4.171 In February 1997, the Department of Treasury and Finance recommended to the Minister for Finance that surplus government-owned office buildings within the central business district should be sold, with core government-owned offices refurbished and fully utilised in accordance with the City Precinct Office Accommodation Strategy. While the said property was considered for possible refurbishment and occupancy by government tenants, given the high capital cost of a refurbishment and the availability of alternative good quality leased office accommodation within the central business district, such action could not be justified and was therefore not supported by the Department. 4.172 Due to the planned vacation of the property by the end of June 1997, the suitability of the property for residential conversion or office use, and the declaration of the property as surplus to government operational requirements, in February 1997, the Minister for Finance approved the sale of the site by public tender, with vacant possession. To facilitate the sale, in June 1997 the Valuer-General provided a valuation of the property at $3.75 million, which was consistent with an estimate of $3.7 million provided by an independent valuer at that time.
The Public Sector Commission (the Commission) welcomes the review and agrees with the recommendations in the Auditor General’s report. Discussions have been held with the provider of the WA Government eRecruitment system and the Commission will act on the recommendations as a matter of priority to further improve the contract and the service provided. The Commission considers its contract with the provider of the WA Government eRecruitment system to be in the most part robust. The process undertaken for the new contract was complex, detailed and in accordance with the Government procurement guidelines. It resulted in a solution that meets requirements within budget and represents value for money. Due diligence in the areas of contract management and technical security was undertaken in accordance with the established procurement and legal framework. Appropriate expertise was utilised in this process.
The Commission acknowledges the Auditor General’s findings and accepts that some improvement can be made to its existing record keeping practices to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos. The Commission controls 198 properties of which 126 are houses leased from the Department of Housing for its residents with the balance comprising owned properties and leased office accommodation. Twenty two of the houses contain asbestos material in low risk areas, e.g. roof gables, meter boxes and dividing fences. During this audit, the Commission engaged an asbestos consultant to update its asbestos management plan and asbestos register, and to provide a cost estimate for removing all asbestos containing material from its facilities. The process of removing asbestos from all Commission facilities has commenced and will be completed during 2015-16.
Educating our children is one of the state’s most important tasks. In 2015, 293 000 children were enrolled in about 770 state schools. Attending school regularly is critical for student success, and poor attendance can have lifelong consequences. Students who regularly miss school are at the greatest risk of broader disengagement, which can affect employment, welfare dependence and likelihood of committing a crime, and even increase the risk of suicide. Our 2009 report, Every Day Counts: Managing Student Attendance in Western Australian Public Schools showed that 28 per cent of students in Years 1-10 in 2008 were at educational risk because they did not attend school regularly. We found that the Department of Education (Department) did not have good attendance records, or a clear understanding of why students did not attend. We recommended that the Department should:
The Australian Standard on fraud and corruption control provides useful guidance for organisations on better practice for managing fraud and corruption risks. A key component of the Standard is developing a fraud and corruption control plan. The plan covers planning and resourcing; prevention; detection; and response. Federal Government agencies are required to refer to the Standard when developing fraud and corruption control plans. in 2012, the WA police raised concerns with the AuditorGeneral about the level of public sector fraud incidents, which indicated that agencies’ approaches to minimising fraud and corruption were not effective.
In discussions with database administrators at the seven agencies, we found it common for their accounts to be used for general user activity and not solely for administrative tasks. This means that agencies cannot attribute actions to specific individuals or hold them accountable. It is important to use database administrator accounts exclusively for administrative tasks with standard database accounts. Ensuring database administrators have unique and identifiable accounts will assist in auditing activities of databases. This is particularly helpful during investigations relating to an attempted, or successful intrusion. Furthermore, database administrator accounts should not be shared across different databases as this can increase the likelihood of a successful attack on multiple databases.
2.8 In some instances, the Home Office’s decisions about the contract had a negative impact on vulnerable residents. For example, as part of the new contract, it introduced a category of ‘significant performance failures’. These cover incidents of suicide and escape from detention or escort. They are rated as ‘critical’ and ‘very high’, with associated penalties of £30,000 and £10,000 should an incident occur. This is significantly higher than levels set in the previous contract. The new contract also requires that patients are taken to out-of-area hospitals with which Serco staff are not familiar. The Home Office has published guidance on the use of handcuffs when escorting women outside an IRC, for example to hospital. It states that there is a presumption against the use of handcuffs during visits to outside facilities, and any use should be following an individual risk assessment. Serco updated its risk assessment for hospital visits in October 2015 to take account of the contractual changes. Although no one has ever absconded on a hospital visit from Yarl’s Wood, Serco told us that it is now more likely to use handcuffs due to the combination of more risky hospital visits (to unknown hospitals) and the much higher penalty if a patient absconds. No patients were handcuffed in the first five months of the contract. In the 7 months after Serco updated its risk assessment in October 2015, 11% of women were handcuffed for hospital visits, compared to 3% of women from October 2014 to April 2015. In its 2015 Annual Report published in June 2016, the IMB recommended that the use of handcuffs for hospital visits should be investigated to ensure that efforts are made to limit its use, while addressing any security concerns. It also noted that some residents have refused to go to hospital visits as they find the practice of handcuffing humiliating.
