Helping to improve public administration
We reported on 16 performance audits in 2015–16, five more than last year. This is the largest number of performance audit reports the Audit Office has produced in a single financial year. In these 16 reports, we made 132 recommendations to improve public administration.
Performance audits aim to inform parliament and the public about how well government programs are delivered and ultimately improve public administration. They examine whether taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently, effectively, economically and in accordance with the law.
These audits may review all or part of an agency’s operations. Some audits consider particular issues across a number of agencies. Where we find performance gaps, we make practical recommendations.
The extracts below from published agency responses to our reports indicate the value agencies attach to our recommendations in improving public administration, and the collaborative approach we adopt.
Ministry of Health:
I would like to thank you and your team for working with the Ministry of Health and Local Health Districts to make this audit a worthwhile and constructive exercise. The team who worked on this audit were professional, approachable and willing to listen.
Their engaged and collegiate approach ensured open and transparent dialogue and this is reflected in the final audit report and in the acceptance of all the recommendations made.
Department of Education:
I would like to thank the Audit Office review team for their work and acknowledge that much of the feedback the Department of Education has provided to your office has been considered in the formulation of your final report.
I would like to thank the Audit Office team for their work looking into the Department’s provisions in this important area of education. The recommendations will enable the Department and schools to build on current reforms and achievements.
Department of Family and Community Services:
The audit was undertaken professionally and we had ongoing communication and consultation throughout.
I have participated in audits in the past and this one was very collaborative and the level of ongoing feedback provided enabled us to ensure we delivered the right evidence packages in an efficient manner.
In 2016–17, we will build on our recent efforts to further target areas of government focus and of strong public interest. In our ‘Influencing for Impact’ strategic initiative we will be developing a strategy to better engage with our external stakeholders, including parliamentarians, in an effort to improve the impact and relevance of our audits and increase the value we deliver to the public sector.
In our ‘Local Government’ strategic initiative we are also working closely with the Office of Local Government to prepare for the possible transition of local government audits to the Audit Office. We will be well-prepared if this change should go ahead.
Click here for further details on our strategic initiatives for 2016–17.
Adding value to parliament
'I think the Audit Office is doing a good job at the moment. Their suggestions are very relevant.'
'I think the Audit Office's reports are good. I always look forward to them as they provide good insights.'
'The Audit Office’s reports are extremely useful.'
Parliament is our primary stakeholder and our work supports its role in holding the government to account. Our reports are frequently referred to in parliamentary debates and in budget estimates hearings.
Parliament is an important source of suggestions for performance audit topics and audits required by specific legislation.
The value we add to the parliamentary process is illustrated by the comments made by parliamentarians in our most recent 2015–16 survey.
Cost of performance audits improved
The average cost of performance audits published in 2015–16 was $266,726. This was below the target of $300,000 and below the previous year’s result of $308,000.
A key factor in this positive result was the restructure implemented in 2014–15. This:
- replaced two director and 11 audit leader positions with five principal analyst positions
- changed the senior auditor position to senior analyst with refined responsibilities
- introduced five new analyst positions.
The introduction of a three-year rolling performance audit program has also helped us more efficiently and effectively plan our audits and utilise our time. We have also benefitted from branch and organisation-wide initiatives to streamline processes, improve our methodology, liaise better with agencies, and work more closely with our Financial Audit branch.
Choosing performance audit topics
Our three-year performance audit program focuses on the NSW Government’s ‘NSW – Making it Happen’ priority areas and key public sector reforms. Alongside this program, we continue to work with parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and other key stakeholders, to continue to focus on important issues. Our program is sufficiently flexible to allow us to respond to any emerging priority issues, and is regularly reviewed and updated. For a full overview of our three-year performance audit program, including proposed audit topics over the next 12 months, see here.
Leveraging internal and external expertise
In more complex audits, Performance Audit draws on support from senior management and from expertise across our organisation. This provides industry knowledge, agency liaison and data analysis. Performance audits also use specialist advisers for cultural advice, survey design, industry expertise, research and analysis. Three audits tabled in 2015–16 used external advisors.