In pursuing its purpose, the ANAO maintains important relationships with the Parliament, various national bodies and counterparts, as well as international counterparts, as described below.
The ANAO invests in a number of professional relationships through the two-way exchange and sharing of information and practices, and supports other nations through peer-to-peer institutional capacity development. The ANAO’s engagement strategy details the ANAO’s approach to key relationships with the public sector auditing community.
In recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public sector auditing community, including changing work priorities and audit approaches, the ANAO has adapted the implementation of its engagement strategy to the circumstances arising from the pandemic. This includes engaging with both international and national peers and the public sector to stay informed on evolving approaches to auditing; finding new and innovative ways to continue to conduct its business with the public sector; and continuing to learn from and support other audit offices in other nations. .
The ANAO website contains further information about the ANAO’s relationships.
The ANAO’s primary relationship is with the Australian Parliament and the ANAO’s key interaction with the Parliament is through the JCPAA. The Auditor-General’s reports assist the Parliament to hold government entities accountable and to drive improvements in public administration. The Auditor-General and ANAO support the work of the Parliament by providing independent reporting, assurance, and assistance. Assistance to the Parliament occurs through the provision of submissions and information to the Parliament, appearances before parliamentary committees, and briefings to parliamentarians. The Parliament and its committees also scrutinise the work and administration of the ANAO.
Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit
The JCPAA is established by the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951. The JCPAA formally links the Auditor-General and the ANAO to the Parliament. The committee approves the proposed appointment of the Auditor-General; advises the Auditor-General on the Parliament’s audit priorities; and considers the operations and resources of the ANAO. This includes considering the ANAO’s draft budget estimates and making recommendations on the ANAO’s budget to both houses of Parliament and to the Prime Minister. The JCPAA of the 46th Parliament commenced in July 2019.
The JCPAA is required to review all reports that the Auditor-General tables in the Parliament and to report the results of its deliberations to both houses of Parliament. The JCPAA conducted four inquiries throughout 2019–20, resulting in the tabling of one report, Report 481: Efficiency and Effectiveness, on its review of Auditor-General reports. In 2019–20, officers of the ANAO provided six private briefings, attended seven public hearings and made two submissions to assist the Committee in undertaking its functions. An outline of inquiries and reports is provided in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1: JCPAA inquiries and reports
Concluded – Report 481
Efficiency and Effectiveness
No. 25 of 2018–19: Efficiency of the Processing of Applications for Citizenship by Conferral
No. 29 of 2018–19: Efficiency of the Investigation of Transport Accidents and Safety Occurrences
No. 38 of 2018–19: Application of Cost Recovery Principles
No. 42 of 2018–19: Management of Small Business Tax Debt
No. 44 of 2018–19: Effectiveness of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
No. 45 of 2018–19: Coordination and Targeting of Domestic Violence Funding and Actions
No. 51 of 2018–19: Farm Management Deposits Scheme
No. 1 of 2019–20: Cyber Resilience of Government Business Enterprises and Corporate Commonwealth Entities
No. 13 of 2019–20: Implementation of the My Health Record System
2018–19 Defence Major Projects Report and the Future Submarine Project – Transition to Design
No. 19 of 2019–20: 2018–19 Major Projects Report
No. 22 of 2019–20: Future Submarine Program — Transition to Design
Administration of Government Grants
No. 5 of 2019–20: Australian Research Council’s Administration of the National Competitive Grants Program
No. 12 of 2019–20: Award of Funding Under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages
No. 23 of 2019–20: Award of Funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program
In addition to its relationship with the Parliament, the ANAO has important relationships in the national sphere with the accountable authorities of Australian Government entities, the Australasian Council of Auditors-General (which includes the state and territory auditors-general), and professional accounting bodies and standard-setting boards.
The ANAO has an important relationship with the accountable authorities of Australian Government entities, who have primary responsibility for and control over public sector entities’ operations. The ANAO engages with entities at a number of levels to strengthen relationships and promote improved financial reporting and public sector administration, including through attendance at entity audit committees.
