Report highlights: Planning, Industry and Environment 2021

What the report is about

The results of the Planning, Industry and Environment cluster agencies' financial statements audits for the year ended 30 June 2021.

What we found

Unmodified audit opinions were issued for all completed 30 June 2021 financial statements audits of cluster agencies. Three audits are ongoing.

An 'Other Matter' paragraph was included in the Independent Planning Commission's (the IPC) audit opinion because the prior year comparative figures were not audited. Prior to 2020–21, the IPC was not required to prepare separate financial statements under the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 (PF&A Act). The financial reporting provisions of the Government Sector Finance Act 2018 now require the IPC to prepare financial statements.

The number of identified misstatements increased from 51 in 2019–20 to 54 in 2020–21.

The 2010–11 to 2019–20 audits of the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation’s (the Corporation) financial statements are incomplete due to insufficient records and evidence to support the transactions of the Corporation, particularly for the earlier years. Management has commenced actions to improve the governance and financial management of the Corporation. These audits are currently in progress and the 2020–21 audit will commence shortly.

There are 609 State controlled Crown land managers (CLMs) across New South Wales that predominantly manage small parcels of Crown land.

Eight CLMs prepared and submitted 2019–20 financial statements by the revised deadline of 30 June 2021. A further 24 CLMs did not prepare financial statements in accordance with the PF&A Act. The remaining CLMs were not required to prepare 2019–20 financial statements as they met NSW Treasury's financial reporting exemption criteria.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment's (the department) preliminary assessment indicates that 60 CLMs are required to prepare financial statements in 2020–21. To date, no CLMs have prepared and submitted financial statements for audit in 2020–21.

There are also 120 common trusts that have never submitted financial statements for audit. Common trusts are responsible for the care, control and management of land that has been set aside for specific use in a certain locality, such as grazing, camping or bushwalking.

What the key issues were

The number of matters we reported to management increased from 135 in 2019–20 to 180 in 2020–21, of which 40 per cent were repeat findings.

Seven high-risk issues were identified in 2020–21:

  • system control deficiencies at the department relating to user access to HR and payroll management systems, vendor master data management and journal processing, which require manual reviews to mitigate risks
  • deficiencies related to the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust's tree assets valuation methodology
  • the Lord Howe Island Board did not regularly review and monitor privileged user access rights to key information systems
  • the Natural Resources Access Regulator identified and adjusted three prior period errors retrospectively, which indicate deficiencies within the financial reporting processes
  • deficiencies relating to the Parramatta Park Trust's tree assets valuation methodology
  • lease arrangements have not been confirmed between the Planning Ministerial Corporation and Office of Sport regarding the Sydney International Regatta Centre
  • the Wentworth Park Sporting Complex Land Manager (the Land Manager) has a $6.5 million loan with Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW). GRNSW requested the Land Manager to repay the loan. However, the Land Manager subsequently requested GRNSW to convert the loan to a grant. Should this request be denied, the Land Manager would not be able to continue as a going concern without financial support. This matter remains unresolved for many years.

There continues to be significant deficiencies in Crown land records. The department uses the Crown Land Information Database (CLID) to record key information relating to Crown land in New South Wales that are managed and controlled by the department and Land Managers (including councils and land managers controlled by the state). The CLID system was not designed to facilitate financial reporting and the department is required to conduct extensive adjustments and reconciliations to produce accurate information for the financial statements.

The department is implementing a new system to record Crown land (the CrownTracker project). The department advised that the project completion date will be confirmed by June 2022.

What we recommended

The department should ensure CLMs and common trusts meet their statutory reporting obligations.

Cluster agencies should prioritise and action recommendations to address internal control deficiencies, with a focus on addressing high-risk and repeat issues.

The department should prioritise action to ensure the Crown land database is complete and accurate. This will allow the department and CLMs to be better informed about the Crown land they control.

Fast facts

The Planning, Industry and Environment cluster aims to make the lives of people in New South Wales better by developing well-connected communities, preserving the environment, supporting industries and contributing to a strong economy.

There are 54 agencies, 609 State controlled Crown land managers that predominantly manage small parcels of Crown land and 120 common trusts in the cluster.

  • 42% of the area of NSW is Crown land
  • $33.2b water and electricity infrastructure as at 30 June 2021
  • 100% unqualified audit opinions were issued for all completed 30 June 2021 financial statements audits
  • 7 high-risk management letter findings were identified
  • 54 monetary misstatements were reported in 2020–21
  • 40% of reported issues were repeat issues

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.