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Actions for Government Advertising 2017-18

Government Advertising 2017-18

Premier and Cabinet
Compliance
Regulation

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority’s (SIRA) ‘green slip refund’ campaign, and the TAFE semester one 2018 student recruitment campaign, complied with most requirements of the Government Advertising Act 2011 and the Government Advertising Guidelines, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford.

The Government Advertising Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Auditor-General to conduct a performance audit on the activities of one or more government agencies in relation to government advertising campaigns in each financial year. The performance audit assesses whether a government agency or agencies has carried out activities in relation to government advertising in an effective, economical and efficient manner and in compliance with the Act, the regulations, other laws and the Government Advertising Guidelines (the Guidelines).

This audit examined two campaigns conducted in 2017–18:

  • the 'Green slip refund' campaign run by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA)
  • the semester one component of the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' run by the NSW TAFE Commission (TAFE).

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising. Under this section, material that is part of a government advertising campaign must not contain the name, voice or image of a minister, member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament or the name, logo or any slogan of a political party. Further, a campaign must not be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party.

Conclusion
Neither campaign breached the prohibition on political advertising contained in section 6 of the Act. Both campaigns also complied with most requirements of the Act, the regulations, other laws and the Guidelines. Neither agency could demonstrate that their campaigns were fully effective or economical.
SIRA did not breach section 6 of the Act, which prohibits political advertising. However, SIRA used its post-campaign evaluation to ask the public whether they believe the government was helping to reduce the cost of living by making reforms in a variety of areas, including some that were not related to the green slip campaign. SIRA advised that these additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation because the post-campaign evaluation should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives.
Neither campaign met all their key objectives, limiting the overall effectiveness of the campaigns. SIRA successfully increased awareness of the availability of green slip refunds and met the target for the proportion of people claiming their refunds online. However, it did not meet its objective to inform the public about the reforms to the green slip scheme, beyond the refunds available to motorists. While 62 per cent of surveyed people were aware of the reforms, there was little knowledge about many specific aspects of the reforms, which people largely associated with lower insurance prices and refunds. TAFE was successful in achieving targets for changing the public perception of TAFE. However, it failed to achieve its semester one enrolment target.
SIRA was not able to demonstrate that its campaign was economical as it directly negotiated with a single supplier for the campaign's creative materials. This is contrary to the NSW Government's and SIRA's own procurement guidance that advise it to seek quotes from suppliers on a prequalification scheme if available. SIRA had access to the Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme, but still continued with direct negotiations. While SIRA sought to demonstrate value for money by comparing the supplier's quote to the expenditure on creative materials in other campaigns, it did not document this evaluation to ensure that decision makers were fully informed. 
TAFE was not able to demonstrate that its campaign was economical as it did not compare the campaign with a zero-advertising scenario to demonstrate the exact benefits directly attributable to the campaign. TAFE's cost-benefit analysis also did not identify to what extent benefits could be achieved without advertising, nor did it consider alternatives to advertising which could achieve the same impact as the advertising campaign. All these elements should have been included in TAFE's cost benefit analysis.
Both agencies achieved some efficiencies in implementing their campaigns. SIRA booked all of its media placements in a cost-efficient manner. TAFE booked most of its media placements in a cost-efficient manner and achieved further efficiencies through the re-use of previous campaign material.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) conducted the 'Green slip refund' campaign between March and June 2018. SIRA ran this campaign to raise awareness of the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) refunds and reforms after the Motor Accidents Injuries Act 2017 commenced in December 2017. SIRA's view is that the reforms include a reduced cost for CTP insurance, benefits for at-fault drivers, reduced opportunity for fraud and attempts to lower insurance company profits. Green slip holders are also able to claim partial refunds on their 2017 green slip insurance premium. The campaign aimed to make green slip holders aware of the refunds available, encourage them to claim online and to inform people about the changes to the green slip scheme. The campaign focused on the first two of these objectives. The total cost of the campaign was $1.9 million. See Appendix two for more details on this campaign.

The 'Green slip refund' advertising campaign did not breach section 6 of the Act which prohibits political advertising. However, SIRA used its post-campaign evaluation to ask the public whether they believe the government was helping to reduce the cost of living by making reforms in a variety of areas, including some that were not related to the green slip campaign. SIRA advised that these additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation because the post-campaign evaluation should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives. 
The campaign met most of its objectives, including raising awareness of the green slip refunds and encouraging people to claim online. However, the campaign was not fully effective because it did not inform the public of the green slip reforms. This was one of the objectives of the campaign. Sixty-two per cent of people in the post-campaign survey stated that they were aware of the reforms, an increase from the baseline of 20 per cent. However, these people largely associated the reforms with lower insurance prices and had a low awareness of any other elements of the reforms, such as SIRA's view that the reforms introduced better support for people injured on the road. This indicates that the campaign did little to inform people about the green slip reforms beyond the price of insurance. 
SIRA was able to ensure cost-efficient media purchases by signing its media booking authority within the timeframe advised by DPC.
SIRA could not demonstrate that the campaign was carried out economically. SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier to procure the creative materials for this campaign. Direct negotiations make it difficult to ensure value for money due to the lack of competition. SIRA proceeded with direct negotiations despite being able to access a prequalification scheme which could increase competition. In doing so, SIRA did not follow government's or its internal procurement guidance. While SIRA sought to demonstrate value for money by comparing the supplier's quote to the expenditure on creative materials in other campaigns, it did not document this evaluation to ensure that decision makers were fully informed. 

Campaign materials we reviewed did not breach section 6 of the Act

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising as part of a government advertising campaign. A government advertising campaign must not:

  • be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party
  • contain the name, voice or image of a minister, a member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament
  • contain the name, logo, slogan or any other reference to a political party.

The audit team found no breaches of section 6 of the Act in the campaign material we reviewed.

Before the start of the campaign, SIRA conducted a survey which asked people whether they agreed ‘that the NSW Government is helping to reduce the cost of living by making positive reforms to:

  • reduce the cost of green slips
  • reduce the cost of health insurance
  • increase the number of jobs
  • increase investment in the state.'

SIRA's initial submission to peer review listed one of the campaign objectives as improving the perception of the government as a positive reformer. DPC advised SIRA that this should not be included. SIRA removed this objective.

Even though SIRA appropriately removed this objective, the post-campaign evaluation still measured agreement with the above statements, three of which did not relate to this campaign or SIRA's responsibilities. SIRA advised that these three additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. For example, if all four measures reported an increase in positive responses of roughly the same size, then the increase may have been due to factors other than the advertising campaign.

This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation, which should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives. The Guidelines list the purposes that government advertising may serve and none of these relate to improving the perception of the government. The inclusion of the above questions in SIRA's post-campaign evaluation creates a risk that the results may be used for party political purposes.

The campaign met most targets, however some were not challenging to achieve

The post-campaign evaluation demonstrated that the campaign met the targets for 12 of its 13 objectives including the targets relating to raising awareness of the refunds and the proportion of people claiming their refunds online. A fourteenth objective, the percentage of people aware that they should contact SIRA after a road accident injury, did not have a target set, meaning that it is not possible to say whether the campaign had the desired impact in this case.

In August 2017, before the campaign commenced, SIRA conducted a survey to determine the baselines for some of its objectives. This is a good practice to support an effective post campaign evaluation process. The survey found that 20 per cent of people were aware of the green slip reforms. SIRA's objective was to raise this to 25 per cent, which represents a small gain relative to the proposed campaign expenditure. The campaign aimed for 40 per cent of motorists to be aware of refunds, which is very low given that this was the primary focus of the campaign. SIRA followed the advice of its survey provider when setting these targets. 

In the survey carried out after the campaign, 66 per cent of people were aware of the availability of green slip refunds for most motorists. The campaign also aimed to get 83 per cent of motorists to claim their refunds via online channels. It met this target, with a total of 84 per cent. Finally, 62 per cent of people in the post-campaign survey were aware of the green slip reforms. This result is discussed further below.

The overall target for total number of refunds claimed is 85 per cent of eligible drivers, that is to say CTP holders. SIRA will evaluate the results of this objective after the conclusion of the refund period in June 2019.

The campaign did little to inform the public about the broader green slip reforms

One objective of the green slip refund campaign was to inform the public about the green slip reforms. The final campaign creative material focused almost entirely on the green slip refunds rather than the range of other reforms. This was because the peer review raised concerns that the creative material was attempting to deliver too many messages. 

The campaign submission stated that the advertising campaign would raise awareness of the broader reforms to the CTP scheme, citing several examples such as reduced opportunities for fraud and reduced insurer profits. SIRA also advised the Minister for Finance, Services and Property that secondary messaging in the campaign would benefit public understanding of the reforms.

Some of the television and radio advertisements referred to ‘more protection’ or ‘better protection’ for people injured on New South Wales roads, however advertisements did not refer to other elements of the reforms. Other campaign creative materials contained messages solely relating to the green slip refund and made no further reference to the broader reforms. SIRA used other communication channels, such as giving wallet cards to health service providers, to spread these messages to people, particularly those who had been injured.

Sixty two per cent of people in the post-campaign survey were aware of the green slip reforms. SIRA asked these people which benefits they associated with the reforms. The results of this survey are in Exhibit 4. Seventy-one per cent of this sample identified the reduced costs of green slips as one of the changes, but awareness of other elements of the reforms remains low. Though 29 per cent of people perceive the reforms to make the green slip scheme ‘fairer’, no more than 15 per cent of people could list a specific benefit which did not relate to insurance prices.

Exhibit 4: Perceived benefits associated with the changes to the CTP green slip scheme
Perceived benefit Percentage aware of this benefit
Reduced costs of green slips for vehicle owners 71%
A fairer scheme for all people 29%
Reduced costs of comprehensive vehicle insurance 20%
Better support for people injured on our roads 15%
Less chances of fraudulent claims 15%
Lowering insurance company profits 13%
Quicker payment of claims to injured people 10%

Source: State Insurance Regulatory Authority.

Another campaign target was to ensure that people understood that they should contact SIRA in case of an injury. None of the campaign creative materials contained this information. SIRA did some limited work to inform the public about this through its social media channels. One of the pieces of creative material directed the reader to SIRA's website for further information on the reforms, which contained this information. During the campaign period, there was an increase in the number of calls received by SIRA's CTP Assist phone line. However, in the post-campaign evaluation, only two per cent of surveyed people identified that they should contact SIRA in case of an injury.

The media plan allowed sufficient time for cost-efficient media placement

During the peer review process, DPC provides advice to agencies about the time they should allow to ensure cost-efficient media placement. For example, DPC advise that agencies book television advertising six to 12 weeks in advance and that agencies book radio advertising two to eight weeks in advance.

SIRA allowed sufficient time between the completion of the peer review process and the commencement of the first advertising. SIRA signed the agreement with the approved Media Agency Services provider eight weeks before the campaign started, meaning that it could achieve cost-efficient media placement for all types of media used in this campaign.

SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier, making it difficult to demonstrate value for money

SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier to procure the campaign's creative material. A direct negotiation occurs when an agency negotiates with a proponent without first undergoing a competitive process. It is difficult to demonstrate value for money using direct negotiation due to the lack of competition. 

ICAC's 'Guidelines for managing risks in direct negotiations' (ICAC Guidelines) provide guidance on how to undertake direct negotiations. SIRA has a direct negotiation checklist that aligns to the ICAC Guidelines. The SIRA checklist advises that staff should confirm that existing New South Wales prequalification schemes cannot provide the procurement before undertaking a direct negotiation. SIRA did not do this.

To procure creative materials, agencies can access the Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme (the prequalification scheme). Using the prequalification scheme allows agencies to quickly seek quotes from suppliers who have a demonstrated track record and expertise. While agencies are not required to use the prequalification scheme, the NSW Procurement Board advises that agencies should use prequalification schemes where they are available to promote competition. 

By using direct negotiation when the prequalification scheme was available, and by not seeking quotes from other suppliers, SIRA was acting in a way that reduced competition. This increases the risk that SIRA did not achieve value for money in its procurement of creative materials.

SIRA advised that it sought to ensure value for money by comparing the quote from its selected supplier with the amount spent on creative materials in other campaigns of similar size. SIRA did not document this analysis at the time or include it as part of the briefing note staff used to seek approval for undertaking direct negotiation. As a result, decision-makers were not fully informed when approving this engagement. 

