Public Finance and Audit (Auditor-General's Reports) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (10:50): I move:

I advise the house that this is in response to the report of the Auditor-General of 17 October 2017 that was tabled in parliament. In that report, which was provided by the Speaker of the house and the President of the Legislative Council to their relative chambers on 29 September, he outlined in his executive summary some commentary in relation to recommended amendments to the tabling process, but also the flexibility of the Auditor-General reporting to parliament, and government's accountability to other matters that should be investigated.

I advise the house that this is in response to the report of the Auditor-General of 17 October 2017 that was tabled in parliament. In that report, which was provided by the Speaker of the house and the President of the Legislative Council to their relative chambers on 29 September, he outlined in his executive summary some commentary in relation to recommended amendments to the tabling process, but also the flexibility of the Auditor-General reporting to parliament, and government's accountability to other matters that should be investigated.

In particular, he requested firstly to allow the Auditor-General to table a report even when parliament is not sitting by allowing the report to be delivered to the Speaker and President at any time and have this report to be taken to be published one clear day after it is received. This would allow the report to be public and therefore available to members of parliament and the public. This is a process that is already currently allowed under the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment and Management Act 2011, where supplementary reports can be delivered even if the parliament is not sitting.

Secondly, his recommendation was to allow the Auditor-General to prepare other reports relating to matters required to be dealt with in an annual report, not just those supplementary to matters required. This, he says, would allow the Auditor-General to report immediately on new matters for the current year in a supplementary report. This would also bring those matters to the attention of parliament without waiting for the following year's report.

In considering whether these amendments were worthy of attention and inquiry as to whether the government were going to act on this, it was clear that they were not, which is typical, frankly, of their lack of transparency and preparedness to ensure that probably one of the most crucial statutory bodies, that is, the Auditor-General's Department, on the operations of the government must have and must be properly armed with the adequate legislative capacity to ensure that there is timely and full disclosure of the results of their inquiries to the people of South Australia. It is their money and it is their operation, and they need to have this made available.

Of course, we have consulted with the Auditor-General. He advised in that consultation that there is another small point to be considered. It is really a matter of logistics. In the provision of the annual report, rather than a prescribed date for the provision of it, the Auditor-General is committed to that being within 100 days at the end of the financial year. This would essentially provide for members of parliament to receive it by 8 October each year, but would also allow for the provision of publication, printing and so on. Of course, that is a sensible matter to be added, and members will note that that has been incorporated in the bill now tabled.

The questions, can I say, that are the subject of the Auditor-General for inquiry, either on his own initiative or under instruction from the Treasurer of the state, are quite varied, not just the financial accountability of funds applied by government departments but all the practices and procedures, and we find that the work of the Auditor-General's Department has been quite diverse. It has certainly been very helpful to the parliament. As I say, it is a statutory body, which is a very important part of accountability of government.

We thank both the Auditor-General and his team for the work that they undertake all year and for the many supplementary reports that he has provided to assist us, not the least of which has been the inquiry in relation to government advertising and the application of the rules that relate to that. We thank them for the work they do. We need to be able to have timely publication of the work that they do.

There is a motion in the other place to deal with the management of publication of any reports that may come after parliament rises this year, which may make provision for the next few months. We think it is important that it be done. We encourage the government to support it and we ask that they do so by at least the next four days of sitting so that the Auditor-General can be properly instructed to be able to fulfil his duties as per his request.