State Finances 2018

Auditor-General's introduction

Pursuant to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, I present my Report on State Finances 2018.

I am pleased to once again report that I issued a clear audit opinion on the State’s consolidated financial statements. This demonstrates the Government’s focus on preparing high quality information on the State’s financial position and performance for use by stakeholders.

However, there are two key areas I would like to see addressed to further support the preparation of the State’s financial statements.
Firstly, some complex accounting matters are not being resolved until late in the financial reporting cycle. This has contributed to an increase in the number of errors in the financial statements key agencies are submitting for audit, particularly around assessing the value of physical assets. Better planning and earlier resolution of these matters would lead to more efficient processes.

Secondly, the State needs to implement five new accounting standards over the next two years. Agencies will need to devote significant resources and effort to collect the necessary information and assess the impact at the whole of government level. I will work with Treasury and relevant agencies to help them improve quality assurance controls over their financial reporting.

Throughout 2017-18 my office worked with Treasury on reforms to improve financial governance, budgeting and reporting arrangements across the sector.

The Government Sector Finance Bill 2018 passed both houses of Parliament in June 2018. However, the Legislative Council returned other proposed changes to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 to the Legislative Assembly for further consideration. Most of these changes relate to the Public Accounts Committee. At the time of writing, the cognate Bill had not been debated.

The budget result was a $4.2 billion surplus. The consolidated financial statements at 30 June 2018 do not reflect the sale of 51 per cent of the State’s investment in Sydney Motorway Corporation for which it received $9.3 billion. The sale was announced on 31 August 2018.

Finally, I would like to thank the staff of Treasury for the way they approached the audit. Our partnership is critical to ensuring the quality of financial management and reporting.

Margaret Crawford
Auditor-General
19 October 2018

 

Audit result

The State's financial statements given a clear audit opinion


Timely and accurate financial reporting enables informed decision making, effective management of public funds and enhances public accountability.

Since the introduction of mandatory ‘early close procedures’ in 2011-12, the number of significant errors in financial statements of agencies had fallen largely due to identifying and resolving complex accounting issues early.

In 2016-17, Treasury narrowed the scope of mandatory procedures to focus on physical asset valuations and pro-forma financial statements. Despite being broadened for 2017-18, we have observed an increase in the number of errors in agency financial statements.

In 2017-18, twenty-three errors exceeding $20 million were found in agencies’ financial statements that make up the State’s consolidated financial statements. This compares to only five in 2015-16.

The errors identified this year were the result of:

  • incorrectly applying Australian Accounting Standards
  • deficiencies in assessing the value of physical assets
  • using inappropriate and inaccurate assumptions when measuring liabilities
  • inaccurately reflecting inter-agency payables and receivables.

Quality financial reporting would be enhanced by responding to key accounting issues as soon as they are identified, and preparing accounting position papers for consideration by Treasury, agency Audit and Risk Committees and the Audit Office.

Significant errors in agency financial statements exceeding $20 million from 2010-2018. The number of errors in 2018 (23) was substantially higher than in previous years and only exceeded by the years 2010-2012 where there was 24, 25 and 30 significant errors respectively.

Accounting matters

Key accounting matters addressed by the State in 2017-18.


Restatement of some of the State’s previously reported asset and liability values.

The state corrected the previously reported values of some long-term liabilities ($2 billion).

Accounting standards require the State to measure its long-term liabilities at the best estimate of the expenditures required to settle the obligations. The affected liabilities include claims liabilities of the Lifetime Care and Support Authority of NSW and the NSW Self Insurance Corporation, and scheme liabilities of the Long Service Corporation. The liabilities are adjusted by what is referred to as the ‘discount rate’ to reflect the decreasing value of money over time.

In the past, agencies used a variety of rates to discount these liabilities. Some liabilities were discounted using the estimated long-term fair value of 10-year TCorp bond yields while others were discounted using the expected
return on investments. These discount rates did not comply with the requirements of Australian Accounting Standards and underestimated liabilities by $2.0 billion.

In 2017-18, the State assessed the discount rates previously used in the Sector. It determined the market yield on Commonwealth Bonds best met the Accounting Standard requirements and used this rate to discount similar liabilities in relevant agencies. This resulted in a $2.0 billion increase in the previously reported values of these liabilities and a similar decrease in retained earnings at 1 July 2016.

The State corrected previously reported values of certain Library assets ($1.1 billion).

The value of the Pictorial Collection of the Library Council of NSW (the Library) was reassessed at 31 January 2018. During the valuation process the Library identified three errors in the 2015 valuations which overstated the previously reported asset values. The errors included:

  • inconsistencies in the sampling technique ($583m)
  • double counting of some assets ($376m)
  • errors in population sizes ($164m).