SIRA reported in a briefing note that it engaged in direct negotiations because:

  • it believed that the original timeframe did not allow for a competitive tender process
  • the supplier had done previous work on a related campaign for SIRA
  • the supplier provided sample work which received positive feedback from focus groups.

In July 2017, when peer review commenced, SIRA planned to launch the campaign in November 2017 to coincide with the beginning of the green slip reforms. SIRA believed that this timeframe was narrow enough to warrant entering direct negotiations. The ICAC Guidelines advise that a narrow timeframe is not a valid reason to enter into a direct negotiation. In late October 2017, the campaign launch was delayed until March 2018 to stagger the demand on the resources of Service NSW, which is administering the refund. 

The ICAC Guidelines also advise against re-appointing a supplier because it has performed previous work. Instead, agencies could consider previous experience as one of several factors when deciding between quotes. In cases where an agency asks a supplier to provide sample work, the ICAC Guidelines advise that agencies should request sample work from multiple potential suppliers to promote competition.

The campaign's cost benefit analysis complied with the Act and Guidelines 

The Act requires a cost benefit analysis (CBA) for any government advertising campaign likely to exceed $1.0 million in value. Section six of the Guidelines set out the requirements for a government advertising CBA. The campaign's CBA complied with the requirements of the Act and the Guidelines.

The campaign CBA could have demonstrated further cost effectiveness if it considered alternative media mixes as outlined in NSW Treasury's 'Cost Benefit Analysis Framework for Government Advertising and Information Campaigns'. This would also have been consistent with the Handbook.

The cluster Secretary signed the compliance certificate instead of the head of SIRA

The Act requires the head of the agency running the campaign to sign a compliance certificate. 

The Secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, the cluster to which SIRA belongs, signed the campaign's compliance certificate. However, section 17(2) of the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015 states that SIRA is ‘for the purposes of any Act, a NSW Government agency.’ Given this, the Chief Executive of SIRA was responsible for signing the compliance certificate for this campaign.

This is a minor non-compliance with the Act because the Chief Executive had reviewed the campaign and recommended that the Secretary sign the compliance certificate.  

The NSW TAFE Commission (TAFE) ran the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' from November 2017 to September 2018. The aim of the campaign was to assist TAFE in achieving its 2018 student enrolment target by improving the perception of TAFE's brand and generating student enquiries. This is the first state-wide campaign run by TAFE operating under the One TAFE model. Previously, each TAFE Institute ran its own campaigns. The total budget of the campaign was $19.5 million. This audit examined only the semester one 2018 component of the campaign, which ran from November 2017 to April 2018 at a total cost of $9.5 million. See Appendix two for more details on this campaign.

The semester one component of the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' did not breach the specific provisions of section 6 of the Act which prohibits political advertising.
The campaign was not fully effective because it did not achieve its objective of reaching TAFE's semester one enrolment target.
The campaign was successful at achieving the campaign's targets which related to changing the public perception of TAFE.
TAFE was able to place most of its campaign media within cost-efficient timeframes. TAFE also achieved efficiencies by re-using many creative materials from a previous campaign.
TAFE could not demonstrate this campaign was carried out economically. TAFE's cost benefit analysis (CBA) for this campaign did not comply with three requirements of the Guidelines. For example, TAFE did not compare the campaign to a baseline case of not advertising. 
The Guidelines require government advertising to be accurate in all statements. TAFE breached this requirement. The campaign material included one statement that was inaccurate and one that was overstated.
The revision of the Brand Guidelines in August 2017 impacted this campaign. TAFE re-used many creative materials that were created when TAFE was not required to include the NSW Government logo on its advertising material. DPC appears to have directed agencies that were launching advertising campaigns to immediately comply with the Brand Guidelines, however we could not find evidence that this advice was given to TAFE. As such, 59 per cent of TAFE's materials were not compliant with the Brand Guidelines at the launch of the campaign in November 2017. TAFE had made most of this campaign's creative materials compliant by June 2018.

The campaign materials we reviewed did not breach section 6 of the Act

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising as part of a government advertising campaign. A government advertising campaign must not:

  • be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party
  • contain the name, voice or image of a minister, a member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament
  • contain the name, logo, slogan or any other reference to a political party.

The audit team found no breaches of section 6 of the Act in the campaign material we reviewed.

The campaign achieved 16 of 24 objectives, but did not reach its enrolment target

The campaign had 24 objectives which had a target for semester one. TAFE set these targets using a combination of previous experience, corporate objectives and brand surveys.

The overall objective of the combined semester one and two campaigns was to support TAFE achieving its 2018 total enrolment target of 549,636. TAFE's semester one target was 361,350, which it did not achieve. This indicates that the campaign was not fully effective.

The campaign achieved 11 of its 16 output objectives. The output targets related to TAFE's media placements and ability to reach an audience efficiently. TAFE tracked progress against many of the campaign's output objectives daily. TAFE altered its media channels throughout the campaign meaning that some of the output objectives were not met because TAFE decided to focus on alternative media channels. The campaign also achieved all seven of its outcome objectives. The outcome objectives related to changing the public perception of TAFE.

TAFE's initial media plan allowed for efficient media placement

During the peer review process, DPC provides advice to agencies about the time they should allow to ensure cost-efficient media placement. For example, DPC advise that agencies book television advertising six to 12 weeks in advance and that agencies book radio advertising two to eight weeks in advance. 

While TAFE's initial media plan allowed sufficient time between the approval of the campaign and its launch, a delay in receiving final approval for the campaign meant TAFE could not purchase media placements until two months later than planned. Most purchases still remained within DPC's recommended timeframes, but Indigenous television advertisements and metropolitan out of home advertisements both fell outside DPC's recommended time periods by one week. These delays did not impact on TAFE's efficiency.

TAFE re-used many creative materials, achieving some cost-savings

Rather than commissioning new creative materials, TAFE re-used many creative materials from the previous campaign and supplemented these with a selection of new creative materials. TAFE advised that this led to a cost saving of approximately $130,000.
TAFE sought quotes from suppliers on the government's Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme for two creative material contracts. These contracts covered updates to existing materials and a selection of new materials.

The campaign's cost-benefit analysis did not comply with three requirements of the Guidelines

The Act requires an agency to conduct a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) if the cost of an advertising campaign is likely to exceed $1.0 million. The Guidelines set out the requirements of this CBA. TAFE did not comply with three of these requirements, outlined in Exhibit 5.

Exhibit 5: Guideline requirements for CBAs with which TAFE did not comply
6.2 The cost benefit analysis must isolate the additional costs and benefits attributable to the advertising campaign itself compared to the base-case of not-advertising.
6.3 The cost benefit analysis must specify the extent to which the expected benefits could be achieved without advertising.
6.4 The cost benefit analysis must outline what options other than advertising could be used to successfully implement the program and achieve the program benefits and a comparison of their costs.
Source: NSW Government Advertising Guidelines (2012).

In this circumstance, section 6.2 of the Guidelines required the CBA to identify the number of enrolments TAFE would expect if it did not advertise. TAFE advised us that it is not possible to say what this scenario would look like because there had always been some degree of advertising, however, this argument is not reflected in the CBA. 

TAFE used 2017 as the baseline in the CBA. In 2017, TAFE spent $13.2 million on advertising. As such, the CBA was only able to isolate the impact of the increased expenditure rather than the impact of the campaign's entire $19.5 million expenditure. TAFE advised that 2017 had the most reliable state-wide data and this contributed to the decision to use it as the baseline.

During the audit, TAFE sought advice from NSW Treasury regarding whether a 2017 baseline was appropriate and NSW Treasury advised that it was. Regardless, TAFE did not receive this advice prior to writing the CBA and did not put commentary around this in the CBA. This would also not be sufficient for fulfilling the requirements of the Guidelines.

The CBA did not comply with sections 6.3 and 6.4 of the Guidelines. The CBA briefly considered the impact of spending the campaign budget directly on new training courses, however there was no sustained analysis of this option. TAFE staff advised that there are no realistic alternatives to advertising for achieving the campaign's objectives. However we did not see analysis to support this conclusion in documents provided to us. 

The campaign CBA could have better demonstrated cost effectiveness if it considered alternative media mixes as outlined in NSW Treasury's 'Cost Benefit Analysis Framework for Government Advertising and Information Campaigns'. This would also have been consistent with the Handbook.

TAFE made one inaccurate claim in its advertising and overstated a second

The Guidelines set out rules regarding the content of a government advertising campaign. Exhibit 6 sets out one of the principles with which agencies must comply.

Exhibit 6: Guidelines' requirement for accuracy
The following principles apply to the style and content of government advertising campaigns:
  • Accuracy in the presentation of all facts, statistics, comparisons and other arguments. All statements and claims of fact included in government advertising campaigns must be able to be substantiated.
Source: NSW Government Advertising Guidelines (2012).

TAFE made one inaccurate claim in its advertising and overstated a second.

In some campaign creative material, TAFE claimed that 78 per cent of its own graduates are employed after training (Exhibit 15 in Appendix 2). According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 78 per cent of New South Wales Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduates (i.e. from all training providers) are employed after training. The result for TAFE graduates is 70.4 per cent.

One of the campaign's television advertisements refers to TAFE as ‘Australia's most reputable education provider’. This statement referred to a survey of current TAFE students who were asked where they would consider studying in future: TAFE, University or a private college. The current TAFE students selected TAFE by a large margin. The limited scope of TAFE's student survey and its results do not support the claim that it is ‘Australia's most reputable education provider’.

DPC did not consistently communicate the transitional arrangements for the Brand Guidelines and as such much of TAFE's creative material did not comply at campaign launch

On 7 August 2017, the government released the NSW Government Brand Guidelines (Brand Guidelines), setting out how agencies use the NSW Government logo. The Brand Guidelines replaced the Branding Style Guide which had been in place since September 2015. Some agencies were exempt from using the Branding Style Guide and the introduction of the new Brand Guidelines required these agencies to apply for a new exemption.

TAFE had recently commenced the peer review process for this campaign when the Brand Guidelines were released. TAFE was exempt from the requirements of the Branding Style Guide and as such the material which TAFE was planning to re-use in the new campaign did not contain the NSW Government logo.

Communication about how long agencies had to make themselves compliant with the Brand Guidelines was unclear. On 11 August 2017, the Chair of the Cabinet Standing Committee on Communication and Government Advertising (the Committee) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Industry informing him that the Department must update all its material to be compliant with the Brand Guidelines ‘as soon as practicable within an 18-month transition period’. The Department of Industry advised TAFE that new advertising would need to be immediately compliant, however it was not clear if this included materials which agencies were re-using from previous campaigns. DPC advised the audit team that it expected re-used materials to be compliant when agencies launched new campaigns. DPC provided this advice to some agencies but did not communicate it more broadly. We could not source evidence that DPC provided this advice to TAFE.

DPC ran workshops to explain the transitional arrangements in September 2017 for the changes in the Brand Guidelines, however these did not specifically address the transitional timeframes for new advertising campaigns.

The Department of Industry, on behalf of TAFE, applied to the Committee for approval to co-brand the TAFE logo with the NSW Government logo. This was approved in October 2017. The requirements for co-branding are in Exhibit 7.

Exhibit 7: Co-branding in the NSW Government Brand Guidelines

Co-branding partners the agency logo with the NSW Government logo. The NSW Government logo must always be presented as the dominant or lead brand. The Brand Guidelines provide the following template shown below the exhibit box.

The NSW Government logo is on the left and the agency logo is placed on the right, with a dividing line between them.

Published

Actions for Unsolicited proposal process for the lease of Ausgrid

Unsolicited proposal process for the lease of Ausgrid

Premier and Cabinet
Asset valuation
Infrastructure
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Procurement
Project management
Service delivery
Shared services and collaboration

In October 2016, the NSW Government accepted an unsolicited proposal from IFM Investors and AustralianSuper to lease 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid for 99 years. The deal followed the Federal Government’s rejection of two bids from foreign investors, for national security reasons.

A performance audit of the lease of Ausgrid has found shortcomings in the unsolicited proposal process. Releasing the audit findings today, the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford said ‘this transaction involved a $20 billion asset owned by the people of New South Wales. As such, it warranted strict adherence to established guidelines’.

