LIGHTHOUSE PRINCIPLE: KEY STAKEHOLDER RIGHTS
(based on ASX Principle 6)
Building effective relationships
In 2016–17, we maintained our focus on building effective relationships with our key stakeholders:
- NSW Parliament
- NSW Government entities
- NSW universities
- NSW councils
Our 2016–17 strategic initiatives ‘Influencing for Impact’ and ‘Local Government’ were key contributors to achieving effective stakeholder relations through:
- mapping our current engagement with external stakeholders
- identifying key stakeholders
- hosting workshops with stakeholders such as our Program Evaluation industry briefing and Audit and Risk Committee Chair meetings (see Professional influence for further details on these events).
Stronger audit client engagement
The Auditor-General has recently completed meetings with all the Secretaries of the clusters that make up the NSW public sector. This is part of a stronger focus on promoting audit client engagement while still maintaining our independence. The meetings provided an opportunity to review the proposed Performance Audit Program and to check on the status of our relationships with our clients.
As part of our commitment to engaging more effectively with parliamentarians, the Auditor-General also extended an invitation to meet with new Ministers in 2017 and to date has met with eleven. The Auditor-General is also meeting regularly with the Public Accounts Committee. The Auditor-General and Deputy Auditor-General are continuing to meet regularly with NSW Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet as well as having regular meetings with Local Government NSW and the Office for Local Government.
Engaging with our local government stakeholders was a key focus during 2016–17, with extensive work undertaken to get to know our new audit clients and their business. Activities included:
- 11 Audit Office information sessions held across the State in November and December 2016
- presentations at a number of different local government sector conferences
- workshops for contract audit agents and Audit and Risk Committee Chairs
- developing a local government brochure and dedicated page on our website
- internal newsletter for Audit Office staff.
In addition, we engaged an external consultant to conduct a survey to help us engage more effectively with the local government sector.
Broader stakeholder engagement
As in previous years, we consulted our stakeholders widely when developing our performance audit three-year plan and the final plan will be published on our website in the second half of 2017 to promote ongoing comment and feedback.
Public interest disclosures
The Auditor-General has the power to examine allegations of serious and substantial waste of public money under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. This Act protects public officials who make such public interest disclosures in good faith. We examined 15 public interest disclosures in 2016−17, none of which demonstrated serious and substantial financial waste. Fourteen of them concerned NSW Government agencies and one related to a local council.
The Audit Office has an internal and external Public Interest Disclosures Policy establishing a reporting system for staff and public officials to report allegations of serious and substantial waste. These policies are consistent with the NSW Ombudsman’s model policy and the requirements of the Act. The policies also outline our public interest disclosures officers.
Number of public interest disclosures
We are committed to actively seeking and using feedback to improve our performance and services. We report bi-annually to the Office Executive on complaints received.
In 2016–17, we received 120 complaints (just over three times the number received in the previous year). Of these:
- 21 (18 per cent) were about local councils
- 82 (68 per cent) were about State Government agencies
- 13 complaints were outside our mandate
- 4 complaints were made about the Audit Office.
The 82 complaints about other NSW Government agencies were varied in nature and across the ten government clusters. Twenty-two per cent of complaints related to the NSW Transport cluster and included complaints about large infrastructure projects such as the City and South East Light Rail, WestConnex and Newcastle Light Rail.
Of the four complaints about the Audit Office, two related to our audits of local councils, one to a performance audit report and one to our complaints management system. With the latter complaint, we have implemented a new process to address the issue raised about our complaints system.
The vast majority of these complaints were referred to our financial audit and/ or performance audit branches for information and/or action. In addition, we commenced what will become an annual process of collating complaints information at the end of each year to provide an overview to the Auditor-General of complaints received by our audit teams.
Working with the public and other watchdog agencies
We work closely with other independent agencies in New South Wales and audit offices in other jurisdictions to improve our services and increase the impact of our work. This includes our important work in responding to public complaints and public interest disclosures where serious and substantial waste is involved. We refer complaints involving allegations of corruption, maladministration or privacy to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the NSW Ombudsman, the Information and Privacy Commission or to other independent agencies.
In 2016–17, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of Local Government for the referral of complaints and public interest disclosures.
The year ahead
In 2017–18, we will:
- build on our work from 2016–17 and under our ‘Influencing for Impact’ strategic initiative develop a new stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure we take a co-ordinated and strategic approach to stakeholder engagement (see year ahead for further details on our strategic initiatives for 2017–18)
- continue to develop our program of stakeholder engagement with local councils
- update our complaints and public interest disclosures policy to reflect the increasing number of complaints the Audit Office is receiving due to its expanded mandate to audit local government.