B. ANAO Conclusions and Recommendations

No. 6 (2016-17) Corporate Planning in the Australian Public Sector

Conclusion (pp. 10-11)

The nine entities involved in the audit have made a solid start in implementing the corporate plan requirements, with further work required to fully embed the requirements into future plans. In line with the policy intent of the new performance framework, five entities had positioned their first PGPA corporate plan as their primary planning document or had demonstrated a commitment to do this in future plans. Four entities did not fully meet the policy intent.
The majority of entities had sound processes for developing their first PGPA corporate plan. In contrast, the arrangements for monitoring the implementation of corporate plans were less mature. These findings could be expected in view of the early stage of implementation of the corporate plan requirement.
Finance undertook a number of activities which usefully informed entities’ implementation of the corporate plan requirement but did not have a monitoring and evaluation program to inform the ongoing implementation of the performance framework. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts recommended that it do so.
The support provided to entities by Finance was effective and 84 per cent of entities indicated in survey responses to the ANAO that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the support received. There were weaknesses in Finance’s project management arrangements for the performance framework in its early stages.

No. 58 (2016-17) Implementation of the Annual Performance Statements Requirements 2015-16

Conclusion (pp. 8-9)

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (Agriculture) met the minimum requirements for the preparation and publication of the first annual performance statements under the PGPA Act and the PGPA Rule. For both entities, the performance statements included reporting against the entities’ purposes, activities, and performance criteria reviewed as part of the audit.
The performance criteria were mostly relevant to the activities undertaken by the selected entities. Alignment of entity activities to performance criteria and measurement of the attribution of specific activities to the achievement of the entities' purposes could be enhanced.
Both entities’ performance criteria mostly provided a reliable method of assessing the entities’ progress in fulfilling their purposes. Addressing any potential bias in the reported results should also be considered. In addition, describing the methodology for measurement and basis for assessment, including through a target or baseline, needs to be addressed to improve the reliability of the entities’ performance criteria.
As a whole, the performance criteria for both entities were substantially complete, collectively providing a balanced basis for assessing the entities’ progress in fulfilling their purposes. The selection of performance criteria will require ongoing effort by both entities to identify opportunities to clarify or increase the overall alignment of performance criteria to the purpose. The entities’ balance of performance criteria—for example qualitative, quantitative, efficiency-focused and short, medium and long term timeframes—should be reviewed.
Both entities established or adapted existing systems and processes to meet the requirements of the PGPA Act and the PGPA Rule. These remained in development during the audit, with further work being undertaken in 2016–17, to support the quality of information reported in future performance statements.
The selected entities established assurance processes to certify that the reported performance information accurately reflected entity performance. Planning and assurance processes for the entities should mature over time. As part of this process entities should give further consideration to the role and function of their respective audit committees, to ensure that the intent and requirements of the framework are met, as neither audit committee could fully demonstrate compliance with the PGPA Rule.
The majority of results presented in the selected entities’ annual performance statements were supported by complete and accurate records as required by the PGPA Act and PGPA Rule. Both entities could improve record-keeping to better demonstrate the calculations and analysis applied to raw data to produce results, and to support the analysis in the annual performance statements.

No. 31 (2015-16) Administration of Higher Education Loan Program Debt and Repayments

Conclusion (pp. 7-8)

The Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) is a mature program, based on a solid foundation of collecting student loan debt through the income tax system. Nevertheless, there is scope for the ATO and Education to make meaningful improvements to important aspects of the program’s administration. In particular, the program does not have a robust program of evaluation and review based on rigorous analysis of sound data. Program performance measures and reporting reflect a primary focus on access and there is limited measurement of the sustainability of the program despite Education’s projection that HELP debt will total almost $200 billion in 2024–25 and almost one-third of this debt will not be collected. In addition to a lack of focus on examining the growth in HELP debt to support policy design, there is no risk-based strategy to target compliance efforts; the ATO and Education are not fulfilling their broader program risk management responsibilities; and the controls for recording students’ HELP debts need to be improved.

Recommendations (p. 10)

Recommendation 1
To simplify and improve the debt recording process, the ANAO recommends that Education and the ATO redesign the controls for the initial recording, transfer and upload of HELP debts.
Recommendation 2
To improve the management of risks associated with the Higher Education Loan Program and support Education’s and the ATO’s compliance with the risk management requirements set out in the Memorandum of Understanding, the ANAO recommends that Education and the ATO:
develop risk management plans for their respective services under the Memorandum of Understanding; and
introduce a standing agenda item for risk management at Higher Education Meetings to facilitate discussion of relevant risks.
Recommendation 3
To provide assurance that compliance risks associated with HELP are effectively identified and mitigated, the ANAO recommends that the ATO and Education work together to develop a risk-based compliance and enforcement strategy for HELP.
Recommendation 4
To support the design of HELP and better inform key stakeholders in the higher education sector, the ANAO recommends that Education and the ATO expand the information provided publicly to include a broader range of information such as the growth in HELP debt and collection of repayments, overall and for the separate HELP programs.
Recommendation 5
To enable informed decision making regarding HELP, the ANAO recommends that Education more fully analyses characteristics of debt and repayments, and consider this information to inform program design.
The ATO and Education agreed to all five recommendations.

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