This resulted in a $1.1 billion decrease in previously reported asset values and a corresponding decrease in the asset revaluation reserve at 1 July 2016.

 

Information system limitations continue at TAFE NSW.

TAFE NSW has experienced ongoing issues with its student administration system.

TAFE NSW has again implemented additional processes to verify the accuracy and completeness of revenue from student fees.

TAFE NSW expects to spend up to $89 million on a new information system to address these issues. Modules of the new student enrolment system are planned to be in place by May 2019

Picture of an employee showing something on a computer screen to other employees in an office

Debt guarantee for Sydney Light Rail

In July 2018, the State, through Transport for NSW, entered into an agreement that provides a debt guarantee of up to $500 million against a borrowing facility provided by two large banks to the consortium constructing the Sydney Light Rail. The borrowing facility has three tranches totalling $500 million. The first tranche of $100 million was advanced by those lenders to the consortium on 3 July 2018. The second tranche of $100 million has been made available to be drawn down by the consortium. The remaining tranche cannot be advanced unless certain conditions are met, including the agreement of Transport for NSW.

Picture of sydney light rail travelling in Haymarket opposite Paddys Markets

Impairment of Allianz Stadium

The 2018-19 Budget provided new funding for stadium infrastructure with $729 million for the construction of a new stadium at Moore Park to replace the Sydney Football Stadium (Allianz Stadium). The State reduced the reported value of Allianz Stadium by $208 million from $229 million to $21 million, to reflect the decrease in the available useful life of the asset.

Aerial picture of the old Sydney Football Stadium and surrounding FOX studios precinct in Moore park

Relocation of Powerhouse Museum

The 2018-19 Budget provided $245 million to construct the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta. Land and buildings at the Ultimo site were revalued to consider other possible uses of the site. The revaluation exercise added $220 million to the reported value of the Ultimo site.

Image of the front of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo Sydney

Accountability for the State's Cemetery Trusts

In 2016-17, the State determined that five Cemetery Trusts were controlled entities of the State. To date, only two of the five Trusts have accepted this position and submitted financial statements for audit. The Catholic Metropolitan, Northern Metropolitan and Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trusts have not accepted they are controlled entities of the State and consequently did not submit financial statements to the Auditor General for audit, which was a limitation of the scope of the audit of the Total State Sector Accounts. The combined assets and liabilities that have not been audited by the Audit Office were $557 million at 30 June 2018.

Picture of the headland between Bondi and Bronte looking out at the Clovelly Cemetery

Looking forward

Risks to the quality and timeliness of financial reporting.


Challenges associated with valuing the State's physical assets.

When we audit financial statements we focus on areas we consider higher risk. These areas often require the use of estimates and judgements.

The valuation of the State’s physical assets is one such area. Fair value estimates are inherently complex and sensitive to assumptions and judgements. In the public sector, this may be exacerbated by the unique nature of its assets, such as land under roads, preserved plant specimens, cultural collections and other heritage assets.

In 2017-18, valuations of physical assets added $24.5 billion to the value of the State’s balance sheet. These assets are now valued at $339.2 billion. Our audits of these valuations identified:

The Library Council of NSW had three errors in the methodology previously used to value their pictorial assets ($1.1 billion error).
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust did not previously recognise a value for their Herbarium assets ($284 million error).
Some revaluations within the Ministry of Health did not meet the requirements of Australian Accounting Standards or Treasury requirements ($159 million error).
The Department of Justice used an incorrect valuation
methodology ($83 million error).

Some important matters agencies should consider when planning/conducting asset valuations include:


STARTING OUT

  • Planning is important
  • Most effective revaluations include early engagement with all stakeholders, including auditors.
  • Determine who needs to be involved and advised of progress with the revaluation – e.g. finance, internal audit, audit and risk committee.
  • Ensure asset registers are complete and there is evidence to demonstrate the agency controls the assets.
  • The effective date of the valuation can be any date after the financial year commences, but well before year end.

MANAGEMENT'S ROLE

  • For large mass valuations consider using a suitable project management methodology to ensure the process remains ‘on track’ with sufficient oversight.
  • Consider engaging an expert to perform the valuation, but maintain responsibility for the outcomes. Ensure the outcomes are reasonable and quality review the results, including the appropriateness of inputs and key assumptions.
  • Compare pre and post valuation results on an individual asset basis. Where changes are significant and/or unexpected, document explanations from the valuer.
  • Start revaluations early so they are completed by early close (around March). The timetable must allow time for a quality review of results and for the results to be recorded in the financial records.
  • Revaluation workpapers must include the revaluation source data provided to the valuer and a reconciliation of the source data to the general ledger.