In the exercise of my function as Comptroller and AuditorGeneral, I conducted my audit of the financial statements in accordance with International Standards on Auditing (UK and Ireland) issued by the Auditing Practices Board and by reference to the special considerations which attach to State bodies in relation to their management and operation. An audit includes examination, on a test basis, of evidence relevant to the amounts and disclosures and regularity of the financial transactions included in the financial statements. It also includes an assessment of the significant estimates and judgments made in the preparation of the financial statements, and of whether the accounting policies are appropriate to the Board’s circumstances, consistently applied and adequately disclosed.
3.10 Most costs of young people not being in employment, education or training do not fall on local authorities. However, central government departments with a financial interest in the success of care leavers lack the ability to provide effective local support. Incentives, such as a ‘payment by results’ system, need to reward improvement in medium- and long-term outcomes for care leavers and encourage innovation. For example, the Department for Education’s Youth Contract supported hard-to-reach 16- and 17-year-olds, including those who were, or had been, in care. An evaluation found the Youth Contract had helped some of these young people to participate in education or training for 5 out of 6 months. 24 Our recent report found that
information in the notes section. This notes section allows for unlimited text which can also be linked to another file, if the two cases are related, but the guardian must input the notes and link the case information. We believe it is a comprehensive system only if the data input is accurate and subsequent management reports are satisfactory. We could review the guardians’ progress in using the case management system in a detailed follow up. This review is important because it would give an independent report of the guardian’s fulfillment of statutory duties.
In September 2011, we abandoned our attempt to conduct the audit after the Board, acting on the instructions of operators ExxonMobil Canada Ltd. and EnCana Corporation, denied us access to most of the information needed to conduct the audit. The denial was based on our refusal to grant the operators control over disclosure of information in our Report to the House. The Board’s refusal to cooperate with the audit places it in direct contravention of the Nova Scotia AuditorGeneral Act.
Taxes receivable represent tax revenues that were assessed by year end as well as amounts receivable due to the accrual of tax revenues as at March 31. These accrued receivables are not due until the next fiscal year. They also include other receivables for amounts collectible through the tax system such as provincial and territorial taxes, Employment Insurance premiums and Canada Pension Plan contributions. The Government has established an allowance for doubtful accounts of $13,138 million ($12,690 million in 2014) and has recorded a bad debt expense of $3,910 million ($3,751 million in 2014). The allowance for doubtful accounts is management’s best estimate of the collectability of amounts that have been assessed, including the related interest and penalties, but not yet paid. The allowance for doubtful accounts has two components. A general allowance is calculated based on the age and type of tax accounts using rates based on historical collection experience. A specific allowance is calculated based on an annual review of all accounts over $10 million. The allowance for doubtful accounts is adjusted every year through a provision for doubtful accounts and is reduced by amounts written off as uncollectible during the year. The annual provision is reported as a bad debt expense which is charged against other program expenses. The details of the taxes receivable and allowance for doubtful accounts are as follows:
Department’s group financial statements and to reflect only grants paid to academies. The Department would then prepare a separate aggregated account for academies as at 31 August (the Sector Report). As the Department notes in its Annual Report, it received an ‘in principle’ agreement from HM Treasury to develop the proposals for a Sector Report alongside a range of challenging conditions that would have to be met. These proposals have been reviewed and approved by the Alignment Review Committee, Scrutiny Unit, Education Select Committee and Liaison Committee and will therefore proceed, subject to meeting the conditions placed on this approval by these committees.
