Report on the Appointment of a Person to Conduct the Financial Audit of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office
Victorian Parliament - August 14, 2019
Ms KEALY (Lowan) (10:07:38): It is a great pleasure to speak on a committee report today, because we have only got one committee report so far in the Parliament in this term, and that is the Report on the Appointment of a Person to Conduct the Financial Audit of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, which was tabled in 2019—I just want to double-check that that is accurate, so thank you very much, Clerk and Speaker. This is of course a very, very important appointment because we put enormous trust and responsibility— Mr M O’Brien interjected. Ms KEALY: Yes, I am warming up—enormous trust and responsibility in the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO). It is of course an office which shines a light really on many government activities and duties, and often we see a number of recommendations arise from Auditor-General’s reports which should be taken into consideration and definitely put into place when it comes to the government planning how they will change how they do things into the future. I would like to just at the outset congratulate the new financial auditor, Mr Geoff Parker, for his appointment to the role. I am sure he will continue to do an excellent job in upholding the financial duties of the Auditor-General’s office. I would like to refer to page 5 of this report and the background to some of the responsibilities of the financial auditor, and that is around ensuring that the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office is achieving its objectives effectively and doing so economically and efficiently and in compliance with the Audit Act 1994. This is something that is very, very important because we need to make sure that we have the powers given to the Auditor-General but the financial support as well to ensure that they can undertake full and comprehensive audits on government departments and the bureaucracy. This is most important because we have got some very, very important audits that have been put together in the annual plan for VAGO in this coming year. I probably should in this early portion of my contribution congratulate and thank the Victorian Auditor-General and his office. He has a fantastic team who really put an enormous amount of work into producing comprehensive reports. It really does help us to identify where the gaps are in the government system, where there is need for urgent recommendations or where there can be improvements in the system to make sure that everyday Victorians can rely on and trust our government departments to be doing the job that they see fit. When I look at the performance audit work program that is coming up for the next three years for the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office there are a few audits that I would particularly like to highlight that I am looking forward to, in particular the maintaining local roads audit. I think that will be fascinating given the amount of deterioration in our roads that we see. We hear time and time again from our councils that it has really hurt them having the country roads and bridges program that The Nationals put in place cut so that they are unable to maintain their roads to the same standards. This will be something where I hope there will be strong recommendations put forward for how the state government can better support our local government—local councils—to better maintain these roads, because these are essential roads for our local people. They are used for freight; they are used for transport. It is how people get to work. It is how people go to footy and netball training and take their kids to school. It is where the school buses go. So we need to make sure that there is a good road network for our people, and we are not seeing that at this point in time. It is actually very, very disappointing that Labor have turned a blind eye to most of the roads in country Victoria and particularly funding for councils to maintain local roads. We have also had a couple of really good reports tabled by the Auditor-General earlier this year, in particular Access to Mental Health Services, which was tabled in March 2019; and Child and Youth Mental Health, which was tabled in June 2019. These are absolutely scathing reports of Victoria’s mental health system. In particular I would like to highlight some of the concerns the Auditor-General raised in relation to funding for mental health. We have had so many audits which have provided strong recommendations on how we can fix Victoria’s mental health system. We know that the system is in crisis. Absolutely, it is fantastic that we have a royal commission into mental health, but we need to make sure we have immediate funding to fix the problems now. I highlight a comment by the Auditor-General: The Royal Commission into Mental Health will undoubtedly highlight many areas for improvement across the system. However, the need for planning and investment to meet demand is already known and as such work to address this should not await the Commission’s recommendations. Further delay will only amplify the problems the Commission seeks to address. Therefore I call on the government to take note of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office in the reports that they provide. It is very well and good to make sure that they are operating in a financially sensible way that meets requirements, but they must listen to these recommendations. We need an urgent injection of funding into the mental health system to start saving lives today.
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