament
In recent parliamentary terms, the JCPAA has chosen to conduct most of its examinations of Auditor-General reports on a thematic basis. This allows the JCPAA to consider broad themes drawn from multiple Auditor-General reports and make recommendations which address not just individual programs or agencies, but wider governance and public administration issues.
In 2020-21 the JCPAA either commenced or completed ten inquiries. Seven of these were based on Auditor-General reports, arranged on thematic lines. The remaining three were based on the JCPAA’s other duties, including its 2019-20 Annual Report, a review of the Auditor-General Act 1997 (both duties under the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951) and an inquiry into the Operations of the Parliamentary Budget Office (a duty under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999). Chapter 2 includes further information about these inquiries.
Considering the Budget Estimates of the Australian National Audit Office and Parliamentary Budget Office
The JCPAA is required under the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951, ‘to consider draft estimates for the Audit Office submitted under section 53 of the Auditor‑General Act 1997’. The Parliamentary Service Act 1999 adds a similar duty relating to the Parliamentary Budget Office: ‘to consider draft estimates for the Parliamentary Budget Office’. As will be discussed in chapter 2, in 2020-21 the JCPAA undertook these duties twice, as a consequence of the 2020-21 Budget being delivered in October rather than May 2020.
Determining the Audit Priorities of the Parliament
The Auditor-General, in determining the ANAO’s Annual Audit Work Program, ‘must have regard to the audit priorities of the Parliament’, determined by the JCPAA. As required by section 8(1)(m) of the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951, the JCPAA has undertaken consultation on the Draft Annual Audit Work Program 2021-22 to determine the audit priorities of the Parliament. The JCPAA invited contributions from all other parliamentary committees, as well as producing its own list of audit topics.
Details of the Audit Priorities of the Parliament for 2021-22 are included in chapter 2.
Appointment of a new Parliamentary Budget Officer
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is appointed by the Presiding Officers. However, the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 holds that:
The Presiding Officers must not make an appointment under subsection 64X(1) unless:
(a) the Presiding Officers have referred the proposed appointment to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (the Committee) for approval; and
(b) the Committee has approved the proposal.
Information about the JCPAA’s process regarding the appointment of a new Parliamentary Budget Officer is included in chapter 2.