Public Accounts Committee

5th February 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:57:35): As Chair: I lead on the report entitledExamination of the Auditor's-General's Performance Audit Reports May 2017 to December 2017, which was tabled on 22 November 2019. There has been a significant delay due to 2019 being a parliamentary election year. With the finalisation of the Fifty?Sixth Parliament and the establishment of the Fifty?Seventh Parliament, the delay was caused by lack of opportunity for the Public Accounts Committee to review the reports. This was evident in the subsequent public hearing when, it is fair to say, many of the issues that had been examined by the Auditor-General had been addressed in some other way or by policy or needs had changed.

The report reviews 11 performance audits covering the period from May to December 2017 conducted into mining rehabilitation security deposits, medical equipment management in New South Wales public hospitals, NorthConnex, Sydney region road maintenance contracts, information and communication technology [ICT] in schools for teaching and learning, Office of Strategic Lands, planning and evaluating palliative care services in New South Wales, energy rebates for low-income households, sharing school and community facilities, Government advertising: campaigns for 2015-16 and 2016-17, and managing demand for ambulance services.

The breadth of matters that the Auditor-General looks at is wide. The role of the Public Accounts Committee is to then examine reports from the Auditor-General—to work hand in glove with the Auditor?General's office in a sense—and to follow up to ensure that agencies look at the matters that have been raised and that they have been addressed properly. In this case, the inquiry into NorthConnex and Government advertising campaigns were two matters that were considered to be unnecessary for any further action.

Additional information was sought in four matters: mining rehabilitation security deposits, ICT in schools, energy rebates for low-income households and managing demand for ambulance services. The five matters that were considered for a public hearing were medical equipment management in New South Wales public hospitals, Sydney region road maintenance contracts, Office of Strategic Lands, planning and evaluating palliative care services in New South Wales, and sharing school and community facilities. Many of those are very important to all of our local communities. Some are quite evocative and have an emotional sense to them—for example, palliative care services. I will first deal with a matter that did not need any further information: Government advertising campaigns. All members will remember those two great campaigns: the Stronger Councils, Stronger Communities campaign, which was a favourite among some members in this House; and the Dogs Deserve Better campaign, which was about the greyhound racing ban.

The matters that required attendance of members of some agencies were subsequently well addressed, but it is important to note that the process continues to involve the office of the Auditor-General. I thank the Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford, for all the assistance that she gives to the Public Accounts Committee in doing its work. The Auditor-General and her team are excellent at providing the information to members of the public and members of the Parliament to hold the Government to account. That is really important. I also thank the Deputy Auditor-General, Ian Goodwin. I note that he is also a member of the Army Reserve and has been very much involved in the bushfire planning and action at the moment. I thank him for that. I also thank Assistant Auditor-General, Claudia Migotto.

The report was quite benign and has been well implemented by agencies. However, it is important that we continue our work. I thank the members of the committee, including the deputy chair, the member for Mulgoa; the member for Terrigal; the member for Heathcote; the member for Keira, who is in the Chamber; and the member for North Shore.

I foreshadow that we will be replacing one of our members. I thank the member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, who I understand is taking on another role. I note that the new member will be the member for Albury, Justin Clancy. I very much look forward to working with him. I thank everybody on the committee for their assistance.

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