Ausgrid is a distributor of electricity to eastern parts of Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

In June 2014, the then government announced its commitment to lease components of the state's electricity network as part of the Rebuilding NSW plan. Implementation of the policy began after the government was re-elected in 2015. Between November 2015 and August 2016, the NSW Government held a competitive tender process to lease 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid for 99 years. The NSW Government abandoned the process on 19 August 2016 after the Australian Treasurer rejected two bids from foreign investors, for national security reasons. That day, the Premier and Treasurer released a media statement clarifying the government's objective to complete the transaction via a competitive process in time to include the proceeds in the 2017–18 budget.

On 31 August 2016, the state received an unsolicited proposal from IFM Investors and AustralianSuper to acquire an interest in Ausgrid under the same terms proposed by the state during the tender process. In October 2016, the government accepted the unsolicited proposal. 

This audit examined whether the unsolicited proposal process for the partial long-term lease of Ausgrid was effectively conducted and in compliance with the government’s 2014 Unsolicited Proposals: Guide for Submission and Assessment (Unsolicited Proposals Guide or the Guide). 

The audit focused on how the government-appointed Assessment Panel and Proposal Specific Steering Committee assessed key requirements in the Guide that unsolicited proposals must be demonstrably unique and represent value for money. 

Conclusion

The evidence available does not conclusively demonstrate the unsolicited proposal was unique, and there were some shortcomings in the negotiation process, documentation and segregation of duties. That said, before the final commitment to proceed with the lease, the state obtained assurance that the proposal delivered value for money. 

It is particularly important to demonstrate unsolicited proposals are unique, in order to justify the departure from other transaction processes that offer greater competition, transparency and certainty about value for money.

The Assessment Panel and the Proposal Specific Steering Committee determined the Ausgrid unsolicited proposal was unique, primarily on the basis that the proponent did not require foreign investment approval from the Australian Treasurer, and the lease transaction could be concluded earlier than through a second tender process. However, the evidence that persuaded the Panel and Committee did not demonstrate that no other proponent could conclude the transaction in time to meet the government’s deadline. 

It is not appropriate to determine an unsolicited proposal is unique because it delivers an earlier outcome than possible through a tender process. The Panel and Committee did not contend, and it is not evident, that the unsolicited proposal was the only way to meet the government’s transaction deadline.

The evidence does not demonstrate that the proponent was the only party that would not have needed foreign investment approval to participate in the transaction. It also does not demonstrate that the requirement for foreign investment approval would have reduced the pool of foreign buyers to the degree that it would be reasonable to assume none would emerge. 

The Panel, Committee and financial advisers determined that the final price represented value for money, and that retendering offered a material risk of a worse financial outcome. However, an acceptable price was revealed early in the negotiation process, and doing so made it highly unlikely that the proponent would offer a higher price than that disclosed. The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) and NSW Treasury were not able to provide a documented reserve price, bargaining strategy or similar which put the negotiations in context. It is not evident that the Panel or Committee authorised, justified or endorsed negotiations in advance. 

Key aspects of governance recommended by the Guide were in place. Some shortcomings relating to role segregation, record keeping and probity assurance weakened the effectiveness of the unsolicited proposal process adopted for Ausgrid.

The reasons for accepting that the proposal and proponent were unique are not compelling.

The Unsolicited Proposals Guide says the 'unique benefits of the proposal and the unique ability of the proponent to deliver the proposal' must be demonstrated. 

The conclusion reached by the Panel and Committee that the proposal offered a ‘unique ability to deliver (a) strategic outcome’ was primarily based on the proponent not requiring foreign investment approval from the Australian Treasurer, and allowing the government to complete the lease transaction earlier than by going through a second tender process. 

It is not appropriate to determine an unsolicited proposal is unique because it delivers an earlier outcome than possible through a tender process. The Panel and Committee did not contend, and it is not evident, that the unsolicited proposal was the only way to meet the government’s transaction deadline.

The evidence does not demonstrate that the proponent was the only party that would not have needed foreign investment approval to participate in the transaction. Nor does it demonstrate that the requirement for foreign investment approval would have reduced the pool of foreign buyers to the degree that it would be reasonable to assume none would emerge. 

That said, the Australian Treasurer’s decision to reject the two bids from the previous tender process created uncertainty about the conditions under which he would approve international bids. The financial advisers engaged for the Ausgrid transaction informed the Panel and Committee that:

  • it was not likely another viable proponent would emerge soon enough to meet the government’s transaction deadline
  • the market would be unlikely to deliver a better result than offered by the proponent
  • going to tender presented a material risk of a worse financial result. 

The Unsolicited Proposals Guide says that a proposal to directly purchase or acquire a government-owned entity or property will generally not be unique. The Ausgrid unsolicited proposal fell into this category. 

Recommendations:
DPC should ensure future Assessment Panels and Steering Committees considering a proposal to acquire a government business or asset:

  • recognise that when considering uniqueness they should: 
    • require very strong evidence to decide that both the proponent and proposal are the only ones of their kind that could meet the government’s objectives 
    • give thorough consideration to any reasonable counter-arguments against uniqueness.
  • rigorously consider all elements of the Unsolicited Proposals Guide when determining whether a proposal should be dealt with as an unsolicited proposal, and document these deliberations and all relevant evidence
  • do not use speed of transaction compared to a market process as justification for uniqueness.
The process to obtain assurance that the final price represented value for money was adequate. However, the negotiation approach reduced assurance that the bid price was maximised. 

The Panel and Committee concluded the price represented value for money, based on peer-reviewed advice from their financial advisers and knowledge acquired from previous tenders. The financial advisers also told the Panel and Committee that there was a material risk the state would receive a lower price than offered by the unsolicited proposal if it immediately proceeded with a second market transaction. 

The state commenced negotiations on price earlier than the Guide says they should have. Early disclosure of a price that the state would accept reduced the likelihood of achieving a price greater than this. DPC says the intent of this meeting was to quickly establish whether the proponents could meet the state’s benchmark rather than spending more time and resources on a proposal which had no prospect of proceeding.

DPC and NSW Treasury were not able to provide a documented reserve price, negotiation strategy or similar which put the negotiations and price achieved in context. It was not evident that the Panel or Committee authorised, justified or endorsed negotiations in advance. However, the Panel and Committee endorsed the outcomes of the negotiations. 

The negotiations were informed by the range of prices achieved for similar assets and the specific bids for Ausgrid from the earlier market process.

Recommendations:
DPC should ensure any future Assessment Panels and Steering Committees considering a proposal to acquire a government business or asset:

  • document a minimum acceptable price, and a negotiating strategy designed to maximise price, before commencing negotiations
  • do not communicate an acceptable price to the proponent, before the negotiation stage of the process, and then only as part of a documented bargaining strategy.
Key aspects of governance recommended by the Guide were in place, but there were some shortcomings around role segregation, record keeping and probity assurance.

The state established a governance structure in accordance with the Unsolicited Proposals Guide, including an Assessment Panel and Proposal Specific Steering Committee. The members of the Panel and Steering Committee were senior and experienced officers, as befitted the size and nature of the unsolicited proposal. 

The separation of negotiation, assessment and review envisaged by the Guide was not maintained fully. The Chair of the Assessment Panel and a member of the Steering Committee were involved in negotiations with the proponent. 

DPC could not provide comprehensive records of some key interactions with the proponent or a documented negotiation strategy. The absence of such records means the Department cannot demonstrate engagement and negotiation processes were authorised and rigorous. 

The probity adviser reported there were no material probity issues with the transaction. The probity adviser also provided audit services. This is not good practice. The same party should not provide both advisory and audit services on the same transaction.

Recommendations:
DPC should ensure any future Assessment Panels and Steering Committees considering a proposal to acquire a government entity or asset:
•    maintain separation between negotiation, assessment and review in line with the Unsolicited Proposals Guide
•    keep an auditable trail of documentation relating to the negotiation process
•    maintain separation between any probity audit services engaged and the probity advisory and reporting services recommended in the current Guide.

Published

Actions for Internal Controls and Governance 2018

Internal Controls and Governance 2018

Education
Community Services
Finance
Health
Industry
Justice
Planning
Premier and Cabinet
Transport
Treasury
Whole of Government
Environment
Compliance
Cyber security
Financial reporting
Fraud
Information technology
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Procurement
Project management

The Auditor-General for New South Wales Margaret Crawford found that as NSW state government agencies’ digital footprint increases they need to do more to address new and emerging information technology (IT) risks. This is one of the key findings to emerge from the second stand-alone report on internal controls and governance of the 40 largest NSW state government agencies.

This report analyses the internal controls and governance of the 40 largest agencies in the NSW public sector for the year ended 30 June 2018.

This report covers the findings and recommendations from our 2017–18 financial audits that relate to internal controls and governance at the 40 largest agencies (refer to Appendix three) in the NSW public sector.

This report offers insights into internal controls and governance in the NSW public sector

This is our second report dedicated to internal controls and governance at NSW State Government agencies. The report provides insights into the effectiveness of controls and governance processes in the NSW public sector by:

  • highlighting the potential risks posed by weaknesses in controls and governance processes
  • helping agencies benchmark the adequacy of their processes against their peers
  • focusing on new and emerging risks, and the internal controls and governance processes that might address those risks.

Without strong governance systems and internal controls, agencies increase the risks associated with effectively managing their finances and delivering services to citizens. The way agencies deliver services increasingly relies on contracts and partnerships with the private sector. Many of these arrangements deliver front line services, but others provide less visible back office support. For example, an agency may rely on an IT service provider to manage a key system used to provide services to the community. The contract and service level agreements are only truly effective where they are actively managed to reduce risks to continuous quality service delivery, such as interruptions caused by system outages, cyber security attacks and data security breaches.

Our audits do not review all aspects of internal controls and governance every year. We select a range of measures, and report on those that present heightened risks for agencies to mitigate. This report divides these into the following five areas:

  1. Internal control trends
  2. Information technology (IT), including IT vendor management
  3. Transparency and performance reporting
  4. Management of purchasing cards and taxis
  5. Fraud and corruption control.

The findings in this report should not be used to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of individual agency control environments and governance arrangements. Specific financial reporting, controls and service delivery comments are included in the individual 2018 cluster financial audit reports, which will be tabled in Parliament from November to December 2018.

The focus of the report has changed since last year

Last year's report topics included asset management, ethics and conduct, and risk management. We are reporting on new topics this year. We plan to introduce new topics and re-visit our previous topics in subsequent reports on a cyclical basis. This will provide a baseline against which to measure the NSW public sectors’ progress in implementing appropriate internal controls and governance processes to mitigate existing, new and emerging risks in the public sector.

Agencies selected for the volume account for 95 per cent of the state's expenditure

While we have covered only 40 agencies in this report, those selected are a large enough group to identify common issues and insights. They represent about 95 per cent of total expenditure for all NSW public sector agencies.

Internal controls are processes, policies and procedures that help agencies to:

  • operate effectively and efficiently
  • produce reliable financial reports
  • comply with laws and regulations
  • support ethical government.

This chapter outlines the overall trends for agency controls and governance issues, including the number of findings, level of risk and the most common deficiencies we found across agencies. The rest of this volume presents this year’s controls and governance findings in more detail.

Observation Conclusions and recommendations
2.1 High risk findings
We found six high risk findings (seven in 2016–17), one of which was repeated from both last year and 2015–16. Recommendation: Agencies should reduce risk by addressing high risk internal control deficiencies as a priority.
2.2 Common findings
We found several internal controls and governance findings common to multiple agencies. Conclusion: Central agencies or the lead agency in a cluster can play a lead role in helping ensure agency responses to common findings are consistent, timely, efficient and effective.
2.3 New and repeat findings
Although internal control deficiencies decreased over the last four years, this year has seen a 42 per cent increase in internal control deficiencies. The increase in new IT control deficiencies and repeat IT control deficiencies signifies an emerging risk for agencies.
IT control deficiencies feature in this increase, having risen by 63 per cent since last year. The number of repeat IT control deficiencies has doubled and is driven by the increasing digital footprint left by agencies as government prioritises on-line interfaces with citizens, and the number of transactions conducted through digital channels increases

Recommendation: Agencies should reduce IT risks by:

  • assigning ownership of recommendations to address IT control deficiencies, with timeframes and actions plans for implementation
  • ensuring audit and risk committees and agency management regularly monitor the implementation status of recommendations.

