Public Accounts Committee

9th November 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:57): As Chair: I am pleased to speak on the Public Accounts Committee report No. 11/57 entitledExamination of the Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Reports June – December 2020. The committee resolved in May 2022 to adopt an inquiry to examine 10 performance audits tabled by the Auditor-General between June and December 2020. Those audits included water conservation in Greater Sydney; Their Futures Matter; health capital works; governance and internal controls over local infrastructure contributions; credit card management in local government; support for regional town water infrastructure; Government advertising 2018-19 and 2019-20; waste levy and grants for waste infrastructure; managing the health, safety and wellbeing of nurses and junior doctors in high demand hospital environments; and procurement management in local government.

The committee made nine recommendations that seek to improve public accountability and transparency. Those recommendations relate to four performance audits, two of which were examined at the public hearing, and two of which were the subject of further written questions from the committee. Two recommendations were made to the Office of Local Government. One was to provide guidance to councils on credit card use and one to publish comprehensive guidelines to the local government sector on effective procurement practices. Four recommendations were made to the Department of Planning and Environment. Three of those related to the waste levy and its five-yearly review. Another recommended that data should be published on the environmental outcomes from waste levy compliance activities within 12 months of the end of reporting periods.

Three recommendations were made to the Ministry of Health. One recommendation was that NSW Health commence a regular survey of nurses in New South Wales hospitals to collect data about their psychological health and wellbeing. Two recommendations were also made to the Clinical Excellence Commission, including that it finalise and publish the biannual incident report which is overdue and is important for public scrutiny, and that the Clinical Excellence Commission consider publishing the Clinical Risk Advisory Group's COVID-19 Serious Incident Review subcommittee report on lessons for learning from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee also carried out a conduct of inquiry, which commenced 12 months after the Audit Office audits were concluded. The committee invited submissions from responsible agencies about actions they have taken in response to the audits. Some 28 submissions were received, including subsequent submissions from several agencies where the committee deemed more information was needed. In some cases, the committee invited representatives from agencies and the Audit Office to a public hearing. Representatives from seven local councils, the Office of Local Government, NSW Health and the New South Wales Clinical Excellence Commission attended the public hearing on 6 June 2022. The relieving Deputy Auditor-General and the relieving Assistant Auditor-General, Performance Audits, also attended the hearing and gave feedback to the committee.

Overall, the committee was satisfied with the agencies' responses to the relevant recommendations made by the Auditor-General and commends them for the efforts they made in making submissions and attending the public hearing. Committee members believe it is evident that agencies took the audit seriously and made efforts to address recommendations made by the Audit Office. The examination process has proven to be an effective means of reviewing agencies' responses to performance audits and to maintain scrutiny of agencies under review. This will be the last take-note debate that I will contribute to in this Parliament and perhaps in any future Parliament as chairman of a committee, so I thank the Auditor-General and Audit Office staff for their assistance not only with this inquiry but throughout my term as chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

I also thank my committee colleagues over the years, and particularly in relation to this period. Current committee colleagues include: deputy chair and member for upper Hunter, Mr David Layzell; the member for Holsworthy, Ms Melanie Gibbons; the member for Monaro, Ms Nicole Overall; the member for Keira, Mr Ryan Park; and joining us here today, the member for Castle Hill, Mr Ray Williams. I also thank the committee secretariat for its assistance—though "assistance" is an understatement. All of the committee secretariat staff do an amazing job. Members of Parliament could not do the work for which we are charged without their expertise and diligent service. I truly commend and thank them for that. I hope that that can be passed on to them. I commend the report to the House.

Report noted.

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