The ANAO considers that its ongoing relationship with chief financial officers (CFOs), officials of audited entities and audit committees helps to achieve its purpose to both improve public sector performance and support accountability and transparency in the Australian Government sector. As part of this work, the ANAO conducts forums, with the Department of Finance, for CFOs and audit committee chairs to share insights on emerging and topical audit issues and requirements affecting Australian Government entities.
The ANAO hosted CFO forums in November 2019 and June 2020 that were each attended by approximately 110 CFOs and entity representatives. The June 2020 forum was presented by webinar in response to COVID-19 restrictions. In these forums, the ANAO shares information about issues arising in audits and key focus areas of the audit program, and provides insights and themes on the effectiveness of public administration. The broadcasts of the webinars are retained on the ANAO website after the live delivery.
Audit committees play an important role in entities’ governance frameworks. Audit committee chair forums were held in December 2019 and July 2020. In July 2020 the forum was presented by webinar in response to COVID-19 restrictions. Each forum was attended by approximately 65 audit committee chairs and representatives. The forums provide an opportunity to share insights from the audit program, and relevant updates and information, to assist committees to meet the requirements of the PGPA Act and associated rules. A communique is published on the ANAO website after these forums.
Australasian Council of Auditors-General
The Auditor-General is a member of the Australasian Council of Auditors-General (ACAG), which comprises the auditors-general of the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, along with the auditors-general of each Australian state and territory. ACAG’s objective is to promote and strengthen public sector audit in Australasia through leadership, collaboration, engagement, advocacy and peer support. The ANAO contributes to ACAG’s work by attending business meetings and subcommittee meetings, preparing discussion papers, participating in information exchanges, undertaking annual benchmarking and client surveys, and conducting peer reviews. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the frequency of the ACAG business meetings was increased to communicate audit and organisational approaches, and to share lessons on operational and emerging audit issues.
The Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees (ACPAC) biennial conference, which is attended by ACAG members, was hosted by the JCPAA in November 2019. ACPAC exists to exchange information and opinions about public accounts committees, in order to improve their performance and increase the accountability of government expenditure. ACPAC also aims to improve how public accounts committees communicate with auditors-general. The Auditor-General’s presentation to the conference — ‘The role of the PACs and Auditors-General in enabling the Parliament to carry out its oversight function effectively, making governments accountable’ — focused on the role of the JCPAA and the Auditor-General in overseeing the development and implementation of reforms to the Commonwealth performance framework.
In 2018–19, the ANAO led ACAG’s engagement of the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation (CAAF) to deliver an advanced performance audit training program — Leading Successful Audits and Evidence Collection and Analysis. Following this investment, the ANAO, in collaboration with the ACT Audit Office, delivered the first CAAF Evidence Collection and Analysis module in-house in November 2019. The course is now mandatory for all newly appointed ANAO audit staff. In 2020, in response to COVID-19 restrictions, the training package was redeveloped for presentation in an online learning environment to ensure continued access to this scheduled learning and development opportunity.
Professional accounting bodies and standard-setting boards
The ANAO is actively involved in the work of two professional accounting bodies in Australia, CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Ms Carla Jago, Group Executive Director, AASG, is the Vice Chair of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand ACT Regional Council. The ANAO has recognised employer status under CPA Australia’s Recognised Employer Program, which includes organisations that are committed to providing their employees with the highest standard in professional development and support.
The ANAO contributes to the development of accounting and auditing standards through contributing to ACAG responses to exposure drafts for new or amended standards proposed by the Australian Accounting Standards Board, the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board, and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board.
The ANAO’s key international activities are engagement with other supreme audit institutions, and bilateral capacity-building partnerships with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea under Australia’s international aid program.
Supreme audit institutions
A supreme audit institution (SAI) is the lead public sector audit organisation in a country. Engagement with other SAIs allows the ANAO to participate in the international dialogue about best practice public administration and developments in public sector auditing. The ANAO also responds to requests from SAIs directly, including by hosting and presenting to visiting delegations, providing information and participating in surveys.
The ANAO is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), which is dedicated to promoting the exchange of information about audit and financial management among its member institutions and providing a network for the international public sector audit community.