 

Government agencies’ financial reporting is now heavily reliant on information technology (IT). IT is also increasingly important to the delivery of agency services. These systems often provide the data to help monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of agency processes and services they deliver. Our audits reviewed whether agencies have effective controls in place to manage both key financial systems and IT service contracts.

Observation Conclusions and recommendations
3.1 Management of IT vendors
Contract management framework 
Although 87 per cent of agencies have a contract management policy to manage IT vendors, one fifth require review.
 

Conclusion: Agencies can more effectively manage IT vendor contracts by developing policies and procedures to ensure vendor management frameworks are kept up to date, plans are in place to manage vendor performance and risk, and compliance with the framework is monitored by:

  • internal audit focusing on key contracting activities
  • experienced officers who are independent of contract administration performing spot checks or peer reviews
  • targeted analysis of data in contract registers.
Contract risk management
Forty-one per cent of agencies are not using contract management plans and do not assess contract risks. Half of the agencies that did assess contract risks, had not updated the risk assessments since the commencement of the contract.
 
Conclusion: Instead of applying a 'set and forget' approach in relation to management of contract risks, agencies should assess risk regularly and develop a plan to actively manage identified risks throughout the contract lifecycle - from negotiation and commencement, to termination.

Performance management
Eighty-six per cent of agencies meet with vendors to discuss performance. 

Only 24 per cent of agencies sought assurance about the accuracy of vendor reporting against KPIs, yet sixty-seven per cent of the IT contracts allow agencies to determine performance based payments and/or penalise underperformance.

Conclusion: Agencies are monitoring IT vendor performance, but could improve outcomes and more effectively manage under-performance by:

  • a more active, rigorous approach to both risk and performance management
  • checking the accuracy of vendor reporting against those KPIs and where appropriate seeking assurance over their accuracy
  • invoking performance based payments clauses in contracts when performance falls below agreed standards.

Transitioning services
Forty-three per cent of the IT vendor contracts did not contain transitioning-out provisions.

Where IT vendor contracts do make provision for transitioning-out, only 28 per cent of agencies have developed a transitioning-out plan with their IT vendor.

Conclusion: Contract transition/phase out clauses and plans can mitigate risks to service disruption, ensure internal controls remain in place, avoid unnecessary costs and reduce the risk of 'vendor lock-in'.
Contract Registers
Eleven out of forty agencies did not have a contract register, or have registers that are not accurate and/or complete.

Conclusion: A contract register helps to manage an agency’s compliance obligations under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the GIPA Act). However, it also helps agencies more effectively manage IT vendors by:

  • monitoring contract end dates and contract extensions, and commence new procurements through their central procurement teams in a timely manner
  • managing their contractual commitments, budgeting and cash flow requirements.

Recommendation: Agencies should ensure their contract registers are complete and accurate so they can more effectively govern contracts and manage compliance obligations.

3.2 IT general controls
Governance
Ninety-five per cent of agencies have established policies to manage key IT processes and functions within the agency, with ten per cent of those due for review.
 
Conclusion: Regular review of IT policies ensures risks are considered and appropriate strategies and procedures are implemented to manage these risks on a consistent basis. An absence of policies can lead to ad-hoc responses to risks, and failure to consider emerging IT risks and changes to agency IT environments. 

User access administration
Seventy-two deficiencies were identified related to user access administration, including:

  • thirty issues related to granting user access across 43 per cent of agencies
  • sixteen issues related to removing user access across 30 per cent of agencies
  • twenty-six issues related to periodic reviews of user access across 50 per cent of agencies.
Recommendation: Agencies should strengthen the administration of user access to prevent inappropriate access to key systems.
Privileged access
Forty per cent of agencies do not periodically review logs of the activities of privileged users to identify suspicious or unauthorised activities.

Recommendation: Agencies should:

  • review the number of, and access granted to privileged users, and assess and document the risks associated with their activities
  • monitor user access to address risks from unauthorised activity.
Password controls
Twenty-three per cent of agencies did not comply with their own policy on password parameters.
Recommendation: Agencies should ensure IT password settings comply with their password policies.
Program changes
Fifteen per cent of agencies had deficient IT program change controls mainly related to segregation of duties and authorisation and testing of IT program changes prior to deployment.
Recommendation: Agencies should maintain appropriate segregation of duties in their IT functions and test system changes before they are deployed.

 

This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions and recommendations from our review of how agencies reported their performance in their 2016–17 annual reports. The Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulation 2015 and Annual Reports (Departments) Regulation 2015 (annual reports regulation) currently prescribes the minimum requirements for agency annual reports.

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
4.1 Reporting on performance

Only 57 per cent of agencies linked reporting on performance to their strategic objectives.

The use of targets and reporting performance over time was limited and applied inconsistently.

Conclusion: There is significant disparity in the quality and consistency of how agencies report on their performance in their annual reports. This limits the reliability and transparency of reported performance information.

Agencies could improve performance reporting by clearly linking strategic objectives to reported outcomes, and reporting on performance against targets over time. NSW Treasury may need to provide more guidance to agencies to support consistent and high-quality performance reporting in annual reports.

There is no independent assurance that the performance metrics agencies report in their annual reports are accurate.

Prior performance audits have noted issues related to the collection of performance information. For example, our 2016 Report on Red Tape Reduction highlighted inaccuracies in how the dollar-value of red tape reduction had been reported.

Conclusion: The ability of Parliament and the public to rely on reported information as a relevant and accurate reflection of an agency's performance is limited.

The relevance and accuracy of performance information is enhanced when:

  • policies and guidance support the consistent and accurate collection of data
  • internal review processes and management oversight are effective
  • independent review processes are established to provide effective challenge to the assumptions, judgements and methodology used to collect the reported performance information.
4.2 Reporting on reports

Agency reporting on major projects does not meet the requirements of the annual reports regulation.

Forty-seven per cent of agencies did not report on costs to date and estimated completion dates for major works in progress. Of the 47 per cent of agencies that reported on major works, only one agency reported detail about significant cost overruns, delays, amendments, deferments or cancellations.

NSW Treasury produce an annual report checklist to help agencies comply with their annual report obligations.

Recommendation: Agencies should comply with the annual reports regulation and report on all mandatory fields, including significant cost overruns and delays, for their major works in progress.

The information the annual reports regulation requires agencies to report deals only with major works in progress. There is no requirement to report on completed works.

Sixteen of 30 agencies reported some information on completed major works.

Conclusion: Agencies could improve their transparency if they reported, or were required to report:

  • on both works in progress and projects completed during the year
  • actual costs and completion dates, and forecast completion dates for major works, against original and revised budgets and original expected completion dates
  • explanations for significant cost overruns, delays and key project performance metrics.

 

This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions and recommendations, arising from our review of agency preventative and detective controls over purchasing card and taxi use for 2017–18.

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
5.1 Management of purchasing cards
Volume of credit card spend
Purchasing card expenditure has increased by 76 per cent over the last four years in response to a government review into the cost savings possible from using purchasing cards for low value, high volume procurement.
 
Conclusion: The increasing use of purchasing cards highlights the importance of an effective framework for the use and management of purchasing cards.
Policy framework
We found all agencies that held purchasing cards had a policy in place, but 26 per cent of agencies have not reviewed their purchasing card policy by the scheduled date, or do not have a scheduled revision date stated within their policy.
Recommendation: Agencies should mitigate the risks associated with increased purchasing card use by ensuring policies and purchasing card frameworks remain current and compliant with the core requirements of TPP 17–09 'Use and Management of NSW Government Purchasing Cards'.
Preventative controls
We found that:
  • all agencies maintained purchasing card registers
  • seventy-six per cent provided training to cardholders prior to being issued with a card
  • eighty-nine per cent appointed a program administrator, but only half of these had clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • thirty-two per cent of agencies place merchant blocks on purchasing cards
  • forty-seven per cent of agencies place geographic restrictions on purchasing cards.

Agencies have designed and implemented preventative controls aimed at deterring the potential misuse of purchasing cards.

Conclusion: Further opportunities exist for agencies to better control the use of purchasing cards, such as:

  • updating purchasing card registers to contain all mandatory fields required by TPP17–09
  • appointing a program administrator for the agency's purchasing card framework and defining their role and responsibility for the function
  • strengthening preventive controls to prevent misuse.

Detective controls
Ninety-two per cent of agencies have designed and implemented at least one control to monitor purchasing card activity.

Major reviews, such as data analytics (29 per cent of agencies) and independent spot checks (49 per cent of agencies) are not widely used.

Agencies have designed and implemented detective controls aimed at identifying potential misuse of purchasing cards.

Conclusion: More effective monitoring using purchasing card data can provide better visibility over spending activity and can be used to:

  • detect misuse and investigate exceptions
  • analyse trends to highlight cost saving opportunities.
5.2 Management of taxis
Policy framework
Thirteen per cent of agencies have not developed and implemented a policy to manage taxi use. In addition:
  • a further 41 per cent of agencies have not reviewed their policies by the scheduled revision date, or do not have a scheduled revision date
  • more than half of all agencies’ policies do not offer alternative travel options. For example, only 36 per cent of policies promoted the use of general Opal cards.
Conclusion: Agencies can promote savings and provide more options to staff where their taxi use policies:
  • limit the circumstances where taxi use is appropriate
  • offer alternate, lower cost options to using taxis, such as general Opal cards and rideshare.
Detective controls
All agencies approve taxi expenditure by expense reimbursement, purchasing card and Cabcharge, and have implemented controls around this approval process. However, beyond this there is minimal monitoring and review activity, such as data monitoring, independent spot checks or internal audit reviews.
Conclusion: Taxi spend at agencies is not significant in terms of its dollar value, but it is significant from a probity perspective. Agencies can better address the probity risk by incorporating taxi use into a broader purchasing card or fraud monitoring program.

 

Fraud and corruption control is one of the 17 key elements of our governance lighthouse. Recent reports from ICAC into state agencies and local government councils highlight the need for effective fraud control and ethical frameworks. Effective frameworks can help protect an agency from events that risk serious reputational damage and financial loss.

Our 2016 Fraud Survey found the NSW Government agencies we surveyed reported 1,077 frauds over the three year period to 30 June 2015. For those frauds where an estimate of losses was made, the reported value exceeded $10.0 million. The report also highlighted that the full extent of fraud in the NSW public sector could be higher than reported because:

  • unreported frauds in organisations can be almost three times the number of reported frauds
  • our 2015 survey did not include all NSW public sector agencies, nor did it include any NSW universities or local councils
  • fraud committed by citizens such as fare evasion and fraudulent state tax self-assessments was not within the scope of our 2015 survey
  • agencies did not estimate a value for 599 of the 1,077 (56 per cent) reported frauds.

Commissioning and outsourcing of services to the private sector and the advancement of digital technology are changing the fraud and corruption risks agencies face. Fraud risk assessments should be updated regularly and in particular where there are changes in agency business models. NSW Treasury Circular TC18-02 NSW Fraud and Corruption Control Policy now requires agencies develop, implement and maintain a fraud and corruption control framework, effective from 1 July 2018. 

Our Fraud Control Improvement Kit provides guidance and practical advice to help organisations implement an effective fraud control framework. The kit is divided into ten attributes. Three key attributes have been assessed below; prevention, detection and notification systems.

This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions and recommendations, arising from our review of agency fraud and corruption controls for 2017–18.

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
6.1 Prevention systems

Prevention systems
Ninety-two per cent of agencies have a fraud control plan in place, 81 per cent maintain a fraud database and 79 per cent report fraud and corruption matters as a standing item on audit and risk committee agendas.

Only 54 per cent of agencies have an employment screening policy and all agencies have IT security policies, but gaps in IT security controls could undermine their policies.

Conclusion: Most agencies have implemented fraud prevention systems to reduce the risk of fraud. However poor IT security along with other gaps in agency prevention systems, such as employment screening practices heightens the risk of fraud and inappropriate use of data.

