GUIDELINES FOR THE CONDUCT OF PERFORMANCE AUDITS

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1 GUIDELINES FOR THE CONDUCT OF PERFORMANCE AUDITS NOVEMBER 2013 THE ANAO S LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK The Auditor-General Act 1997 (the Act) sets out the functions, mandate and powers of the Auditor-General for Australia and establishes the statutory oice of the Auditor-General and the Australian National Audit Oice (ANAO). The Auditor-General Act also provides for the independent audit of the ANAO. 1 MORE INFORMATION Phone: (02) Post: Australian National Audit Oice, GPO Box 707, Canberra ACT WEBSITE The ANAO website (anao.gov.au) provides information on the ANAO including the full text of current audit reports tabled in Parliament, better practice guides and speeches by the Auditor-General and other audit sta. AUDITOR-GENERAL S INDEPENDENCE The Auditor-General s independence is assured by key provisions in the Auditor-General Act. Specifically the Auditor-General: is an independent oicer of the Commonwealth Parliament; is appointed by the Governor-General following the approval of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA); can only be dismissed by a resolution of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament; cannot be directed by anyone in relation to the performance of his or her audit functions; and is appointed for a non-renewable 10 year period. 1 Auditor-General Act 1997, Parts 3, 4 and 7.

2 OUR PERFORMANCE AUDIT MANDATE The ANAO is able to conduct performance audits of Australian Government entities, authorities and owned and controlled companies. Performance audits of Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) can be undertaken at the request of the JCPAA (see sections 15 to 18 of the Act). The ANAO is also able to conduct a performance audit of a Commonwealth partner (being a person or body, including a contractor, that receives Commonwealth funding for a particular purpose). These audits can be conducted only to the extent that they assess the operations of the Commonwealth partner in relation to achieving the Commonwealth purpose. Where the partner is, is part of, or is controlled by a State or Territory Government, the audit must be requested by the JCPAA or the responsible Minister (see section 18B of the Act). The Auditor-General may also enter into an arrangement, pursuant to section 20 of the Act, with any person or body: to audit financial statements of the person or body; or to conduct a performance audit of the person or body; or to provide services to the person or body that are of a kind commonly performed by auditors, provided it is within the Australian Government s legislative power. The ANAO does not have a role in commenting on the merits of government policy but focuses on assessing the eicient and eective implementation of government programs, including the achievement of their intended benefits. WIDE INFORMATION-GATHERING POWERS FOR CONDUCTING AUDITS The Auditor-General has wide information-gathering powers that provide access to information and premises (see sections 30 to 35 of the Act). The Act provides the Auditor-General or an authorised oicial with access to Commonwealth premises or premises of a Commonwealth partner, and full and free access to documents and other property. CONFIDENTIALITY REQUIREMENTS The Act provides that any person who obtains information in the course of performing an Auditor-General function must not disclose the information obtained, except in the course of performing an Auditor-General function, or for the purpose of any Act that gives functions to the Auditor-General (see section 36 of the Act). It is an accepted principle that providing evidence to the JCPAA is an integral part of performing an Auditor-General function. The Auditor-General is also able to provide information to the Australian Federal Police if he or she considers it is in the public interest to do so. REPORTS TABLED IN PARLIAMENT The ANAO s audit reports are tabled in the Federal Parliament and assist the Parliament in fulfilling its accountability role. The JCPAA reviews all ANAO audit reports and conducts inquiries on selected audits. Other Parliamentary Committees also conduct inquiries using ANAO reports as key information sources. PERFORMANCE AUDITING BY THE ANAO Performance audits involve the independent and objective assessment of the administration of an entity or body s programs, policies, projects or activities. They also examine how well administrative support systems operate. As such, the audits can include consideration of: economy (minimising cost); eiciency (maximising the ratio of outputs to inputs); 2

3 eectiveness (the extent to which intended outcomes were achieved); and legislative and policy compliance. Performance audits play an important role in improving the administration and management practices of public sector entities. Performance audits can be undertaken in a number of ways: audits of a program or activity in a single entity or body; cross-entity audits (reviews the same activity in a number of entities or the administration of a program by a number of entities); audits of a program or activity administered by an Australian Government entity that includes a component that involves an assessment of the performance of a Commonwealth partner (being a person or body that receives Commonwealth funding for a particular purpose); audits of one or more Commonwealth partners 2 ; or audits of the implementation of recommendations from a previous audit. Each performance audit has a specified objective which is approved by the ANAO Executive and advised to the entity and other relevant parties in a formal letter of designation. Performance audits by their nature generally involve the commitment of resources by both the ANAO and the entity or bodies subject to audit. It is therefore important that audits are conducted in an eicient manner with an appropriate level of communication and engagement between the ANAO, the entity or body involved and other stakeholders. Performance audits are conducted in accordance with ANAO Auditing Standards that adopt the auditing standards issued by the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, to the extent they are not inconsistent with the Act. THE ANAO S APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE AUDITING A structured planning approach is taken to determine potential future audit topics. The ANAO Audit Work Program (AWP) is published each year and is the result of the ANAO s annual audit planning. The broad steps involved in developing the performance audit work program are shown below. These steps provide a structured approach to consider entity-specific and Australian Public Sector-wide risks in identifying and ranking potential audit topics for inclusion in the AWP. The AWP is underpinned by an approach that aims to provide broad coverage of areas of public administration, taking into account factors such as: portfolio risks and the potential to improve performance; key issues that present risks or challenges to public administration; Parliamentary interest; and ANAO priorities and capacity. 2 Generally, it is expected that an audit involving an assessment of the performance of a Commonwealth partner will be undertaken as part of our audit of the performance of a Commonwealth entity. 3 3