USING EXPERTS

  • The terms of engagement should be documented in an engagement letter, which clearly details the proposed valuation methodology. It’s important the valuer knows what is required from a policy perspective and clearly understands the accounting framework used to prepare the financial statements.
  • Valuation reports should detail the key assumptions used, explain why the valuation approach was adopted and how the use of relevant observable input was maximised.
  • Valuation reports should clearly differentiate between assets revalued using a cost approach and those using an income or market approach. They should explain why the approach used was the most relevant for the asset type.
  • Consider using representative/statistical sampling for mass valuations and determine the extent of physical inspections that may be required.
  • If a sampling technique is used, it should provide sufficient confidence that the sample is representative of the population.
  • Significant judgements should be supported by relevant benchmark data or other analysis and observations. A common example in the public sector is to discount asset values to reflect restrictions on use.
  • Ensure the valuer has considered the age and condition of the assets, and heritage/cultural aspects and/or other special factors.

WHAT ABOUT INTERVENING YEARS?

  • Perform revaluations with sufficient regularity to ensure asset carrying values in the financial statements reflect fair value.
  • Indexation alone is not normally a substitute for a full revaluation. A full revaluation may be needed to accurately establish fair values if asset values move significantly when indices are applied to them.
  • Where indexation is used between full revaluations, the indices should be appropriate for the type of asset being assessed.
  • Indexing can be unreliable in assessing whether the fair value of assets has moved over time. For example, some assets are valued based on re- collection cost estimates, which may fall over time due to improved re-collection methods and technology.

COMMUNICATION

  • For mass or complex valuations, key stakeholders, including auditors, should be involved at the scoping stage and invited to planning meetings with valuers.
  • Management should meet with the auditors regularly to discuss progress and outcomes.
  • When issues are identified, management should consult with and seek advice from Treasury.

 

The state will need to implement five new accounting standards over the next two years.

The State has started developing processes it considers necessary to effectively implement the requirements of five new accounting standards. The changes are significant and will impact the financial position and results of agencies and the State.

The new requirements increase the risk of errors in the financial statements. To minimise this risk, agencies will need to devote resources and effort to collect the necessary information and assess the impact of the accounting changes at the whole of government level.

Treasury is liaising with and obtaining information from agencies to assess the impact of the new standards at the whole of government level. Treasury is also liaising with other Treasuries throughout Australia on common implementation issues. To help agencies implement the new standards, Treasury is developing guidance, preparing position papers on proposed accounting treatments, and mandating options within the new standards that agencies need to adopt on transition.


 

The following shows the key dates for implementing the five new accounting standards. AASB 9 and AASB 15 will be completed by 30 June 2019 while AASB 16, AASB 15, AASB 1058 and AASB 1059 will be completed by 30 June 2020. For details on these standards, see the paragraphs below.
*The Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) has released an Exposure Draft that would move the application date to annual reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2020 instead of 1 January 2019.

AASB 9 ‘Financial Instruments’ introduces a simplified model for classifying and valuing financial assets. It also introduces a new method for calculating impairment (decreases in asset values), which may result in agencies recognising impairment losses earlier.

AASB 15 ‘Revenue from Contracts with Customers’ will change the timing and pattern for recognising revenue and increase related financial reporting disclosures.

AASB 1058 ‘Income of Not-for-Profit Entities’ provides guidance to help not-for-profit entities account for:

  • transactions conducted on non-commercial terms
  • the receipt of volunteer services.

AASB 15 and AASB 1058 will significantly impact agencies’ financial statements, particularly in relation to grant income.

AASB 16 ‘Leases’ will change the way lessee agencies recognise, account for and report operating leases in financial statements. With a few exceptions, such as low value and short-term leases, existing operating leases will need to be recognised as ‘right of use’ assets with corresponding liabilities recorded and disclosed in the Statement of Financial Position. Previously, operating lease payments were expensed as incurred and future lease payments were simply disclosed as commitments in a note to the financial statements. This change will impact all agencies with existing operating leases, but more particularly, those with large lease portfolios.

AASB 1059 ‘Service Concession Arrangements: Grantors’ provides guidance for public sector entities (grantors) who enter into service concession arrangements with private sector operators for the delivery of public services. These agencies will need to recognise previously unrecorded service concession assets and liabilities in their financial statements. The transition and implementation of the new accounting standard requirements will take significant time and effort. Agencies will have to:

  • review current contracts with customers, grant agreements, lease agreements and arrangements with private sector operators
  • ensure contracts and lease registers are complete
  • assess whether existing systems can capture the necessary key information
  • train staff and ensure guidance is given to those who oversight financial reporting
  • consider the impact on stakeholders.

The State's result

A $4.2 billion surplus, $1.5 billion more than was budgeted


The Total State Sector comprises 304 entities controlled by NSW Government

The General Government Sector, which comprises 212 entities, generally provides goods and services funded centrally by the State.

The non-General Government Sector, which comprises 92 Government businesses, generally provides goods and services, such as water, electricity and financial services that consumers pay for directly.

