Newly released annual reports from the NSW, Queensland and Western Australian audit offices have revealed a number of ICT projects in the works for these agencies in the current financial year. The NSW Audit Office may also see its mandate extended to cover local governments and private contractors supplying to the NSW Government, if recent recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee are adopted.
The NSW Office of the Auditor-General’s 2012-13 annual report reveals a number of upcoming ICT projects, including plans to implement a new “integrated and streamlined” Practice Management Information System (PMIS) in 2013-14, using off-the-shelf software from Thomson Reuters. The new system will replace an existing one, to “more efficiently capture time worked and drive improvement to business processes and information,” according to the report.
Along with the PMIS, the Office will redevelop its Record Management system to improve record keeping and transition to a paperless office.
It will also continue with the Financial Audit Methodology and Technology Replacement Project which aims to deliver a new audit approach which is based on a methodology used by a “Big Four” professional services firm, and uses new auditing software. It is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2013.
The agency anticipates that its expenditure will be higher in 2013-14, than the $42.9 million spend for 2012-13, due largely to additional costs for the new Audit Methodology and Technology Replacement Project.
In addition to commencing work on the PMIS and the Financial Audit Methodology and Technology Replacement Project the NSW Audit Office undertook a raft of other ICT projects last financial year including:
- Development of a three year ICT Strategy;
- Major technology refreshes for laptops and desktops, office Wi-Fi services, mobile 4G capabilities and access and security infrastructure;
- Update of its intranet.
Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat is departing the role on 24 September 2013, with the end of his seven-year term. It is expected that Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance Secretary Grant Hehir will be appointed as the new Auditor-General, following a recommendation by Premier Barry O’Farrell to the Public Accounts Committee.
The new Auditor-General may soon see the scope of their responsibilities expanded to encompass oversight of entities outside of the NSW public sector. The NSW Public Accounts Committee’s report on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Audit Office of New South Wales has recommended that the Auditor-General be allowed to “follow the dollar” by directly examining the performance of non-government organisations that receive public funding for the provision of goods and services.
“At a time when a growing number of services are provided by third parties on behalf of the Government, it is imperative that the Auditor-General is able to confirm that those parties are delivering services in an effective and efficient manner,” says the report.
“Without such oversight, the Committee considers that there is an increased risk for New South Wales, which is not adequately addressed by existing policies and controls.”
The adoption of the recommendation to amend the State’s Public Finance and Audit Act would bring the NSW Audit Office in line with Commonwealth, Queensland, Victorian, Tasmanian, Western Australian and Northern Territory audit offices, which have already been awarded “follow the dollar” powers. The Australian Capital Territory Government is currently reviewing a Bill to introduce such powers in its Audit Office.
The Committee report also recommends further amendments to the Act to expand the Auditor-General’s existing functions by allowing “the Auditor-General to do a compliance audit and that that should be funded”.
Compliance audits are focussed on procedural soundness around agency functions rather than looking at finances or performance.
The Queensland Audit Office’s 2012-13 annual report has revealed plans for an agency-wide renewal of supporting IT systems, extending to financial and human resources, client and practice management, methodology management and information management systems.
In 2012-13, the Audit Office introduced a Contract Management System to manage outsourced contracts worth around $13 million per annum. “The system has proven effective in supporting the change from a centralised management of contracted audits to managing those audits within the appropriate sector audit team,” says the report.
It also completed a replacement of the full network of office computers, with the next refresh due around 2015-16. Meanwhile, it has deferred approaches to market “to replace minor information and technology equipment”.
The Office’s Information Steering Committee, responsible for the strategic direction of ICT, updated the information services strategic plan for 2012-16 to include the increased use of mobile technology, and account for new efficiency measures and changes to the security environment.
The Western Australian Audit Office flagged the development of a new Information Technology Strategic Plan in its 2012-13 annual report. The Plan is expected to be implemented from September 2013.
Its major upgrade of website platforms is also well underway and due to be completed in 2013-14. This includes the development of an online Business Intelligence dashboard to integrate data from the Office’s other resource tracking and finance systems for the production of custom reports, and an upgrade of the Audit Office intranet.
Other ICT projects that were successfully completed in 2012-13 include:
- Upgrades of the SmartStream finance system, the Alesco human resources system and the TRIM recordkeeping system;
- The introduction of new Service Desk Management Software;
- The introduction of a new Virtual Private Network following a successful trial;
- A $124,000 upgrade of network components to increase security and storage capacity;
- A $57,000 upgrade of telecommunication systems; and
- The introduction of a new wireless network for greater mobility.
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