Australia Coronavirus pandemic forces Queensland government to drop key audits into state taxes, local government developments
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A key audit into state taxes has been scrapped and another into World Heritage site management delayed nearly two years after the Queensland auditor-general reassessed priorities due to the pandemic.
Seventeen audits had originally been listed by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) to be actioned in 2020-2021 financial year.
They included at least four potentially sensitive inspections including examining social housing provision, health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, teacher supply, and the management of World Heritage sites.
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But yesterday, the QAO admitted two of the sensitive audits had been delayed by more than a year and two others had been dropped all together from its new plan which was due for release in two weeks' time.
"As I'm sure you can appreciate, during COVID-19 we had to slow down some of our audits that had already commenced due to the stressors on entities tackling the crisis,'' a QAO spokeswoman said.
Two audits to be scrapped were Collecting State Revenue and Local Government Development Applications and Approvals.
The Local Government Development Applications and Approvals probe would have seen the QAO potentially auditing two government departments and selected councils.
In a 2019 statement, the QAO said the audit was designed to examine whether local government's processes for development applications and approvals were efficient and effective and complied with regulatory requirements.
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Yesterday, the QAO spokeswoman said the local government development applications and approvals audit was not on the plan because "we cover this subject directly through our annual financial audits of local government financial performance, risk and internal controls".
The other scrapped audit, Collecting State Revenue, potentially involved the QAO auditing the Queensland Treasury to assess how the state government collected taxes and royalties.
The QAO in 2019 had stated that in the 2017-2018 financial year, the Queensland Treasury recognised revenue of $10.8 billion from taxation and $4.3 billion from royalties.
Yesterday the QAO spokeswoman said the Collecting State Revenue [audit] was "not on the new plan at this stage".
She said the reason for the audit being dropped was because QAO had included several other topics relating to financial management and risk for entities.
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QAO needs to be 'pragmatic and flexible'
The spokeswoman said audits into Delivering Social Housing Services and the Asset Management in Local Government inspection, which had been listed as being actioned in the 2020 to 2021 year, would now be listed for 2021-2022.
She said the audit for Health Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, which had also been listed for 2020-2021, was now set down for 2022-2023.
The Managing Tourism and Sustainability of Queensland's World Heritage Sites audit, which had also been flagged for 2020 to 2021, was put down for 2023-2024.
The spokeswoman said due to the coronavirus pandemic, the audit office had "needed to be pragmatic and flexible with our audit requirements".
"We could not meet with some audit clients or members of the community due to lockdowns, the timelines for receiving information and data pushed out, and we needed to allow entities time to comment on our draft reports before they are tabled,'' she said.
The spokeswoman also said the 2020 state election and caretaker period had meant they had to "pause some of our work".
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