A principal measure of a Government’s overall performance is its Net Operating Balance (Budget Result). This is the difference between the cost of General Government service delivery and the revenue earned to fund these sectors.

WHAT CHANGED FROM 2017 TO 2018?

$4.2b

2017-18 General Government Budget Result

Changes in revenues compared to 2016-17

   
Financial_performance_red_10x10cm_0.pngDividends and distributions

 

Due to: 

  • Increases in dividends from Sydney Water ($255 million), Water NSW ($60 million) and the Port Authority of NSW ($195 million).
  • An increase in the dividend from Landcom ($200 million) as profits retained in prior years to fund certain projects were not spent.
  • Returns from investments in managed funds increased by $649 million as the State increased the value of its investment using proceeds from the lease of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

2.4b

+1.3b

3.7b

 

   
Financial_performance_red_10x10cm_0.pngTaxation

 

Due to: 

  • Increases in land tax ($564 million) driven by land valuations used to calculate land tax assessments.
  • Increases in payroll tax ($553 million) and other taxes ($419 million).
  • Stamp duty receipts were $1.0 billion lower largely due to additional duty in the prior year of $718 million relating to the lease of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets.
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

30.8b

+537m

31.3b

 

   
Greek pantheon style front of building Grants & Subsidies

 

 Due to:

  • Increase in the receipt of general purpose grants relating to GST collected by the Australian Government ($753 million).
  • Decreases in national partnerships and specific purpose payments received from the Australian Government ($305 million), mainly due to the timing of major road projects.
  • An increase in Commonwealth Health Reform funding ($338 million).
  • An increase in grants associated with the National Education Reform Agreement for Education ($233 million).
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

31.4b

+509m

31.9b

 

   
red shopping tagsSale of Goods and services

 

Includes: 

  • Increases in education revenue ($133 million).
  • Higher fees for services in transport to produce property plant and equipment ($89 million).
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

8.2b

+349m

8.5b

5.5b

-185m

5.3b

Other revenues

Changes to expenses compared to 2016-17

   
institution_red_10x10cm_0.pngRecurrent Grants & Subsidies

 

Due to: 

  • A $613 million increase in grants for the delivery of aging, disability (including NDIS), homecare, community and public housing services.
  • Increase in grants paid to local government sector ($342 million).
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

12.6b

+1.3b

13.9b

 

   
group_red_10x10cm_0.pngEmployee costs

 

Due to: 

  • Wage inflation increases ($701 million).
  • Increased workers' compensation and long service leave costs ($337 million). 
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

34.9b

+1.2b

36.1b

 

   
red cogs with a dollar sign in the middleOther operating expenses

 

Includes: 

  • Increased expenditure by Transport for NSW ($283 million) for major rail projects and the new rail timetable.
  • Increased expenditure by the Department of Education ($165 million) to address the maintenance backlog, and higher school operating expenses.
2016-2017 Change 2017-2018

18.3b

+1.4b

19.7b

6.8b

+103m

6.9b

Other expenses

 

$5.7b

2016-17 General Government Budget Result

Fiscal responsibility

The State maintained its AAA credit rating.


The object of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012 is to maintain the State’s AAA credit rating.

The Government manages NSW’s finances in alignment with the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012 (the Act).

The Act establishes the framework for fiscal responsibility and the strategy to protect the State’s AAA credit rating and service delivery
to the people of NSW.

The legislation sets out targets and principles for financial management to achieve this.

New South Wales has credit ratings of AAA/ Stable from Standard & Poor’s and Aaa/ Stable from Moody’s Investors Service.

THE FISCAL TARGETS FOR ACHIEVING THIS OBJECTIVE ARE:

General Government annual expenditure growth is lower than long term average revenue growth.

General Government expenditure grew by 5.4 per cent in 2017-18. This was lower than the long-term revenue growth rate of 5.6 per cent.

Eliminating unfunded superannuation liabilities by 2030.

The Act sets a target to eliminate unfunded superannuation liabilities by 2030.

The State’s funding plan is to contribute amounts escalated by five per cent each year so the schemes will be fully funded by 2030. In 2017-18, the State made employer contributions of $1.7 billion, which is largely consistent with contributions over the past five years. Treasury expects superannuation liabilities will be fully funded by 2030 based on the funding program at the last triennial review (December 2015).

For fiscal responsibility purposes, the State uses AASB 1056: Superannuation Entities. This standard discounts superannuation liabilities using the expected return on assets backing the liability.

Using this method, the State’s unfunded superannuation liability was $14.0 billion at 30 June 2018 ($15.0 billion at 30 June 2017). The unfunded liability is $3.4 billion less than it was when the Act was introduced.