Agencies can improve their fraud prevention systems by:

  • completing regular fraud risk assessments, embedding fraud risk assessment into their enterprise risk management process and reporting the results of the assessment to the audit and risk committee
  • maintaining a fraud database and reviewing it regularly for systemic issues and reporting a redacted version of the database on the agency's website to inform corruption prevention networks
  • developing policies and procedures for employee screening and benchmarking their current processes against ICAC's publication ‘Strengthening Employment Screening Practices in the NSW Public Sector’
  • developing and maintaining up to date IT security policies and monitoring compliance with the policy.
Twenty-three per cent of agencies were not performing fraud risk assessments and some agency fraud risk assessments may not be as robust as they could be.  Conclusion: Agencies' systems of internal controls may be less effective where new and emerging fraud risks have been overlooked, or known weaknesses have not been rectified.
6.2 Detection systems
Detection systems
Several agencies reported they were developing a data monitoring program, but only 38 per cent of agencies had already implemented a program.
 

Studies have shown data monitoring, whereby entire populations of transactional data are analysed for indicators of fraudulent activity, is one of the most effective methods of early detection. Early detection decreases the duration a fraud remains undetected thereby limiting the extent of losses.

Conclusion: Data monitoring is an effective tool for early detection of fraud and is more effective when informed by a comprehensive fraud risk assessment.

6.3 Notification systems
Notification system
All agencies have notification systems for reporting actual or suspected fraud and corruption. Most agencies provide multiple reporting lines, provide training and publicise options for staff to report actual or suspected fraud and corruption.
Conclusion: Training staff about their obligations and the use of fraud notification systems promotes a fraud-aware culture

 

Published

Actions for Members' Additional Entitlements 2017

Members' Additional Entitlements 2017

Premier and Cabinet
Compliance
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Regulation
Service delivery

In a report released today, the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford, identified two instances where Members of Parliament did not materially comply with the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal’s Determination relating to additional entitlements. The Department of Parliamentary Services has subsequently requested that the two Members concerned repay amounts that were incorrectly claimed. One claim was made under the Electorate to Sydney Travel allowance and the other from the Communication allowance.

Published

Actions for Progress and measurement of the Premier's Priorities

Progress and measurement of the Premier's Priorities

Premier and Cabinet
Compliance
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Project management
Risk
Service delivery
Shared services and collaboration
Workforce and capability

The Premier’s Implementation Unit uses a systematic approach to measuring and reporting progress towards the Premier’s Priorities performance targets, but public reporting needed to improve, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General of NSW, Margaret Crawford.

The Premier of New South Wales has established 12 Premier’s Priorities. These are key performance targets for government.

The 12 Premier's Priorities
  • 150,000 new jobs by 2019

  • Reduce the volume of litter by 40 per cent by 2020

  • 10 key projects in metro and regional areas to be delivered on time and on budget, and nearly 90 local infrastructure projects to be delivered on time

  • Increase the proportion of NSW students in the top two NAPLAN bands by eight per cent by 2019

  • Increase the proportion of women in senior leadership roles in the NSW Government sector from 33 to 50 per cent by 2025 and double the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in senior leadership roles in the NSW Government sector, from 57 to 114

  • Increase the proportion of young people who successfully move from Specialist Homelessness Services to long-term accommodation to more than 34 per cent by 2019

  • 61,000 housing completions on average per year to 2021

  • Reduce the proportion of domestic violence perpetrators reoffending by 25 per cent by 2021

  • Improve customer satisfaction with key government services every year, this term of government to 2019

  • Decrease the percentage of children and young people re-reported at risk of significant harm by 15 per cent by 2020

  • 81 per cent of patients through emergency departments within four hours by 2019

  • Reduce overweight and obesity rates of children by five percentage points by 2025


Source: Department of Premier and Cabinet, Premier’s Priorities website.

Each Premier’s Priority has a lead agency and minister responsible for achieving the performance target.

The Premier’s Implementation Unit (PIU) was established within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) in 2015. The PIU is a delivery unit that supports agencies to measure and monitor performance, make progress toward the Premier’s Priorities targets, and report progress to the Premier, key ministers and the public.

This audit assessed how effectively the NSW Government is progressing and reporting on the Premier's Priorities.

 


The Premier’s Implementation Unit (PIU) is effective in assisting agencies to make progress against the Premier’s Priorities targets. Progress reporting is regular but transparency to the public is weakened by the lack of information about specific measurement limitations and lack of clarity about the relationship of the targets to broader government objectives.The PIU promotes a systematic approach to measuring performance and reporting progress towards the Premier’s Priorities’ performance targets. Public reporting would be improved with additional information about the rationale for choosing specific targets to report on broader government objectives.

The PIU provides a systematic approach to measuring performance and reporting progress towards the Premier's Priorities performance targets. Public reporting would be improved with additional information about the rationale for choosing specific targets to report on broader government objectives. The data used to measure the Premier’s Priorities comes from a variety of government and external datasets, some of which have known limitations. These limitations are not revealed in public reporting, and only some are revealed in progress reported to the Premier and ministers. This limits the transparency of reporting.

The PIU assists agencies to avoid unintended outcomes that can arise from prioritising particular performance measures over other areas of activity. The PIU has adopted a collaborative approach to assisting agencies to analyse performance using data, and helping them work across organisational silos to achieve the Premier’s Priorities targets.


 


Data used to measure progress for some of the Premier’s Priorities has limitations which are not made clear when progress is reported. This reduces transparency about the reported progress. Public reporting would also be improved with additional information about the relationship between specific performance measures and broader government objectives.

The PIU is responsible for reporting progress to the Premier, key ministers and the public. Agencies provide performance data and some play a role in preparing progress reports for the Premier and ministers. For 11 of the Premier's Priorities, progress is reported against measurable and time-related performance targets. For the infrastructure priority, progress is reported against project milestones.

Progress of some Priorities is measured using data that has known limitations, which should be noted wherever progress is reported. For example, the data used to report on housing completions does not take housing demolitions into account, and is therefore overstating the contribution of this performance measure to housing supply. This known limitation is not explained in progress reports or on the public website.

Data used to measure progress is sourced from a mix of government and external datasets. Updated progress data for most Premier’s Priorities is published on the Premier’s Priorities website annually, although reported to the Premier and key ministers more frequently. The PIU reviews the data and validates it through fieldwork with front line agencies. The PIU also assists agencies to avoid unintended outcomes that can arise from prioritising single performance measures. Most, but not all, agencies use additional indicators to check for misuse of data or perverse outcomes.

We examined the reporting processes and controls for five of the Premier’s Priorities. We found that there is insufficient assurance over the accuracy of the data on housing approvals.

The relationships between performance measures and broader government objectives is not always clearly explained on the Premier’s Priority website, which is the key source of public information about the Premier’s Priorities. For example, the Premier’s Priority to reduce litter volumes is communicated as “Keeping our Environment Clean.” While the website explains why reducing litter is important, it does not clearly explain why that particular target has been chosen to measure progress in keeping the environment clean.

By December 2018, the Department of Premier and Cabinet should:

  1. improve transparency of public reporting by:
    • providing information about limitations of reported data and associated performance
    • clarifying the relationship between the Premier’s Priorities performance targets and broader government objectives.
  2. ensure that processes to check and verify data are in place for all agency data sources
  3. encourage agencies to develop and implement additional supporting indicators for all Premier’s Priority performance measures to prevent and detect unintended consequences or misuse of data.

 


The Premier's Implementation Unit is effective in supporting agencies to deliver progress towards the Premier’s Priority targets.

The PIU promotes a systematic approach to monitoring and reporting progress against a target, based on a methodology used in delivery units elsewhere in the world. The PIU undertakes internal self-evaluation, and commissions regular reviews of methodology implementation from the consultancy that owns the methodology and helped to establish the PIU. However, the unit lacks periodic independent reviews of their overall effectiveness. The PIU has adopted a collaborative approach and assists agencies to analyse performance using data, and work across organisational silos to achieve the Premier’s Priorities targets.

Agency representatives recognise the benefits of being responsible for a Premier's Priority and speak of the value of being held to account and having the attention of the Premier and senior ministers.

By June 2019, the Department of Premier and Cabinet should:

  1. establish routine collection of feedback about PIU performance including:
    • independent assurance of PIU performance
    • opportunity for agencies to provide confidential feedback.

 

 

Published

Actions for Procurement and reporting of consultancy services

Procurement and reporting of consultancy services

Finance
Education
Community Services
Industry
Justice
Planning
Premier and Cabinet
Health
Treasury
Transport
Environment
Information technology

Agencies need to improve their compliance with requirements governing the procurement of consultancy services. These requirements help agencies access procurement savings. Also, some agencies have under-reported consultancy fees in their annual reports for the 2016-17 financial year, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford. The report examined twelve agencies' compliance with procurement and reporting obligations for consultancy services. It notes that it is difficult to quantify total government expenditure on consultants as agencies define ‘consultants’ differently.

NSW Government agencies engage consultants to provide professional advice to inform their decision‑making. The spend on consultants is measured and reported in different ways for different purposes and the absence of a consistently applied definition makes quantification difficult.

The NSW Government’s procurement principles aim to help agencies obtain value for money and be fair, ethical and transparent in their procurement activities. All NSW Government agencies, with the exception of State Owned Corporations, must comply with the NSW Procurement Board’s Direction when engaging suppliers of business advisory services. Business advisory services include consultancy services. NSW Government agencies must disclose certain information about their use of consultants in their annual reports. The table below illustrates the detailed procurement and reporting requirements.

  Relevant guidance Requirements
Procurement of consultancy services PBD 2015 04 Engagement of major suppliers of consultancy and other services (the Direction) including the Standard Commercial Framework
(revised on 31 January 2018, shortly before it was superseded by 'PBD 2018 01')
 
Required agencies to seek the Agency Head or Chief Financial Officer's approval for engagements over $50,000 and report the engagements in the Major Suppliers' Portal (the Portal). 
  PBD 2018 01 Engagement of professional services suppliers
(replaced 'PBD 2015 04' in May 2018)
Requires agencies to seek the Agency Head or Chief Financial Officer's approval for engagements that depart from the Standard Commercial Framework and report the engagements in the Portal. Exhibit 3 in the report includes the key requirements of these three Directions.
 
Reporting of consultancy expenditure Annual Reports (Departments) Regulation 2015 and Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulation 2015 Requires agencies to disclose, in their annual reports, details of consultants engaged in a reporting year.
  Premier's Memorandum 
'M2002 07 Engagement and Use of Consultants'
 
Outlines additional reporting requirements for agencies to describe the nature and purpose of consultancies in their annual reports.

We examined how 12 agencies complied with their procurement and reporting obligations for consultancy services between 1 July 2016 and 31 March 2018. Participating agencies are listed in Appendix two. We also examined how NSW Procurement supports the functions of the NSW Procurement Board within the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.

This audit assessed:

  • agency compliance with relevant procurement requirements for their use of consultants
  • agency compliance with disclosure requirements about consultancy expenditure in their annual reports 
  • the effectiveness of the NSW Procurement Board (the Board) in fulfilling its functions to oversee and support agency procurement of consultancy services. 
Conclusion
No participating agency materially complied with procurement requirements when engaging consultancy services. Eight participating agencies under reported consultant fees in their annual reports. The NSW Procurement Board is not fully effective in overseeing and supporting agencies' procurement of consultancy services.
All 12 agencies that we examined did not materially comply with the NSW Procurement Board Direction for the use of consultants between 1 July 2016 and 31 March 2018. 
Eight agencies did not comply with annual reporting requirements in the 2016–17 financial reporting year. Three agencies did not report expenditure on consultants that had been capitalised as part of asset costs, and one agency did not disclose consultancy fees incurred by its subsidiaries. Agencies also defined ‘consultants’ inconsistently.
The NSW Procurement Board's Direction was revised in January 2018, and mandates the use of the Standard Commercial Framework. The Direction aims to drive value for money, reduce administrative costs and simplify the procurement process. In practice, agencies found the Framework challenging to use. To better achieve the Direction’s intent, the Board needs to simplify procurement and compliance processes. 
The Board is yet to publish any statistics or analysis of agencies’ procurement of business advisory services due to issues with the quality of data and systems limitations. Also, the Board’s oversight of agency and supplier compliance with the Framework is limited as it relies on self reporting, and the information provided is insufficient to properly monitor compliance. NSW Procurement is yet to develop an effective procurement and business intelligence system for use by government agencies. Better procurement support, benefit realisation monitoring and reporting by NSW Procurement will help promote value for money in the engagement of consultants.

