Improving public sector accountability and performance
Our audits identify opportunities for improving public sector accountability and performance. We develop recommendations in consultation with agencies in response to our audit findings. Our recommendations are reported to the agencies involved and, for the more significant matters, to parliament. Most agencies agree with our recommendations.
Of the 409 recommendations we made to our top 50 financial audit agencies in 2015−16, 397 (97 per cent) were accepted by the agencies, above our target of 95 per cent. Sixty-seven per cent of performance audit recommendations were accepted against our target of 90 per cent. Unusually, in 2015–16, we had a high amount of audited agencies not committing to either accepting or rejecting recommendations. In the coming year, we will explore ways to elicit clearer responses from agencies.
The more strategic performance audit recommendations take time to implement. However, it is pleasing to see continuing progress in 2015−16 on recommendations made in earlier years, as the following case studies highlight.
In our performance audit on Vocational Education and Training Reform, released in January 2015, we recommended that the Department of Education add information about the demand for qualifications on the Smart and Skilled website for students looking for courses. In response, the department has published more than 50 job guides. These guides provide information on the skills needed in various jobs and occupations, the courses and qualifications needed for these jobs, as well as data on job prospects and pay. This data includes the number of people in each occupation, whether the demand for the occupation is expected to grow or decline in the next four years, and the average weekly income of the occupation compared to other occupations. The department plans to publish a total of 100 job guides by the end of 2016.
The recommendations from our January 2015 Security of Critical IT Infrastructure performance audit helped drive improvements in the IT security of the traffic control network and the metropolitan water and wastewater systems. This included enhanced security planning and risk management, improved control and monitoring of access to critical systems, and greater virus protection for applications and operating systems.
Our December 2014 performance audit report WestConnex: Assurance to the Government, and May 2015 performance audit report Large Construction Projects: Independent Assurance, found that there was a need to improve the design and implementation of public sector project assurance. As a result, the NSW Government has strengthened its assurance processes. Infrastructure NSW now has clear responsibility for the independent review of major projects throughout their planning and delivery, and advising the government of any risks. To ensure assurance efforts target the areas of greatest importance, Infrastructure NSW has worked with agencies across government to develop a tiered, risk-based approach so that while projects of all sizes are monitored, high profile and high risk projects will be subject to the greatest scrutiny.