 

The unfunded liability for the superannuation funding position since the inception of the act has remained around $10-15 billion with the exception of 2007. The benefit liability has steadily increased from $40 billion in 2005 to just over $50 billion in 2018. The net market value of fund assets has steadily increased from 20 billion to just over 30 billion over the same time period, with the exception of 2007 where it spiked to just under 40 billion dollars.

The unfunded superannuation liability in the State’s financial statements is $56.4 billion.

This is because it uses a different measurement basis than AASB 1056. In financial statements, accounting standards (AASB 119 Employee Benefits) require the State to discount liabilities using the Government bond rate.

The two approaches produce significantly different results. In the current economic climate with lower interest and discount rates, the approach under AASB 119 provides a significantly higher liability.

  AASB 119:
Employee Benefits
AASB 1056:
Superannuation Entities
Purpose Financial Statements for Employer Financial Statements for Superannuation Funds
State's Superannuation Unfunded Liability $56.4 billion $14.0 billion
Discount rate 2.65 per cent 5.5 - 7.4 per cent
Discount rate used Government bond rate Expected return on assets backing the liability

A five-year review of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012 is overdue

The Act requires the Treasurer to review it as soon as possible after 28 August 2017. The purpose of the review is to assess whether:

  • the Act’s policy objectives remain valid
  • the terms of the Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives.

The review must also assess the State’s long-term average general government revenue growth.

The Act was due to be reviewed as soon as possible after 28 August 2017 and the findings tabled in each House of Parliament by 28 August 2018. At the date of this report, the Treasurer has not tabled a review of the Act.
 

The State's revenues

Revenues increased by $3.2 billion to $86.7 billion in 2017-18.


Revenues were underpinned by growth in taxation and Australian Government grant revenues, but stamp duties fell.

Tax revenue for the Total State Sector increased by $746 million, or 2.5 per cent compared to 2016-17, primarily due to a:

  • $582 million increase in land tax from growth in land values
  • $562 million increase in payroll tax from NSW employment and wages growth
  • $1 billion decrease in stamp duty due to lower than expected growth in property market transactions, volumes and prices. In 2016-17, stamp duty included $718 million from the leases of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets.

The State expects total stamp duties will fall to $9.5 billion in 2018-19, a decrease of almost $2.0 billion from 2016-17.

The State received Australian Government grants and subsidies of $30.9 billion in 2017-18.
The State received $444 million more in grants and subsidies from the Australian Government than it did in 2016-17. This was due to increases in GST revenues ($753 million) and special purpose payments ($683 million).
There was a decrease in National Partnership payments ($992 million), mainly due to the timing of major road projects including the Pacific Highway (Woolgoolga to Ballina), WestConnex and Western Sydney Infrastructure Program.

In 2017-18, sales of goods and services were $1.1 billion higher than in 2016-17. This reflected increased transaction revenue at Sydney Water ($139 million), the Department of Education ($133 million), WestConnex ($145 million), Department of Finance, Services and Innovation ($111 million) and Sydney Trains ($83 million).

Other dividends and distributions were $803 million higher than in 2016-17 mainly reflecting higher investment returns on TCorp investments.

$

83.5b

+3.9%

86.7b

Total Revenue

Key revenues include:

  2016-2017 Change% 2017-2018  
red gavel

35.4b

+2.8

36.3b

Taxation, Fees, Fines, and other
institution_red_10x10cm_0.png

31.4b

+1.6

31.9b

Grants & Subsidies
tags_red_10x10_0.png

14.1b

+8.1

15.2b

Sale of Goods and Services
Trends in tax collection (general government sector) for the Year ended 30 June 2018. It shows that for payroll tax, land tax, gambling tax and other taxes, the trend from 2013 to now and moving forward to 2022 is a steady increase in funds of around $2 billion in each case. For stamp duty however, the trend has saw a spike from $6 billion in 2013 to nearly $12 billion in 2017. The current trend however is a decrease to $10 billion by 2019 then an increase back to almost $12 billion in 2022
Source: 2013 - 2018: Report on State Finances (audited), 2019 - 2022: NSW Budget Papers (unaudited).

The State's expenses

Expenses increased $4.9 billion to $84.2 billion in 2017-18


Overall expenses increased 6.1 per cent compared to 2016-17. Most of the increase was due to higher employee and operating costs.

$

79.3b

+6.1%

84.2b

Total Expenses

Salaries and wages increased by 3.6 per cent compared to 2016-17.

Salaries and wages increased to $31.1 billion from $30 billion. This was due to inflation linked salary and wage increases and a reported increase in front line staff.

The Government wages policy aims to limit growth in employee remuneration and other employee related costs to no more than 2.5 per cent per annum.

Operating expenses increased by 7.8 per cent from 2016-17.