Published

Actions for Regional Assistance Programs

Regional Assistance Programs

Premier and Cabinet
Planning
Transport
Compliance
Infrastructure
Management and administration
Project management

Infrastructure NSW effectively manages how grant applications for regional assistance programs are assessed and recommended for funding. Its contract management processes are also effective. However, we are unable to conclude whether the objectives of these programs have been achieved as the relevant agencies have not yet measured their benefits, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford. 

In 2011, the NSW Government established Restart NSW to fund new infrastructure with the proceeds from the sale and lease of government assets. From 2011 to 2017, the NSW Government allocated $1.7 billion from the fund for infrastructure in regional areas, with an additional commitment of $1.3 billion to be allocated by 2021. The NSW Government allocates these funds through regional assistance programs such as Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads. NSW councils are the primary recipients of funding provided under these programs.

The NSW Government announced the Resources for Regions program in 2012 with the aim of addressing infrastructure constraints in mining affected communities. Infrastructure NSW administers the program, with support from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The NSW Government announced the Fixing Country Roads program in 2014 with the aim of building more efficient road freight networks. Transport for NSW and Infrastructure NSW jointly administer this program, which funds local councils to deliver projects that help connect local and regional roads to state highways and freight hubs.

This audit assessed whether these two programs (Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads) were being effectively managed and achieved their objectives. In making this assessment, we answered the following questions:

  • How well are the relevant agencies managing the assessment and recommendation process?
  • How do the relevant agencies ensure that funded projects are being delivered?
  • Do the funded projects meet program and project objectives?

The audit focussed on four rounds of Resources for Regions funding between 2013–14 to 2015–16, as well as the first two rounds of Fixing Country Roads funding in 2014–15 and 2015–16.

Conclusion
Infrastructure NSW effectively manages how grant applications are assessed and recommended for funding. Infrastructure NSW’s contract management processes are also effective. However, we are unable to conclude on whether program objectives are being achieved as Infrastructure NSW has not yet measured program benefits.
While Infrastructure NSW and Transport for NSW managed the assessment processes effectively overall, they have not fully maintained all required documentation, such as conflict of interest registers. Keeping accurate records is important to support transparency and accountability to the public about funding allocation. The relevant agencies have taken steps to address this in the current funding rounds for both programs.
For both programs assessed, the relevant agencies have developed good strategies over time to support councils through the application process. These strategies include workshops, briefings and feedback for unsuccessful applicants. Transport for NSW and the Department of Premier and Cabinet have implemented effective tools to assist applicants in demonstrating the economic impact of their projects.
Infrastructure NSW is effective in identifying projects that are 'at‑risk' and assists in bringing them back on track. Infrastructure NSW has a risk‑based methodology to verify payment claims, which includes elements of good practice in grants administration. For example, it requires grant recipients to provide photos and engages Public Works Advisory to review progress claims and visit project sites.
Infrastructure NSW collects project completion reports for all Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads funded projects. Infrastructure NSW intends to assess benefits for both programs once each project in a funding round is completed. To date, no funding round has been completed. As a result, no benefits assessment has been done for any completed project funded in either program.
 

The project selection criteria are consistent with the program objectives set by the NSW Government, and the RIAP applied the criteria consistently. Probity and record keeping practices did not fully comply with the probity plans.

The assessment methodology designed by Infrastructure NSW is consistent with2 the program objectives and criteria. In the rounds that we reviewed, all funded projects met the assessment criteria.

Infrastructure NSW developed probity plans for both programs which provided guidance on the record keeping required to maintain an audit trail, including the use of conflict of interest registers. Infrastructure NSW and Transport for NSW did not fully comply with these requirements. The relevant agencies have taken steps to address this in the current funding rounds for both programs.

NSW Procurement Board Directions require agencies to ensure that they do not engage a probity advisor that is engaged elsewhere in the agency. Infrastructure NSW has not fully complied with this requirement. A conflict of interest arose when Infrastructure NSW engaged the same consultancy to act as its internal auditor and probity advisor.

While these infringements of probity arrangements are unlikely to have had a major impact on the assessment process, they weaken the transparency and accountability of the process.

Some councils have identified resourcing and capability issues which impact on their ability to participate in the application process. For both programs, the relevant agencies conducted briefings and webinars with applicants to provide advice on the objectives of the programs and how to improve the quality of their applications. Additionally, Transport for NSW and the Department of Premier and Cabinet have developed tools to assist councils to demonstrate the economic impact of their applications.

The relevant agencies provided feedback on unsuccessful applications to councils. Councils reported that the quality of this feedback has improved over time.

Recommendations

  1. By June 2018, Infrastructure NSW should:
    • ensure probity reports address whether all elements of the probity plan have been effectively implemented.
  1. By June 2018, Infrastructure NSW and Transport for NSW should:
    • maintain and store all documentation regarding assessment and probity matters according to the State Records Act 1998, the NSW Standard on Records Management and the relevant probity plans

Infrastructure NSW is responsible for overseeing and monitoring projects funded under Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads. Infrastructure NSW effectively manages projects to keep them on track, however it could do more to assure itself that all recipients have complied with funding deeds. Benefits and outcomes should also start to be measured and reported as soon as practicable after projects are completed to inform assessment of future projects.

Infrastructure NSW identifies projects experiencing unreasonable delays or higher than expected expenses as 'at‑risk'. After Infrastructure NSW identifies a project as 'at‑risk', it puts in place processes to resolve issues to bring them back on track. Infrastructure NSW, working with Public Works Advisory regional offices, employs a risk‑based approach to validate payment claims, however this process should be strengthened. Infrastructure NSW would get better assurance by also conducting annual audits of compliance with the funding deed for a random sample of projects.

Infrastructure NSW collects project completion reports for all Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads funded projects. It applies the Infrastructure Investor Assurance Framework to Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads at a program level. This means that each round of funding (under both programs) is treated as a distinct program for the purposes of benefits realisation. It plans to assess whether benefits have been realised once each project in a funding round is completed. As a result, no benefits realisation assessment has been done for any project funded under either Resources for Regions or Fixing Country Roads. Without project‑level benefits realisation, future decisions are not informed by the lessons from previous investments.

Recommendations

  1. By December 2018, Infrastructure NSW should:
    • conduct annual audits of compliance with the funding deed for a random sample of projects funded under Resources for Regions and Fixing Country Roads
    • publish the circumstances under which unspent funds can be allocated to changes in project scope
    • measure benefits delivered by projects that were completed before December 2017
    • implement an annual process to measure benefits for projects completed after December 2017
  1. By December 2018, Transport for NSW and Infrastructure NSW should:
    • incorporate a benefits realisation framework as part of the detailed application.

Published

Actions for Managing risks in the NSW public sector: risk culture and capability

Managing risks in the NSW public sector: risk culture and capability

Finance
Health
Justice
Treasury
Internal controls and governance
Management and administration
Risk
Workforce and capability

The Ministry of Health, NSW Fair Trading, NSW Police Force, and NSW Treasury Corporation are taking steps to strengthen their risk culture, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford. 'Senior management communicates the importance of managing risk to their staff, and there are many examples of risk management being integrated into daily activities', the Auditor-General said.

We did find that three of the agencies we examined could strengthen their culture so that all employees feel comfortable speaking openly about risks. To support innovation, senior management could also do better at communicating to their staff the levels of risk they are willing to accept.

Effective risk management is essential to good governance, and supports staff at all levels to make informed judgements and decisions. At a time when government is encouraging innovation and exploring new service delivery models, effective risk management is about seizing opportunities as well as managing threats.

Over the past decade, governments and regulators around the world have increasingly turned their attention to risk culture. It is now widely accepted that organisational culture is a key element of risk management because it influences how people recognise and engage with risk. Neglecting this ‘soft’ side of risk management can prevent institutions from managing risks that threaten their success and lead to missed opportunities for change, improvement or innovation.

This audit assessed how effectively NSW Government agencies are building risk management capabilities and embedding a sound risk culture throughout their organisations. To do this we examined whether:

  • agencies can demonstrate that senior management is committed to risk management
  • information about risk is communicated effectively throughout agencies
  • agencies are building risk management capabilities.

The audit examined four agencies: the Ministry of Health, the NSW Fair Trading function within the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, NSW Police Force and NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp). NSW Treasury was also included as the agency responsible for the NSW Government's risk management framework.

Conclusion
All four agencies examined in the audit are taking steps to strengthen their risk culture. In these agencies, senior management communicates the importance of managing risk to their staff. They have risk management policies and funded central functions to oversee risk management. We also found many examples of risk management being integrated into daily activities.
That said, three of the four case study agencies could do more to understand their existing risk culture. As good practice, agencies should monitor their employees’ attitude to risk. Without a clear understanding of how employees identify and engage with risk, it is difficult to tell whether the 'tone' set by the executive and management is aligned with employee behaviours.
Our survey of risk culture found that three agencies could strengthen a culture of open communication, so that all employees feel comfortable speaking openly about risks. To support innovation, senior management could also do better at communicating to their staff the levels of risk they are willing to accept.
Some agencies are performing better than others in building their risk capabilities. Three case study agencies have reviewed the risk-related skills and knowledge of their workforce, but only one agency has addressed the gaps the review identified. In three agencies, staff also need more practical guidance on how to manage risks that are relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities.
NSW Treasury provides agencies with direction and guidance on risk management through policy and guidelines. Its principles-based approach to risk management is consistent with better practice. Nevertheless, there is scope for NSW Treasury to develop additional practical guidance and tools to support a better risk culture in the NSW public sector. NSW Treasury should encourage agency heads to form a view on the current risk culture in their agencies, identify desirable changes to that risk culture, and take steps to address those changes. 

In assessing an agency’s risk culture, we focused on four key areas:

Executive sponsorship (tone at the top)

In the four agencies we reviewed, senior management is communicating the importance of managing risk. They have endorsed risk management frameworks and funded central functions tasked with overseeing risk management within their agencies.

That said, we found that three case study agencies do not measure their existing risk culture. Without clear measures of how employees identify and engage with risk, it is difficult for agencies to tell whether employee's behaviours are aligned with the 'tone' set by the executive and management.

For example, in some agencies we examined we found a disconnect between risk tolerances espoused by senior management and how these concepts were understood by staff.

Employee perceptions of risk management

Our survey of staff indicated that while senior leaders have communicated the importance of managing risk, more could be done to strengthen a culture of open communication so that all employees feel comfortable speaking openly about risks. We found that senior management could better communicate to their staff the levels of risk they should be willing to accept.

Integration of risk management into daily activities and links to decision-making

We found examples of risk management being integrated into daily activities. On the other hand, we also identified areas where risk management deviated from good practice. For example, we found that corporate risk registers are not consistently used as a tool to support decision-making.

Support and guidance to help staff manage risks

Most case study agencies are monitoring risk-related skills and knowledge of their workforce, but only one agency has addressed the gaps it identified. While agencies are providing risk management training, surveyed staff in three case study agencies reported that risk management training is not adequate.

NSW Treasury provides agencies with direction and guidance on risk management through policy and guidelines. In line with better practice, NSW Treasury's principles-based policy acknowledges that individual agencies are in a better position to understand their own risks and design risk management frameworks that address those risks. Nevertheless, there is scope for NSW Treasury to refine its guidance material to support a better risk culture in the NSW public sector.

Recommendation

By May 2019, NSW Treasury should:

  • Review the scope of its risk management guidance, and identify additional guidance, training or activities to improve risk culture across the NSW public sector. This should focus on encouraging agency heads to form a view on the current risk culture in their agencies, identify desirable changes to that risk culture, and take steps to address those changes.

Published

Actions for Central Agencies 2017

Central Agencies 2017

Finance
Premier and Cabinet
Asset valuation
Compliance
Financial reporting
Fraud
Information technology
Internal controls and governance
Project management

This report highlights the results of the financial audits of NSW Government central agencies. The report focuses on key observations and findings from the most recent financial statement audits of agencies in the Treasury, Premier and Cabinet, and Finance, Services and Innovation clusters.

The report includes a range of findings in respect to service delivery. One repeat finding is that while the Government regularly reports on the 12 Premier's priorities, there is no comprehensive reporting on the 18 State priorities. 

