Auditor-General's Report

10 Nov 2010 questionsarchive
A question put forward to the Hon. G.E. GAGO regarding the Auditor-General's report.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have some questions to be referred to the Premier and one question to be referred to Minister Caica. I refer to Volume 3, page 979, relating to the Premier's Climate Change Council. Part of the government's strategy is to establish industry sector agreements, one of which is with SA Water, which is dated December 2009. The agreement was jointly signed by the SA Water Chairman and the Premier on 16 February 2009, and it states that SA Water uses as much energy as the rest of government combined.

Page 5 of that document states that SA Water is 'working towards implementing major water resource programs in a carbon-neutral way' and 'investigating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of developing future desalination plants in South Australia'. Can the Premier elaborate and verify exactly how this is to be achieved?

I refer to the same page reference and same document. Page 6 of the agreement is a table showing SA Water's historic and projected greenhouse emissions. It indicates that since 2007-08 SA Water has been failing to achieve its reductions, with emissions set to spike to over 1 million tonnes in 2011-12, presumably accounting for the desalination plant coming on line. How is this compatible with the Premier's claims that the desalination plant will be carbon neutral?

I refer to Volume 3, page 966, relating to Activity 1: Cabinet Office. The Premier wrote in January 2008 to all of his parliamentary colleagues, myself included, advising that South Australia had the first carbon-neutral cabinet. At the time, the minister wrote that the Premier and ministers would need to offset 3,000 tonnes of CO² at a cost of $60,000. Can the Premier advise how much this program is now costing and who was the successful tenderer for the program?

I direct the following question to the Minister for Environment and Conservation. I refer to Volume 2, page 418, relating to EPA Waste Levy. The audit notes that the EPA's waste levy audit reports summarising audit findings for 2008-09 were incomplete. As a result, there is an increased risk the EPA had not received all waste levies revenue it was entitled to under the regulations. Audit also reviewed progress to date with 2009-10 waste levy audit activities. For several waste depots assessed as extreme or high risk, there was no available documentary evidence at the time of audit that site inspections, weighbridge audits or surveillance activities had been performed. My question is: how will this be addressed, particularly in light of increases to the solid waste levy?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: We will refer those questions to the Premier and the Minister for Environment and Conservation, who is obviously the relevant minister in relation to the EPA, and we will endeavour to bring back a response.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have some direct questions for the Minister for Consumer Affairs. I refer to Volume 1 of Part B of audit, page 99: 'Review of the Residential Tenancies Fund and Retail Shop Leases Fund bank reconciliations and supporting documentation prepared by OCBA throughout the year'. Audit states that there was no evidence to show that bank reconciliation procedures were regularly reviewed, and so forth. What is OCBA doing to remedy the Auditor-General's findings?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The Chief Executive has advised that OCBA has reviewed and updated the bank reconciliation procedures and completed outstanding bank reconciliations for the period ending 30 June 2010 and had them independently checked. The reconciliations have been updated on a monthly basis since then and a resource has been dedicated to ensure that further bank reconciliations will be completed on a timely basis. In order to further strengthen controls in this area, the finance officer responsible for reconciliations has now been relocated to work more closely with the management accountant so that, if any issues arise, they can be dealt with in a more timely manner.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On the same page reference, the Auditor-General sought that all births, deaths and marriages fees are checked by an independent officer for accuracy, as part of an annual fee update review and evidenced to indicate performance of this review. On what basis were fee increases made on 1 July 2010 and in previous years, and does the government intend to further increase fees in the next couple of budgets?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I thank the member for her questions. Responsibility for Births, Deaths and Marriages in fact comes under the Attorney-General. It is very complicated and convoluted, so I will refer those matters to him. In relation to fees, that is really a matter for Treasury and the A-G, but I will refer those questions to the Attorney-General.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Referring to the same page, I think this probably falls into the same category that the minister has just referred to in occupational licensing. The Auditor-General sought that outstanding licensing systems penalties are followed up immediately to ensure valid penalties on a timely basis. What is the government's plan to deal with this particular matter?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: This one is mine. I have been advised that OCBA has advised that it would continue to review and minimise the number of outstanding penalties as appropriate, so it has taken measures in relation to that. Before issuing penalty notices, an officer must check that annual returns received have been receipted and that any that are part-processed (for example, when the return has been received but some changes still have to be entered onto the occupational licensing system) are not sent a penalty notice.

Accordingly, some licensees listed on the penalties due report should not be issued a penalty. As there is work involved in checking and producing penalty notices, it is also not always possible to issue them on the first day upon which they are able to be issued. This work must be scheduled along with other tasks and can be delayed for short periods in the event of other priorities or things like staff absences, etc.

A check of the penalties due report as at 2 August 2010 shows that there are 160 on that report for checking. This is considered a reasonable level, considering that the Business and Occupational Services Branch administers over 65,000 licences. Notwithstanding the above, OCBA will continue to review and minimise the number of outstanding penalties appearing on the report as soon as is practical.