Within operating expenses, payments for supplies, services and other expenses increased, in part, due to:

  • increased costs of major rail projects, WestConnex, B-Line bus program and a new rail timetable
  • addressing the maintenance backlog and higher school operating expenses of the Department of Education.

Key expenses include:

  2016-2017 Change% 2017-2018  
group_red_10x10cm_0.png

32.8b

+3.8

34.1b

Employee Expenses
Financial_controls_red_10x10cm_0.png

21.6b

+7.8

23.3b

Operating Costs
institution_red_10x10cm_0.png

9.7b

+12.7

10.9b

Grants & Subsidies
down arrow red

7.2b

+6.6

7.6b

Depreciation
red briefcase

4.6b

+2.8

4.7b

Superannuation Expense

Health costs remain the highest expense of the State.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics introduced a revised Classification of the Function of Government Australia Framework (COFOG-A) effective 1 July 2017. This resulted in some re-classification of expenditure between purposes and now shows State expenses are highest in:

  • Health (25.5 per cent)
  • General Public Services (25.0 per cent)
  • Education (19.6 per cent).

General Public Services includes the executive and legislative branches, financial affairs, public debt transactions and general public service transactions.

The graph highlights the annual expenditure by function and the value of assets to deliver those services.

The biggest difference between functional assets and functional expenses is transport where expenses are only at just over 5 per cent but the assets are at nearly 40. On the other hand Health is at 25% for expenses, but only has five per cent functional assets. In Public order and safety, education and general public services there was a lack of functional assets compared to levels of expenses.

The State's assets

Assets grew by $35.6 billion to $443 billion in 2017-18


Valuing the State’s physical assets.

The State had physical assets with a fair value of $339 billion at 30 June 2018. This includes land and buildings ($161.6b) and Infrastructure ($160.2b).

Our audits assess the reasonableness and appropriateness of assumptions used to value physical assets. This includes obtaining an understanding of the valuation methodologies used and judgements made. We also review the completeness of asset registers and the mathematical accuracy of valuation models.

Net movements between years include additions, disposals, depreciation and valuations. This year, revaluations of physical assets added $24.5 billion to the value of the State’s assets. This was mainly attributable to the following agencies:

  • Department of Education - $8.5 billion
  • Roads and Maritime Services - $7.4 billion.

The State’s financial assets increased by $308 million in 2017-18 ($27.5 billion in 2016-17).

In 2016-17, the significant increase in financial assets was primarily from the sale or lease of the following government assets and businesses:

  • In June 2017, the Government leased 50.4 per cent of Endeavour Energy assets, which followed the long-term lease 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid’s assets in December 2016. The Government received proceeds of $24.0 billion from these transactions.
  • A 35-year concession for providing titling and registry services, effective 30 June 2017, was granted to a private sector operator. The Government received $2.6 billion cash for the concession.

The Government implemented reforms relating to the use the State’s financial assets.

In 2017-18, the Asset and Liability Committee, which advises the Government on balance sheet management, recommended the following policy actions and frameworks to help manage the State’s financial risks and opportunities:

  • expanding the scope of cash management reforms to give the State a whole-of-government view on the use of surplus funds. Treasury advises these reforms have centralised funds management of approximately $3.0 billion
  • endorsing a new whole-of-government Foreign Exchange (FX) Risk Policy (effective 1 July 2018) to effectively manage the State’s FX risk
  • expanding management of the State’s debt portfolio to minimise interest rate risks, reduce interest costs where possible, and extend the average weighted life of the General Government’s debt portfolio towards eight years
  • endorsing establishment of a ‘sustainability bond’ program to further diversify and expand the State’s bond investor base and raise awareness of the Government’s social and environmental initiatives.

The State has established the NSW Generations Fund to maintain debt at sustainable levels.

The State established the NSW Generations Funds (NGF) in June 2018 to support debt retirement and to fund community-focused initiatives. The Government has indicated it will initially capitalise the NGF with $3.0 billion from its reserves.

The NSW Generations Funds Act 2018 requires an audit of each NSW Generations Fund by the Auditor- General (including a report by the Auditor-General on whether payments from the Funds have been made in accordance with the Act). The first audit of the fund will be for the period up to 30 June 2019.
 

$

407b

+8.7%

443b

Total Assets

Key assets include: 

  2016-2017 Change% 2017-2018  
Physical Assets      
road_red_10x10_0.png

147.0b

+9.0

160.2b

Infrastructure
factory red

143.4b

+12.7

161.6b

Land and Buildings
Financial Assets      
scales of justice red

27.7b

- 4.6

26.4b

Equity investments
Financial_performance_red_10x10cm_0.png

20.6b

- 5.2

19.5b

Cash and Recievables
red pillar building - partheon

40.5b

+6.5

41.3b

Investments and Placements

The State's liabilities

Liabilities increased $5.1 billion to $189 billion in 2017-18


Valuing the State’s liabilities relies on actuarial assessments.