1. Financial reporting and controls

Audit Opinions Unqualified audit opinions were issued for all agencies' 30 June 2017 financial statements.
Early close Early close procedures continue to facilitate the timely preparation of financial statements and completion of audits, but agencies can make further improvement.
Deficient user administration access User access administration over financial systems remains an area of weakness. Agencies need to strengthen user access administration to critical systems.
Transitioning to outsourced service providers Transitioning of services to outsourced service providers can be improved. Outsourcing services can lead to better outcomes, which may include lower transaction costs and improved services, but it also introduces new risks.

2. Service delivery

Premier and State Priorities   A comprehensive report of performance against the 18 State Priorities is yet to be published. While some measures are publicly reported through agency annual reports or other sources, a comprehensive report of performance against the 18 State Priorities would ensure all State Priorities are publicly reported, provide a single and easily accessible source of reference and improve transparency.
ICT and digital government The Digital Government Strategy was released in May 2017. Targets will need to be set to assess and monitor progress against the Strategy.
Digital information security Not all agencies are complying with the NSW Government's information security policy. This increases the risk of noncompliance with legislation, information security breaches and difficulty restoring data or maintaining business continuity in the event of a disaster or disruption.
Property and asset utilisation Property NSW's performance reporting would be enhanced by developing and reporting on customer satisfaction, reporting against set targets and benchmarking cost of service to the private sector.

3. Government financial services

Prudential oversight
of NSW Government superannuation
funds  
Prudential oversight of SAS Trustee Corporation Pooled Fund and Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Fund has not been prescribed. Structured and comprehensive prudential oversight of these funds remains important as they operate in a specialised, complex and continuously changing investment market sector, have over 106,000 members and manage investments in excess of $42.4 billion.
Green slip scheme affordability Currently, Green Slips in NSW are the most expensive in Australia. However, CTP reforms are expected to reduce the cost of Green Slips.

This report sets out the results of the 30 June 2017 financial statement audits of NSW Government's central agencies and their cluster agencies.

Central agencies play a key role in ensuring policy coordination, good administrative and people management practices and prudent fiscal management. The central agencies and their key responsibilities are set out below.

Confidence in public sector decision‑making and transparency is enhanced when financial reporting is accurate and timely. Appropriate financial controls help ensure the efficient and effective use of resources and administration of agency policies. This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions or recommendations related to financial reporting and controls of agencies for 2016–17.

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
2.1 Quality of financial reporting
Unqualified audit opinions were issued for all agency financial statements. The quality of financial reporting continues to remain strong across the clusters.
2.2 Timeliness of financial reporting
Most agencies complied with the statutory timeframes for completion of early close procedures and preparation and audit of financial statements. Early close procedures continue to facilitate the timely preparation of financial statements and completion of audits, but agencies can make further improvement.
2.3 Financial performance and sustainability
We assessed the performance of agencies listed in Appendix six against some key financial sustainability indicators. This highlighted two agencies with negative operating margins of more than ten per cent and one agency with a liquidity ratio of less than 0.5. These agencies have strategies in place to remain financially sustainability and manage their liquidity. Our analysis found that, overall, the agencies are not at high risk of sustainability concerns.
2.4 Internal Controls

User access administration over financial systems remains an area of weakness. Sixteen moderate risk and ten low risk issues related to user access administration across eight agencies were identified. 

Recommendation: Agencies should review user access administration to critical systems to ensure:

  • policies for user access creation, modification and deactivation are documented
  • approval is being obtained to establish, modify or delete user accounts
  • regular user access reviews are performed and highly privileged user account activity is logged and monitored
  • evidence of review is maintained.

Transitioning of services to outsourced service providers can be improved. Our 2016–17 audits identified one high risk issue relating to Property NSW's outsourcing of property and facility management services to the private sector.

While a high risk issue was identified in 2015–16 from the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation's outsourcing of transactional and information technology services to GovConnect there has been an improvement in GovConnect's internal control environment throughout
2016–17.

Outsourcing services can lead to better outcomes, which may include lower transaction costs and improved services, but it also introduces new risks. The transition needs to be carefully managed and requires thorough planning and effective project governance. This should be supported by oversight and direction from senior management and independent project assurance.
2.5 Human Resources    
The percentage of full‑time equivalent staff with annual leave greater than 30 days in the Finance, Services and Innovation, Premier and Cabinet and the Treasury clusters is 7.9 per cent, 17.1 per cent and 18.4 per cent respectively. Agencies have strategies in place to reduce annual leave balances that are greater than 30 days. The effectiveness of these strategies will need to be monitored to ensure they are helping to achieve the desired outcome.

This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions and recommendations relating to service delivery for 2016–17. 

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
3.1 Premier and State priorities

The Department of Premier and Cabinet monitors the achievement of targets and the implementation of initiatives to deliver the 12 Premier’s Priorities.

Responsible ministers and agencies manage the 18 State Priorities. A comprehensive report of performance against the 18 State Priorities is yet to be published.

While some measures are publicly reported through agency annual reports or other sources, a comprehensive report of performance against the 18 State Priorities would ensure all State Priorities are publicly reported, provide a single and easily accessible source of reference and improve transparency.
Where possible, independent sources are used to measure performance, however without independent assurance there is an increased risk that the target measures are inaccurate, not relevant or do not fairly represent actual performance.

Performance against the State Priority to make NSW the easiest state to start a business is not currently published.

A key aspect of making NSW the easiest state to start a business is making regulatory obligations easier to understand and implement.

Initiatives, such as easy to do business and red tape reduction are in place to help achieve this priority.

The regulatory policy framework is under review following an October 2016 performance audit on ‘Red tape reduction’ that found the regulatory burden of legislation had increased.
3.2 Financial management
Revenue NSW earned record crown revenue of $30.0 billion in 2016–17 to support the state's finances. Record crown revenue has been driven by the sustained increase in duties revenue, which has increased by 93.7 per cent over the last five years. This is a consequence of the continued strength in the property market over this time and large one off NSW Government business asset sales and leases.
3.3 ICT and digital government
The Digital Government Strategy (the Strategy) was released in May 2017 to build on reforms set out in previous ICT strategies. The Strategy’s priorities and enablers aim to support digital innovation. Targets and measures will need to be set to assess and monitor progress against the Strategy.
The Digital Information Security Policy (DISP) is a key tool that helps ensure a minimum set of information security controls are implemented across NSW Government agencies.

A review of 2016 annual reports found 15 agencies (13 in 2015) did not attest to compliance with the DISP and of the agencies that attested to compliance, 34 reported issues associated with their compliance.

The Strategy’s priorities and enablers aim to support digital innovation. Targets and measures will need to be set to assess and monitor progress against the Strategy.

Failure to comply with the DISP increases the risk of noncompliance with legislation, information security breaches and difficulty restoring data or maintaining business continuity in the event of a disaster or disruption.

3.4 Property and asset utilisation

Property NSW's performance reporting could be
improved. M2012-20 'Government Property NSW
and Government Property Principles' required
Property NSW to set key performance indicators
to measure property and asset utilisation
performance.
 

Property NSW's performance reporting would be enhanced by developing and reporting on customer satisfaction, reporting against set targets and benchmarking cost of service to the private sector.

This chapter outlines our audit observations, conclusions and recommendations specific to NSW Government agencies providing financial services.

Observation Conclusion or recommendation
4.1 Key issues

The SAS Trustee Corporation (STC) Pooled Fund and the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation (PCS) Fund are not required to comply with the prudential and reporting standards issued by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). Amendments to relevant legislation allows the Minister for Finance, Services and Property to prescribe applicable prudential standards and audit requirements.

Structured and comprehensive prudential oversight of these funds remains important as they operate in a specialised, complex and continuously changing investment market sector, have over 106,000 members and manage investments of more than $42.4 billion.

Recommendation: The Treasury should liaise with
the respective Trustees to implement appropriate
prudential standards and oversight arrangements for
the exempt public sector superannuation funds.

Currently, Green Slips in NSW are the most expensive in Australia. Average premiums for Sydney Metropolitan vehicles increased by 10.4 per cent between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2016.

CTP reforms are expected to reduce the cost of Green Slips. The State Insurance Regulatory Authority will need to ensure it has appropriate processes in place to track and report against the expected benefits.
4.2 Financial performance and sustainability
Net unfunded superannuation liabilities were $15.0 billion at 30 June 2017.

Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012, the NSW Government’s target is to eliminate unfunded superannuation liabilities by 2030.
The superannuation funds’ strategic asset allocation and investment strategies are monitored and adjusted to help achieve a fully funded position by 2030.
The Home Warranty Scheme commenced in 2011. Over this time total premiums collected have not been sufficient to cover expected claim costs. Funding arrangements introduced during 2016–17 allow the Home Building Compensation Fund to apply to the Crown for reimbursement of unfunded realised losses from under-pricing of premiums.

Other reforms are planned to address the long term sustainability of the home building compensation scheme.
4.3 Investment performance
The NSW Government’s main superannuation funds have maintained the management expense ratio (MER) at consistent levels over the past two years. The Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation (PCS) Fund does not set an MER target. MER is an industry recognised ratio to measure the performance of funds and investment managers.

Recommendation: The Fund Secretary for the PCS Fund, in conjunction with the Trustee, should consider establishing an appropriate management expense ratio target to measure performance.

Published

Actions for State Finances 2017

State Finances 2017

Finance
Health
Industry
Justice
Local Government
Planning
Premier and Cabinet
Treasury
Universities
Whole of Government
Environment
Asset valuation
Financial reporting
Information technology
Internal controls and governance

Total State Sector Accounts received an unqualified audit opinion for the fifth consecutive year.

There was a $5.7 billion State budget surplus and continued investment in new infrastructure, in part funded by the long-term leases of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets. This report also comments on key accounting matters, including the correction of some previously reported balances and the first time reporting of combined Cabinet members’ compensation in the Total State Sector Accounts.

Pursuant to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, I present my Report on State Finances 2017.

You will note that the format of this report has changed from previous years.

The intent of this change is to draw attention to the key matters that have been the focus of our audit and highlight significant factors that have contributed to the outcome.

First, it is pleasing to report once again that I issued a clear audit opinion on the State’s consolidated financial statements. This outcome demonstrates the Government’s continued focus on the quality of financial reporting across the NSW public sector.

High quality financial management and reporting are crucial to properly inform the public and build community confidence in our system of government.

The Treasury’s Financial Management Transformation program also aims to improve financial governance, budgeting and reporting arrangements across the sector. My Office is working collaboratively with The Treasury on reforms to reduce the burden of reporting, without weakening established safeguards.

The reforms should include measures to provide independent assurance of the budget process, of outcome reporting by agencies, and the power to “follow the dollar” given the increasing use of non-government organisations to deliver Government programs.

This Report also highlights another year of strong financial performance. The State’s budget result was a $5.7 billion surplus, and investment in new infrastructure has continued, in part funded by the long-term leases of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets.

Finally, could I take this opportunity to thank the staff of The Treasury for the way they approached this audit. Our partnership is critical to ensuring NSW is an exemplar of quality financial management and reporting.

02_Margaret_signature.jpg

Margaret Crawford 
24 October 2017

A clear audit opinion on the State’s consolidated financial statements was issued.

Timely and accurate financial reporting is essential for informed decision making, effective management of public funds and enhancing public accountability.

This year’s clear audit opinion reflects the Government’s continued efforts to improve the quality of financial reporting across the NSW public sector.

Since the introduction of ‘early close procedures’ in 2011-12, the number of significant errors in financial statements of agencies has generally fallen largely due to identifying and resolving complex accounting issues early. Agencies’ 2016-17 financial statements submitted for audit contained nine errors exceeding $20 million. All errors were subsequently corrected in the individual agencies financial statements.

Agencies should continue to respond to key accounting issues as soon as they are identified. Where issues are identified, accounting position papers should be prepared for consideration by the Audit Office, their Audit and Risk Committee members, and when relevant, The Treasury.

The State addressed the following key accounting matters during 2016-17. 

The State recognised rail tunnels and earthworks valued at $8.5 billion.

Some rail tunnels and earthworks have never been valued by the State. These include the City Circle, the country rail network and other tunnels and earthworks built before the year 2000. Some of these tunnels and earthworks date back to the early 1900s.

For many years, the State did not account for these assets as they believed that their value could not be reliably measured. This year an independent valuer was engaged to perform a comprehensive valuation. The methodology used demonstrated
that the assets could have been reflected in the financial statements earlier.

The State recorded an additional $8.5 billion to correct the value of infrastructure assets at 1 July 2016.

