Volume Thirteen 2014 Focusing on Education and Communities

Today the Auditor-General of New South Wales, Grant Hehir, released his Volume Thirteen 2014 Report to Parliament focusing on agencies in the NSW education and communities cluster.

Improved financial reporting

The quality of financial statements in the education and communities cluster continues to improve with fewer reported misstatements over the last three years. The financial statements of all agencies within this cluster received unqualified audit opinions.

Performance targets at risk

The Department of Education and Communities has 24 performance targets for early childhood through to tertiary education. Seven of these are either not being achieved or unlikely to be achieved.

Primary and secondary school children’s reading and numeracy results are over 90 per cent but are not meeting the targets for improvement. The proportion of school starters with the necessary literacy and numeracy skills is not increasing. Targets for young people in further education, training or employment are unlikely to be achieved along with the targeted proportion of 20-24 year old rural and regional students completing Year 12 or the equivalent. The percentage of people reaching the target level of tertiary education is also unlikely to be met.

Information technology projects continue to face challenges

The Department’s Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR) program was established in 2006 to improve service delivery to schools, corporate staff and TAFE NSW. This program has been implemented in all ten TAFE NSW Institutes and parts of the program have been piloted in 229 schools. 

Significant challenges were faced by pilot schools when transitioning to the new Schools ‘Student management, Student Wellbeing’ and Schools Finance systems.

A more detailed Auditor-General’s report on the Department’s progress with its LMBR program will be released next week.

Maintenance backlog reassessed

The most recent estimate of the maintenance backlog in NSW schools, completed in September 2013 was $548 million. This backlog represents around 2.3 per cent of the replacement value of schools. The Department believes that ideally this should be 1.5 per cent.
“The Department should work with NSW Treasury to establish an appropriate response to backlog maintenance,” said the Auditor-General.
Information security issues

Information system audits identified 25 information technology issues for agencies within the cluster, representing an increase of 79 per cent from 2012-13. Twenty of these issues related to information security matters, which may expose agencies to security attacks and result in data integrity issues, fraud or identity theft. Four of these were repeat findings from the previous year.

Education and Communities agencies need to reduce annual leave

Managing excess annual leave continues to be a challenge for agencies within the cluster. Over 1,800 employees have excessive leave balances.

If staff do not regularly take adequate annual leave, their health and welfare could be adversely affected. There is also an increased risk of fraud where employees in key control functions work for extended periods without being relieved.

“Agencies should do more to reduce their excess annual leave balances,” said the Auditor-General.

Further Information

Please contact Barry Underwood on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au