National auditor flags focus on ethics

Posted on 27 Sep 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

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Australia’s top federal grants watchdog will keep a keen nose out for unethical behaviour in future investigations, in the wake of a spate of grants controversies.

Grantmakers in all jurisdictions would be wise to heed the warning shot from the nation’s leading auditor.

Grant Hehir
Federal Auditor General Grant Hehir.

Federal Auditor General Grant Hehir, of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), said that over the next four years his office would “design and implement an appropriate audit framework against which to test ethics”.

This follows a series of high-profile critiques of grants funding in the past two years, including ANAO investigations into:

Writing in the ANAO’s latest annual report, the Auditor-General said, “The importance of ethics in the use of resources has been highlighted in several audits, particularly relating to procurement and grants administration.

“I believe that greater scrutiny in this area will help ensure that the public sector continues to look beyond technical compliance and focuses on operating in line with community expectations of integrity and honesty.”

Mr Hehir said public servants needed to be “efficient, effective, economical and ethical” in the way they used and managed public resources, as required under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) Act.

In the 42 performance audits in the past financial year, there had been “a continued emphasis on risk management and governance”, including in grants assessments, he said.

He said that “effective record keeping is essential to … support transparency and accountability for past decisions”, but there had been “a number of instances across the performance audit program where entities did not have effective record keeping practices”.

The ANAO would pay increased attention to record keeping in the future, he said.

More information

Full report: Read the ANAO's annual report 2020-2021

Grants scrutiny: What to do when the auditor comes knocking

Tasmania’s hardship grant audit holds lessons for all grantmakers

Commonwealth, states and territories flag more grants audits

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