Cabinet member’s compensation and related party transactions were reviewed.

Due to changes in Accounting Standards, the State had to consider 'related party information' in the financial statements. Previously this only applied to for-profit entities.

This year, requirements to report related party information extended to members of Cabinet, considered to be “key management personnel” of the State, as defined by Accounting Standards.

The Treasury implemented a process to assess and report Cabinet member’s compensation, and transactions between Cabinet members and/or their close family members, and government agencies.

Collectively, Cabinet members’ remuneration was $8.8 million, which was mainly salaries and allowances, and $3.5 million of non-monetary benefits such as security and drivers. The Treasury determined there were no other specific “related party” transactions or balances that required disclosure in the State’s financial statements.

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 sales of goods and services.

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 expected to be in place for the 2018 enrolment period.

Restatements relating to the General Government Sector's investment in the commercial sector.

The State corrected two previously reported balances relating to the General Government Sector’s investment in the commercial sector.

Accounting Standards require the General Government Sector to effectively store gains or losses related to its investment in the commercial sector in reserves until the investment is derecognised.

When these investments are disposed of, the cumulative gains and losses must be cleared and recognised in the operating result. However, the Government had previously cleared the cumulative gains and losses directly to Accumulated Funds within equity.

To comply with Accounting Standards, a total of $6 billion previously reported as a movement in equity  at 30 June 2016, has now been corrected to the operating result.

In addition, Accounting Standards only allow gains or losses on its investments to be stored in reserves. In past years, the State recognised all changes in the value of its investment in Available for Sale Reserves, including the capital contributed to establish the State’s investment. In 2016-17, a total of $23.4 billion of contributed capital was corrected to accumulated funds at 1 July 2015.

The State’s budget result was a $5.7 billion surplus, $2.0 billion higher than the budget estimate.

The Total State Sector comprises 310 entities controlled by the NSW Government.

Of the total, the General Government Sector comprises 215 entities that provide goods and services not directly paid for by consumers.

The non-General Government Sector comprises 95 Government businesses that provide goods and services such as water and electricity, or financial services.

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

The State has recorded budget surpluses and exceeded the original budget result in nine of the last ten years.

The State maintained its AAA credit rating.

The object of the Act is to maintain the AAA credit rating.

NSW’s finances are managed in alignment with the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012 (the Act).

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

The purpose of maintaining the AAA credit rating is to reduce the cost of, and ensure the broadest access to, borrowings.

A triple-A credit rating also helps maintain business and consumer confidence so economic activity and employment are sustained. The legislation sets out targets and principles for financial management to achieve this.

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

The fiscal targets for achieving this objective are:

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

General Government expenditure growth was 4.2 per cent in 2016-17, below the long-term revenue growth of 5.6 per cent.

Eliminating unfunded superannuation liabilities by 2030.

The Act sets a target of eliminating unfunded defined benefit superannuation liabilities by 2030. The State’s net superannuation liability was $58.6 billion at 30 June 2017 ($71.2 billion at 30 June 2016).

The Government predicts the 2030 target will be achieved. 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 2016-17, the State made employer contributions of $1.5 billion, which is largely consistent with contributions over the past five years.

The liability values in the graph below do not reflect the values recorded in the Total State Sector Accounts. For financial reporting purposes, Accounting Standards (AASB 119 Employee Benefits) require the State to discount its superannuation liability using the government bond rate (refer to page 10 of this report). 

The relevant government bond rate in the current economic climate is 2.62 per cent.

The State’s target for the unfunded superannuation liability is measured using AASB 1056 Superannuation Entities. This is because it adopts a measurement basis that reflects expected earnings on fund assets, which are currently between 5.9 and 7.4 per cent. Using these rates, the liability is $15.0 billion at 30 June 2017 ($16.1 billion at 30 June 2016). The unfunded liability is $2.4 billion less than when the Act was introduced.

The State’s assets grew by $31.6 billion during 2016-17 to $409 billion.

Valuing the State’s physical assets.

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

The State has $307.2 billion of physical assets measured at fair value in accordance with Australian Accounting Standards. Fair value calculations are inherently complex and sensitive to assumptions and estimates, increasing the risk these assets are incorrectly valued.

In our audits, we assess the reasonableness and appropriateness of assumptions used in valuing physical assets. This includes obtaining an understanding of the valuation methodologies applied and judgements made. We also review the completeness of asset registers, and the mathematical accuracy of valuation models.

Net movements between years includes additions, disposals, depreciation and valuations. This year, valuations of physical assets added $16.2 billion to the State’s assets, comprising: 

  • Transport for NSW and Railcorp $8.5 billion

  • New South Wales Land and Housing Corporation $4.8 billion

  • Roads and Maritime Services $930 million

  • Crown Entity $400 million.    

The State’s financial assets increased $27.5 billion in 2016-17

The State’s financial assets have increased by 88 per cent over the past four years. In 2016-17, financial assets increased primarily due to proceeds from the sale of government assets and businesses.

The Government implemented reforms to better use the State’s financial assets. A key element was the creation of an Asset and Liability Committee (ALCO) to provide advice on ways to improve balance sheet management.

Since the creation of the ALCO, reforms include:

  • Establishment of the New South Wales Infrastructure Future Fund (NIFF). The net proceeds from the State’s asset recycling program are invested into the NIFF, which is managed by TCorp, with a balance of $14.6 billion by 30 June 2017. Funds raised are invested through the NIFF until the Government requires them for critical infrastructure projects that are part of the Restart NSW and Rebuilding NSW program of works. ALCO and TCorp provide advice on the NIFF’s performance and management

  • Establishment of the Social and Affordable Housing Fund ($1.1 billion at 30 June 2017). ALCO oversees the Fund to ensure an appropriate investment approach that will maintain funding certainty for new social and affordable housing stock

  • Cash and liquidity management reforms to centralise cash previously held by agencies in the Treasury Banking System. This reform is designed to ensure agencies have adequate levels of liquidity but with surplus funds invested centrally for better returns.

The State’s liabilities decreased by $13.1 billion during 2016-17 to $182 billion.

Valuing the State’s liabilities relies on an actuarial assessment.

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

Valuation of these obligations is subject to complex estimation techniques and significant judgements. Small changes in assumptions can materially impact the financial statements.

We address the risk associated with auditing these balances:

  • using actuarial specialists

  • testing controls around underlying employee data used in data models, and testing the accuracy of the calculations

  • evaluating assumptions applied in calculating employee entitlements such as the discount rate and the probability of long service leave vesting conditions being met.

The State’s superannuation obligations reduced by $12.6 billion in 2016-17.

The State’s $58.6 billion superannuation liability represents obligations for past and present employees, less the value of assets set aside to meet those obligations. The superannuation liability decreased from $71.2 billion to $58.6 billion, largely due to an increase in the discount rate from 1.99 per cent to 2.62 per cent. This alone reduced the liability by $9.2 billion

The State’s borrowings totalled $70.6 billion at 30 June 2017.

The State’s borrowings totalled $70.6 billion at 30 June 2017, $9.5 billion less than the previous year. This was largely due to the repayment of borrowings when the assets of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy were leased to the private sector.

TCorp issues bonds to raise funds for NSW Government agencies. The bonds are actively traded in financial markets providing 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 is being restructured by replacing shorter-term debt with longer-term debt. This lengthens the portfolio to better match liabilities with the funding requirements of infrastructure assets and reduces refinancing risks. It also allows the Government to take advantage of the low interest rate environment.

The State recorded revenue of $83.5 billion in  2016-17, an increase of $5.3 billion from 2015-16.

The State’s results are underpinned by revenue growth in taxation, fees and fines.

Taxation, fees, fines and other revenue comprises $30.5 billion of taxation ($28.7 billion in 2015-16) and $5.3 billion of fees, fines and other revenue ($4.6 billion).

Tax revenue for the Total State Sector increased by $1.8 billion, or 6.4 per cent compared to 2015-16, primarily due to:

  • one-off business asset sales and lease transactions, including $718 million in transfer duty from the Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy lease transactions

  • $385 million increase in payroll tax from growth in NSW employment and average employee compensation

  • a $426 million increase in land taxes.

Growth in stamp duty is expected to slow over the next 4 years.

General Government Sector stamp duties have increased from $6.2 billion in 2012-13 to $11.5 billion in 2016-17, an annual average growth rate of 16.5 per cent. The Government’s budget forecasts the growth in stamp duties to decline, to an average annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent between 2016-17 and 2020-21.

The State received Commonwealth grants and subsidies of $30.8 billion in 2016-17.

The State received $30.8 billion from the Commonwealth Government in 2016-17, $1.6 billion more than in 2015-16. This was primarily due to transaction based asset recycling grants of $1.0 billion and a $720 million increase in national land transport grants. This increase was offset by a $435 million decrease in General Purpose Grants, which mainly comprises New South Wales’ share of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). 

The State spent $79.4 billion in 2016-17 to deliver services to the community, an increase of $3.9 billion from 2015-16.

Overall expenses increased 5.2 per cent from last year. Most of the increase was due to higher employee costs and operating costs.

Total salaries and wages increased by 4.2 per cent from 2015-16.

Total salaries and wages increased to $30 billion from $28.8 billion in 2015-16. The Government wages policy aims to limit the growth in remuneration and other employee costs to no more than 2.5 per cent per annum.

Operating expenses increased by 12.4 per cent from 2015-16.

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

  • reacquiring mining licenses worth $482 million and additional land remediation costs of $101 million

  • spending more on health including additional drug supplies relating to Hepatitis C.

State spend on transport and communications increased by 68.1 per cent since 2012-13.

While spending on health and education remain the largest functional areas provided by Government, expenditure on transport and communication increased, on average, by 13.9 per cent annually between 2012-13 and 2016-17. This increase reflects the Government’s investment in transport infrastructure such as the Sydney Metro and Westconnex. Over the same period, spending on health increased by $3.9 billion.

Expenditure on fuel and energy has decreased by an average of 44.7 per cent since 2012-13, reflecting the State’s leases of electricity network assets.

In 2011, the Government established Restart NSW to fund high priority infrastructure projects.

Restart NSW projects are primarily funded from the proceeds from the asset recycling program enabling Government to deliver new infrastructure investment.

Restart NSW provides funding for the delivery of Rebuilding NSW, which is the Government’s 10-year plan to invest $20 billion in new infrastructure.

The State finalised long-term leases of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy assets.

In June 2017, the Government finalised its long-term lease of 50.4 per cent of Endeavour Energy. This transaction follows on from the long-term leases of TransGrid in December 2015 and 50.4 per cent of Ausgrid in December 2016. Net proceeds of $15.0 billion were paid into Restart NSW relating to these transactions.

The Government also finalised an arrangement for the private sector to provide land titling and registry services to the public for 35 years. The State, through Restart NSW, received an upfront payment of $2.6 billion from the new operator.

Restart NSW is funding $29.8 billion of new infrastructure.

The Government has detailed its plan to invest $20 billion into the Rebuilding NSW plan from Restart NSW.

At 30 June 2017, around $2.9 billion has already been spent on Rebuilding NSW projects from Restart NSW, with a further $9 billion included in the budget aggregates. The Government has also earmarked a further $8.1 billion in Restart NSW for future projects.

The most significant project is the Sydney Metro. The Government has committed $7.0 billion from Restart NSW to build a 30-kilometre metro line, linking Sydney Metro Northwest at Chatswood, through new stations in the lower North Shore, the Sydney CBD and southwest to Bankstown. At 30 June 2017, $2.4 billion has been spent on this project from Restart NSW.

Other significant projects funded by Restart NSW include a $1.8 billion contribution to WestConnex and reserved funding of $1 billion towards the State’s Major Stadia Network program.

The Treasury initiated the Financial Management Transformation (FMT) program with the aim of changing and improving financial governance, budgeting and reporting arrangements of the New South Wales public sector.

FMT aims to deliver better outcomes for the people of New South Wales and focuses on transparency and accountability for expenditure, and better value for money.

New Financial Management System

PRIME is the Information Technology (IT) solution component of the FMT program, replacing several historical systems. PRIME will provide both financial and performance information within one IT platform for all agencies in the NSW public sector.

It is expected to give Government more timely information to plan and deliver its policy priorities and the budget.

Independent assurance over the budget process would improve confidence in the reliability of the State’s financial information.