Public Accounts Committee

3rd June 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:51:18): As chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, it gives me pleasure to lead in the take-note debate on the report entitledExamination of the Auditor-General's Performance Audit Reports February 2018-July 2018. The Public Accounts Committee is an important statutory committee of the New South Wales Parliament and works closely with the Audit Office of New South Wales and, obviously, with the Auditor-General. The committee reviewed 10 performance audits that were carried out between February and July 2018. Those performance audits were conducted into managing risk in the New South Wales public sector; risk culture and capability; detecting and responding to cybersecurity incidents; regional assistance programs; shared services in local government; fraud controls in local councils; regulation of water pollution in drinking water catchments and illegal disposal of solid waste; council reporting on service delivery; grants in non-government schools; HealthRoster benefits realisation; and matching skills training with market needs.

The committee made a total of seven recommendations to New South Wales government agencies to improve cybersecurity in the New South Wales public sector; to provide greater rigour in the performance management of regional assistance programs; and to better manage shared services in local government. The committee found that significant work has been undertaken by agencies to address issues raised in the audits. It is clear that agencies have taken the audit review process seriously and have instigated action to implement accepted recommendations. We acknowledge that some recommendations will take time to fully action or be addressed through the implementation of larger projects. The response to the Audit Office recommendations is very pleasing.

The first recommendation of the committee is that Cyber Security NSW consider, as a matter of priority, expanding its cybersecurity training and awareness programs to agencies outside the main eight public sector clusters. It is very clear that there is a capacity within the larger agencies to manage cybersecurity quite well within themselves, but a number of agencies are not equal in that capacity. We need to ensure that those agencies are brought up to speed and have the capacity to deal with cybersecurity and the protection of data and systems that support the New South Wales public sector as effectively as possible. The committee also recommended that Cyber Security NSW report on how it may best enhance New South Wales public sector threat intelligence gathering and sharing through formal links with the private sector—a very important issue. There are many very high-level resources and a capacity within the private sector, but the bringing together of those two areas will be of benefit across the board.

The committee recommended that Cyber Security NSW provide an update to the Auditor-General and the committee once a determination has been made in regard to Cyber Security NSW's remit for State-owned corporations. Out of the number of reports the Public Accounts Committee reviewed, it considered that five were worthy of further examination by way of a public hearing. A number of issues were raised in that public hearing in relation to such things as shared services in local government. Those of us who come from a local government background know how important shared services are. The committee found that many councils work together to share knowledge, resources and services in order to save money and to improve access. When these joint undertakings are done well, all councils involved benefit from savings and increased access to services. The audit found that the majority of surveyed councils were not efficiently and effectively engaged in shared services and that this was due to a number of factors—for example, councils did not review their existing services in order to decide the best joint service delivery model. These are areas that are very important for service delivery across New South Wales.

In closing, I acknowledge the members of the committee who have worked so effectively on this with the Audit Office—the deputy chair and member for Mulgoa, Ms Tanya Davies; the member for Albury, Mr Justin Clancy; the member for Terrigal, Mr Adam Crouch; the member for Heathcote, Mr Lee Evans; the member for Keira, Mr Ryan Park; and the member for North Shore, Ms Felicity Wilson. I thank the Public Accounts Committee secretariat for all their assistance.

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