4 Performance audit planning steps Environmental scan Entity analysis Identification of performance audit topics Development of audit work program Potential audit topics are selected with the following factors in mind: potential benefits; financial materiality; risks to program and service delivery; and extent of previous audit and review coverage. Australian Government entities, including central agencies and other review bodies such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, are consulted in the development of the AWP. The priorities of the Parliament, as determined by the JCPAA and Ministers, are also taken into account in determining the final program. Consultation will also take place with State and Territory First Minister s Departments and State and Territory Auditors-General, in relation to any proposed audits that potentially involve an assessment of the performance of a State or Territory body in achieving the purpose for which Commonwealth funds have been received. Consulted parties are welcome to provide comments on any aspect of proposed audits. The Auditor-General approves the AWP after consideration of all relevant factors and stakeholder input. THE PERFORMANCE AUDIT PHASES The main phases of a performance audit involve individual audit planning, evidence gathering, analysis and reporting. These are illustrated on the next page. In broad terms, all ANAO audits follow these processes. INDIVIDUAL AUDIT PLANNING The first phase of the audit process involves the development of an individual Audit Work Plan that defines the scope and objectives and outlines the audit criteria, schedule and budget of the audit. In the case of a Commonwealth partner audit under section 18B of the Act, the general objective of the audit may also be indicated in the JCPAA s request for the audit. The development of an individual work plan will generally involve a review of information relating to the program or activity subject to audit, and preliminary consultation and discussions with oicers of relevant entities, bodies and other interested parties, such as industry associations. This process also provides an opportunity for the ANAO to receive comments on aspects of the planned audit. The extent and nature of this activity will vary, but is designed to provide the audit team with an understanding of the entity and the program or activity subject to audit suicient to enable the audit to be properly planned, including the development of audit criteria. ENTRY INTERVIEW Prior to the commencement of evidence gathering and analysis, an entry interview will be arranged with senior oicials of the entity or body subject to audit. This interview is used to discuss the background, objectives and scope of the audit, and to advise of the ANAO s initial information requirements. The meeting is also an opportunity to discuss and resolve any issues relating to the conduct of the audit. 4

5 PERFORMANCE AUDIT PHASES Strategic Planning Phase Planned Audit Work Program Consideration of Issues PRE-AUDIT Start-up Phase (generally 1 month) Planned Individual Performance Audits Individual Audit Work Plan Audit Approved Audit Start Entry Interview Delivery Phase (generally 3 5 months) Evidence Gathering and Analysis Issues Papers POST-AUDIT AUDIT Proposed Report Phase (generally 2 3 months) Final Report Phase (generally 1 2 months) Publication Phase (generally <1 month) Exit Interview Proposed Audit Report Entity Response Final Audit Report Final Report Approved Layout and Clearance Audit Report Tabled Review Lessons Learned Audit Close and Finalisation of Audit Materials Parliamentary Reviews Entity Response Audit End Quality Assurance Reviews 5 5

6 The intent of the entry interview is to introduce the audit team, discuss the objectives, scope and timing of the audit, allow the entity or body to raise contextual matters relevant to the audit, discuss access to relevant systems and documentation and entity facilities, and agree administrative and contact arrangements. EVIDENCE GATHERING AND ANALYSIS In the second phase of the audit, the ANAO gathers and analyses the evidence, and discusses emerging issues with the entity or body relating to the objectives of the audit. As previously indicated, prior to the commencement of this phase, an entry interview is held with the senior management of the entity or body with responsibility for the program or activities subject to the audit. During evidence gathering, interviews with managers and sta are conducted, and paper and electronic documentation is reviewed. Physical assets may also be inspected and sta observed in their administrative roles. Evidence gathered is analysed having regard to the audit criteria. The Audits in Progress section of the ANAO website has a feature that allows members of the public to contribute information for consideration during the evidence collection stage of performance audits. For further information, visit the Audits in Progress section of the ANAO website at anao.gov.au/contribute. ISSUES PAPERS Generally one or more issues papers will be prepared that outline the audit findings, preliminary conclusions and potential audit recommendations. The issues papers provide the opportunity for the entity or body to provide feedback to the audit team, including the additional context and correction of errors of fact, and to provide any other information if required. This phase also provides entities with an opportunity to identify any information that is considered to be sensitive for reasons such as national security, inter-government relations or privilege, that the ANAO should consider in finalising the audit report. In some circumstances, including in section 18B audits where the Commonwealth partner is a state or territory government entity or non-government organisation, it may be appropriate to redact certain sections of the Issue Papers that relate to potentially sensitive aspects of the entity s activities. This enables the relevant entity to provide comments on these sections, prior to inclusion in the proposed report. EXIT INTERVIEW An exit interview will generally be held with senior entity managers at the conclusion of this phase of the audit. At the exit interview the audit findings, conclusions and potential recommendations are discussed. The entity or body also has the opportunity to provide further documentation and information relevant to the audit findings, and to provide written comments. REPORTING After considering the response to the issues papers and any further information arising from the exit interview, the proposed report is drafted and forwarded to the entity for comment. The proposed report or extracts are also provided for comment to the director or senior management of a Commonwealth partner that is a contractor, and any other parties that the Auditor-General considers may have a special interest in the proposed report. All formal comments on the proposed report or extracts that are received within 28 days are considered in preparing the final audit report. Formal comments on the proposed report should 6