The ANAO also contributes to the activities of two INTOSAI regional organisations:
- the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI); and
- the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI).
In 2019, the ANAO nominated Ms Jane Meade, Group Executive Director, Professional Services and Relationships Group, as a candidate for membership of the Forum for INTOSAI Professional Pronouncements (FIPP). The nomination was successful and her three-year membership commenced on 1 January 2020. The FIPP aims to support professional development by ensuring that INTOSAI provides a clear and consistent set of professional standards at issai.org. The FIPP achieves this through reviewing and monitoring INTOSAI’s framework of professional pronouncements. The ANAO participated in the forum via teleconference in March, April and June 2020.
In the first half of 2020, a number of planned INTOSAI events were cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19.
The ANAO’s key international engagements in 2019–20 included participating in the:
- Triennial INTOSAI Congress in Moscow in September 2019. The forum discussion focused on the importance of responding to rapid changes in public sector auditing and technology.
- International Conference of Indonesia State Finance and Accountability (InCISFA) in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2019. The topic of the conference was ‘Governance and accountability of state finance to accelerate sustainable development’. The ANAO presented a paper on how quality assurance systems can enhance SAIs’ impact in promoting transparency and accountability of governments, aligning with the focus on audit quality in the ANAO’s ongoing partnership activities with the Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia.
- 22nd PASAI Congress in Natadola, Fiji, in August 2019. The theme of the congress was ‘The role of SAIs in helping to achieve governments’ sustainable development goals’, focusing on strong governance as key to improving the lives of citizens. The Auditor-General passed the position of Chair of the PASAI Governing Board to the Auditor-General of Fiji, remaining as a Governing Board member until the 23rd PASAI Congress.
- 14th Joint Strike Fighter Conference in Washington DC in November 2019. The conference focus was on methodologies and audit coverage of this specialised topic, as well as discussing and sharing findings from performance audits of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
In addition to the activities outlined above, the ANAO has increased its engagement specifically on COVID-19 auditing and organisational approaches with SAIs operating within a similar environment including: SAIs New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Australia’s international aid program
The ANAO, through a partnership agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), is participating in Australia’s international aid program to assist and support the audit offices of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to build institutional capacity and facilitate the sharing of auditing knowledge across all three offices. The partnership supports the Australian Government’s sectoral aid initiative to develop effective governance institutions.
Both of the international aid programs delivery were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On 17 March 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made an announcement offering voluntary departures to specific categories of staff attached to all overseas posts, which included the ANAO officers deployed to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Following this announcement, the ANAO recalled its deployees back to Australia. On return to Canberra, the deployees continued to engage with BPK and PNG AGO and provide ongoing audit and organisational development support through the programs.
Australia–Indonesia Partnership for Economic Development (PROSPERA) Program
The ANAO’s activities under the Australia–Indonesia Partnership for Economic Development (PROSPERA) program with the Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan — BPK) continue to support BPK’s efforts to strengthen management of its audit functions. The program is aligned with the BPK strategic plan objectives of delivering beneficial and high-quality audits. The key 2019–20 program focus areas were on performance and financial audit management, quality assurance systems, and organisational development to support audit management and capability. Recognising the maturity of the partnership, in addition to supporting the development of audit and organisation capability, the ANAO engaged with BPK on topics of mutual interest and benefit to both the ANAO and BPK.
Principal modalities for the partnership program are the deployment in-country of a senior ANAO subject matter expert; short-term technical visits by subject matter experts from the ANAO; attachments and short-term visits by BPK staff to the ANAO; technical training and workshops; and long-term secondment.
In November 2019, the ANAO participated in a formative review of the first year of the PROSPERA program, commissioned by DFAT. Overall, the review findings were very positive about the program’s progress to date and Australian public sector agencies’ contribution to program objectives.
The ANAO, in partnership with BPK, delivered seven of 12 planned activities for 2019–20. In response to the travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, three planned activities were deferred or cancelled and two were partially delivered by alternative methods. The ANAO adapted the 2019–20 work program, pivoting the focus of activities to the impact of COVID-19 on organisational and work program considerations, and technical implications, aligning with DFAT’s strategy for the focus of the program going forward.