Nearly half of the State’s liabilities relate to its employees. They include unfunded superannuation, and employee benefits, such as long service and recreation leave.

Valuing these obligations involves complex estimation techniques and significant judgements. Small changes in assumptions can materially impact the values and the financial statements.

The State’s superannuation obligations fell $2.2 billion in 2017-18.

The State’s $56.4 billion unfunded superannuation liability represents obligations to past and present employees less the value of assets set aside to meet those obligations. The unfunded superannuation liability fell from $58.6 billion to $56.4 billion in 2017-18.

The State’s borrowings at 30 June 2018 were $700 million higher than they were at 30 June 2017.

The State’s borrowings totalled $71.3 billion at 30 June 2018.

TCorp issues bonds to raise funds for NSW Government agencies. These are actively traded in financial markets, which provides price transparency and liquidity to public sector borrowers and institutional investors. All TCorp bonds are guaranteed by the NSW Government.

The Government manages its debt liabilities through its balance sheet management strategy. The strategy extends to TCorp, which applies an active risk management strategy to the Government’s debt portfolio.

General Government Sector debt has been restructured by replacing shorter-term debt with longer-term debt. This lengthens the portfolio to match liabilities with the funding requirements for infrastructure assets.

$

184b

+2.8%

189b

Total Liabilities

Key liabilities include: 

  2016-2017 Change% 2017-2018  
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58.6b

- 3.7

56.4b

Unfunded Superannuation
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18.3b

+4.7

19.1b

Other Employee Benefits
institution red - pantheon style building

70.6b

+1.0

71.3b

Borrowings
At the 30 June 2018 the trend in unfolded superannuation liability for superannuation obligation under AASB 119 from 2014-18 was around the $90 billion mark except 2016 where it was around $110b. Fair value of assets in superannuations funds were steady over the five years at $40 billion. Net unfunded liability was around $50 to 60 billion from 2013-18 except 2016 where it rose to $70 billion before dropping again.

In focus:

Restart NSW and Asset Recycling

Restart NSW is funding new infrastructure

Restart NSW funds Rebuilding NSW, the Government’s 10-year plan to invest $20 billion in new infrastructure. Its infrastructure projects, including Sydney Metro City and Southwest, WestConnex and stadia are primarily funded by proceeds from the Government’s asset recycling program.=

At 30 June 2018, the Restart NSW Fund held $21 billion with $19.4 billion invested of this in the NSW Infrastructure Future Fund.

two workers talking behind a bobcat at a construction site

Almost 19 per cent of payments directed to rural and regional infrastructure projects.

Section 9 of the Restart NSW Fund Act 2011 requires Restart NSW financial statements to include:

  • total Fund payments for infrastructure projects in rural and regional areas outside metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong
  • whether the payments represent at least 30 per cent of total payments from the Fund for infrastructure projects.

The financial statements included these required details. Over the past six years to 30 June 2018, 18.5 per cent of payments have gone to projects in these areas. In 2017-18, 17.2 per cent of Restart NSW Fund payments were directed to infrastructure projects in rural and regional areas.

The 2018-19 budget papers include details on how the Government intends to use the Fund.


ASSET TRANSACTIONS

The State sold 51 per cent of Sydney Motorway Corporation (WestConnex)

On 31 August 2018, the Government announced the sale of 51 per cent of Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) to Sydney Transport Partners for $9.3 billion.

The State will recognise its 49 per cent equity interest in SMC, in a new entity, Roads Retained Interest Pty Ltd.

Entrance to a construction zone of the WestConnex in Sydney. Shows a barbed fence with a construction site sign for Westconnex project.

The State sold its stake in the Snowy Hydro Limited

The Commonwealth Government’s 2017-18 budget announced future plans to buy some or all of NSW’s 58 per cent stake in the Snowy Hydro Limited.

The State finalised the sale on 29 June 2018 and received net proceeds of $4.07 billion, $122 million less than the carrying value of the investment. Consequently, the $122 million was recognised as a loss in the 2017-18 operating result.

A picture of the Snowy Hydro dam with the dam wall, the Snowy river in front and the hills in the background.

Financial Management Transformation program

The Financial Management Transformation (FMT) program aims to change and improve financial governance, budgeting and reporting arrangements in the New South Wales public sector.

New Financial Management system

PRIME is the Information Technology (IT) solution component of the FMT program. It replaces several historical systems. PRIME provides financial and performance information within one IT platform for all agencies in the NSW public sector. The system cost the State around $48 million, which was within the original budget.
During the year the system’s expected life was revised up from 10 years to 15 years, meaning the annual expense for using the asset decreases as it now extends over an additional five years.

