Watchdog concerned over government secrecy

Better intelligence-gathering powers may be needed to ensure that a federal watchdog can do their job properly.

Auditor General Grant Hehir said in the Australian National Audit Office’s annual report that there were troubling trends towards increased government information secrecy.

“I have observed increasing complexities associated with auditing in a contestable environment, particularly the tendency for government and service provider information to be maintained not just as commercial confidentiality, but at increasingly higher security standards classification levels,” Hehir wrote in the report. released Thursday.

“More and more questions have been raised regarding the protection of personal information. Obstacles, or perceived barriers, to this access pose a challenge to the verification process. “

He said the role of the auditor will always focus on transparency and providing the information needed to help parliament accountable to the executive.

“Collecting enough and appropriate information efficiently – to draw substantive, accurate and evidence-based conclusions – is critical to our work,” he said.

“Preserving and updating the information-gathering powers of the Auditor General in the changing public service environment remains a key challenge for ANAO.”

Mr. Hehir pointed to cybersecurity “gaps” in ministries and government agencies, “value for money” procurement processes, and poor grant administration as key areas of ongoing concern.

“ANAO’s audit work has shown that advice to the government (on subsidies) has not always been valid, including insufficient attention to the authority of decision makers and poor record keeping in decision making. decision-making process without evaluation and justification of documented decisions “.

Mr. Hehir welcomed additional funding for his office in the 2021/22 budget, which would have enabled him to reach the goal of 48 management audits by 2024/25.

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