The County has implemented all but 1 of the 13 recommendations from the 2009 excise tax performance audit. In June 2009, the Office of the AuditorGeneral issued the prior Gila County Transportation Excise Tax performance audit report, which included 13 audit recommendations (see Report No. 09-06). As of the last follow-up report in January 2011, the County had not implemented 8 recommendations related to its highway and street expenditures and travel policies. Therefore, auditors followed up on these outstanding recommendations and determined that all but one recommendation had been fully implemented. First, to ensure that the excise tax monies are spent according to statutory and constitutional requirements, the report recommended that the Public Works Division work with the County Attorney to update the Division’s Approved Highway and Street Expenditures Policy to more clearly identify appropriate excise tax expenditures. According to the Public Works Director, and based on written guidance provided by the County Attorney’s Office, the existing approved Highway and Street Expenditures Policy was sufficient, and during this current audit, auditors noted that it was being followed. Second, to ensure that county employees have proper guidance related to travel costs, the report recommended that the County should work with the County Attorney to update its travel policy to ensure that it reflects current approved practices and contains proper controls and guidance, obtain the Board of Supervisors’ approval, train employees on the policy, and ensure it is followed. The County’s travel policy was updated to include guidance on documentation and reimbursement of travel-related expenditures and revised per diem amounts. Employees were trained on the updated policy, and auditors noted that employees were following the updated policy. However, the updated policy has not been presented to the County Board of Supervisors for approval.
5.2 When reviewing departmental submissions, HM Treasury’s General Expenditure Policy team drew on the expertise of other teams internally, including on capital (paragraphs 2.9 and 4.5 to 4.7). The central team oversaw standard work across the submissions on capital spending, pay and workforce, and operational expenditure. This was designed to provide consistent information on the areas most likely to be affected by transformational change. HM Treasury’s spending teams were then able to build this advice into their formal discussions with departments. However, with the exception of capital there was no formal process to ensure that this expert advice was included. HM Treasury intends to build on this to develop the capacity (and information) to do more detailed work on operational expenditure, and we expect it to look for other areas of spend that would benefit from such analysis.
14 Local authorities report that they made a higher funding contribution in 2012-13 than the Department’s original assumptions implied, although the Department has subsequently increased its funding. The Department assumes that authorities meet any difference between actual costs and the funding it provides. Local authorities’ required contribution therefore varies depending on the level of the Department’s funding and the actual costs of providing places. The Department initially assumed that local authorities would contribute 20 per cent towards the cost of new places. This planning assumption was not evidence-based and was not communicated to authorities. In our survey, authorities reported making an average contribution in 2012-13 of 34 per cent. Most authorities drew on other sources of funding to finance new places, including maintenance funding provided separately by the Department (64 per cent), potentially storing up future costs by deferring repair work (paragraphs 2.17 and 2.18, and Figure 12).
Market risk comprises three types of risk: currency risk, interest rate risk and other price risks. The Group takes on exposure to market risks. Market risks arise from open positions in (a) foreign currencies, (b) interest bearing assets and liabilities (c) equity investments and (d) commodities as being transferred into future cash flows from sales, all of which are exposed to general and specific market movements. Management sets limits on the value of risk that may be accepted, which is monitored on a regular basis. However, the use of this approach does not prevent losses outside of these limits in the event of more significant market movements.
As noted above, this section will briefly outline key themes and findings from the VAGO Report (2015) and the DET Report (2014). Both focus on issues impeding successful transitions and offer explicit guidelines to systems, schools and teachers about more effective systemic and local policies, processes, and practices. The Report of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office is an assessment of whether Department of Education and Training schools are effectively supporting children to transition from primary to secondary school. In summary, the VAGO Report found that, while DET had improved access to higher quality kindergarten years, and developed a comprehensive and well-researched framework to support early-years transitions, DET did not have a similar quality framework for middle-years transitions. VAGO also reported ‘inadequate monitoring of vulnerable cohorts’, all of which was seen as not helping break down some of the more entrenched (poor) transition outcomes.
2 Children’s early experiences can have long-term impacts on their emotional and physical health, social development, education and future employment. Children in care do less well in school than their peers. They are also more likely to experience problems in later life, which can have a wider social impact and lead to higher costs to the public purse. In 2013, 34% of all care leavers were not in employment, education or training, at age 19, compared to 15.5% of 18-year-olds in the general population. By taking a child into care local authorities aim to protect children from further harm, improve outcomes for them, and address a child’s basic need for good parenting. 3
2.25 RTI went live without full accreditation on the basis that the ﬁnancial system design issues identiﬁed would be resolved by October 2013. A number of these system requirements were identiﬁed towards the end of the pilot and were not included in the original business case. These issues do not impact an employer’s ability to submit data to HMRC using RTI but do result in weaknesses in HMRC’s ability to produce and report ﬁnancial information about PAYE. HMRC is currently undertaking work to understand the extent to which failure to address these accounting issues could result in HMRC being unable to correctly allocate and account for some PAYE payments received from employers or to identify and collect amounts outstanding.