In 2019-20, I intend to conduct a performance audit on aspects of the State’s financial management transformation program implementation.

black calculator on a desk with blue notebook to the left, highlighters above (green and orange), a green plant to the top right, paperwork to the right and financial figures in blue on white paper underneath the calculator.

THE PROGRAM'S PROGRESS IN 2017-18 

The State’s 2017-18 financial statements were prepared using the PRIME IT system.

The PRIME system was used by all agencies to report financial information to Treasury and for preparing the State’s 2017-18 financial statements and 2018-19 budget.

Implementing PRIME was challenging. Many issues (1,811 at time of audit) and change requests (409) were raised relating to the functionality of the system in the period following implementation.

Treasury implemented an optimisation program to address the underlying issues. Enhancements identified through engagement with users and agencies were prioritised with 12 requirements delivered in a new release.


Our 2017-18 audit evaluated the design, implementation and operating effectiveness of key controls in the PRIME system and we identified a number of moderate control issues:

Focus area What did we find?
User access and activity review
  • Inadequate periodic system access reviews over privileged and user accounts.
  • Some activities of administrator/privileged accounts were not always reviewed by management.
User roles and access matrix
  • Excessive system privileges for several users and system access not being aligned with user job requirements.
  • Segregations of duties restrictions were not consistently applied
Account and access administration
  • Dormant accounts on the PRIME production database which had never been used.
  • Generic accounts with undocumented purposes and responsibilities to review/oversight such accounts.
Password configuration and default account settings
  • Passwords did not comply with the requirements of the IT password policy.

These were pervasive and precluded us from relying on IT controls in our audit approach.

Legislative Reform

New legislation aims to establish a single framework for public sector financial management.

The legislative reform proposes significant changes to promote and support the performance, transparency and accountability of government agencies and government officials involved in financial management of the State.

Brunette haired Caucasian lady in white blouse and black pants shaking hands with a man in a black suit - can only see arm

PROGRESS IN 2017-18

The Government Sector Finance Bill 2018 (GSF Bill) was introduced to Parliament on 24 May 2018.

The Bill will replace the following four separate pieces of legislation:

  • the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 (the PFA Act)
  • the Public Authorities (Financial Arrangements) Act 1987 (the PAFA Act)
  • the Annual Reports (Departments) Act 1985
  • the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984

The PFA Act will be renamed the Government Sector Audit Bill 2018 (GSA Bill), and will be amended to remove those provisions being relocated to the GSF Bill. Provisions relating to government sector audits, the Auditor General and the Audit Office of New South Wales will remain in the GSA Bill.

The GSF Bill was approved by NSW Parliament on 7 June 2018. However, it has not yet received assent by the NSW Governor because the related or ‘cognate’ legislation, the Government Sector Finance Legislation (Repeal and Amendment) Bill 2018, was returned by the Legislative Council to the Legislative Assembly for further consideration and amendment. These amendments mainly relate to the operations of the Public Accounts Committee.

Until both Bills are approved by Parliament and assented to by the NSW Governor, they are not Acts in New South Wales. If approved, the Government plans to commence the legislation in two phases: 1 December 2018, and 1 July 2019.

In its December 2017 report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Audit Office of NSW, the Public Accounts Committee recommended that a ‘follow-the-dollar’ mandate is required in order to restore the oversight that the Auditor-General has traditionally had over public spending. An update to the Act would be a practical response to the contemporary concept of ‘commissioning’ where government services are increasingly provided by not-for-profit and private providers on behalf of government.

Policy reform

The new PRIME system and legislative reform should enable the Government to move towards an outcome-based budget approach. The policy changes aim to drive a greater focus on results and the effectiveness of State expenditure.

The Public Accounts Committee stated independent assurance of performance based outcome statements by the Audit Office of NSW of government organisations is likely to provide value for money but more importantly enhance the effectiveness of government.

Colleagues collaborating on financial figures and coloured post-it notes an office table

PROGRESS IN 2017-18

The Government is transitioning to outcomes based budgeting.

For the first time, the State prepared its budget using State Outcomes. Outcome budgeting aims to align financial and performance reporting with governance and decision making.

For each cluster, financial and performance information is presented against one of forty-six State Outcomes covering all activities delivered by the NSW Government. Outcome indicators associated with each outcome will show the progress the Government is making on achieving these outcomes. The effectiveness of reporting on the indicators would be enhanced if independent assurance was also part of the reporting framework. State Outcomes builds on the 2017-18 budget process where agencies built their financial information around the programs they provide to the community. Multiple agencies within a cluster can contribute programs to a program group, ensuring the focus is on what the Government is trying to achieve.

This framework is expected to enable performance monitoring and targeted reviews to assess whether services and outputs are:

  • appropriately designed and properly targeted to meet the needs of citizens
  • relevant and effective in achieving the State Outcomes
  • delivered efficiently and effectively.