7 be directly relevant to the audit findings and recommendations and be reasonably succinct. Where entities or other parties have comments of an editorial nature or on the inclusion of potentially sensitive information in an audit report, these should be separately advised (noting that desirably such matters would have been discussed earlier). All formal comments received are included in the final report. No more than two days prior to the report being tabled in the Parliament, a final draft of the report or relevant extract is provided to: the relevant Minister, including the relevant State and Territory Minister with responsibility for the audited entity; the Chief Executive of the entity subject to audit; and others who the Auditor-General considers has a special interest in the report. This ensures that Ministers and other relevant parties are aware of the content of the final report prior to its tabling. These drafts are provided on a strictly confidential basis and the content of the reports must not be disclosed prior to tabling of the final audit report. All reports are tabled in the Parliament as soon as practicable after completion. Once tabled, audit reports attract Parliamentary privilege. Draft reports and working papers prepared by the ANAO as part of the conduct of a performance audit also attract Parliamentary privilege. THE ANAO S OBLIGATIONS KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROGRAM OR ACTIVITY The audit team will obtain suicient knowledge of each entity or body to enable it to identify and understand issues relevant to the administration of the program or activity being audited. NO SURPRISES The ANAO seeks to establish a relationship with entities and other parties such that there are no surprises in the final audit report. This approach provides opportunities for entities and other parties to discuss the audit findings during the course of the audit. The benefit of this approach is to ensure that reports are accurate, evidence-based, balanced and fair. In the case of performance audits conducted under section 18B of the Act, it is recognised that the Commonwealth partner(s) may not have previous experience of the ANAO s performance audit processes. In these cases, the ANAO will take steps to familiarise the Commonwealth partner(s) with the performance audit process and will maintain appropriate communication throughout the audit. CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION The ANAO treats all audit-related information as in-confidence. Its computer network has a protected security rating and special arrangements are in place to store documents with higher security classifications. Sensitive information that in the Auditor-General s opinion is not in the public interest will not be included in public reports in accordance with section 37 of the Act. Any issues that an entity or body may have about the Auditor-General s powers and the content of the audit should be discussed with the audit team at the earliest opportunity. SECURITY All information obtained during the course of the audit will be stored securely at all times and used only for audit purposes. ANAO sta are appropriately security cleared. 7 7

8 ENTITY OBLIGATIONS FULL AND FREE ACCESS Each entity or body is required to provide the ANAO with full and free access at all reasonable times to any premises, documents or other property that it may wish to examine, and make copies of or take extracts from any document, in accordance with section 33 of the Act. REASONABLE ASSISTANCE The conduct of an audit is facilitated when the entity or body provides all reasonable facilities and assistance to aid the conduct of an audit. Responding in a reasonable timeframe to requests for access to relevant sta and information will also assist in the eicient conduct of the audit. CONFIDENTIALITY The recipients of a proposed report must not disclose any of the information in the report, or extract, except with the consent of the Auditor-General. As a general rule the Auditor-General provides entities or bodies with consent to disclose the contents of a proposed report to sta of the entity or body who can assist the entity in providing comments on the proposed report or extract. FEEDBACK Any feedback to inform the audit or concerns on substantive issues should be raised with the relevant ANAO contact oicer so the issue can be resolved in a timely manner. Any unresolved issues should also be brought to the attention of senior management in a timely manner. Feedback may also be sought on the conduct of audits through a client survey. WHAT HAPPENS TO PERFORMANCE AUDIT REPORTS AFTER TABLING? Following the tabling of an audit report, audit reports are publicly available and can be accessed from the ANAO s website ANAO senior sta may brief Parliamentary Committees, Ministers, individual Parliamentarians, or respond to media inquiries on the findings of the audit. The ANAO will respond to media questions about the audit by reference to material contained in the published report. PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW The JCPAA reviews all performance audit reports and conducts an inquiry on selected reports. Other committees of the Parliament may also choose to conduct inquiries using ANAO reports as key information sources. Parliamentary Committee reports are tabled in the Parliament and are publicly available. FOLLOW-UP AUDITS The ANAO s may conduct follow-up audits that assess an entity s progress in implementing the recommendations of earlier audits. The Audit Committee of an audited entity normally monitors implementation of ANAO recommendations. 8

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