26 September 2023

Auditor finds Agencies standing up to fraud

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A performance audit into the effectiveness of fraud prevention activities in three ACT Government Agencies has found the work by the Community Services Directorate, Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate, and Access Canberra to be effective.

In his report 2/2022 Fraud Prevention, Auditor-General Michael Harris said his audit considered fraud prevention planning and monitoring, the management of conflicts of interest, and the provision of training and related fraud awareness activities.

“The audit found that the Agencies undertake activities designed to prevent or minimise the risk of internal fraud, including developing and implementing Fraud and Corruption Prevention Plans and reviewing fraud and corruption risks on a regular basis,” Mr Harris said.

“The Agencies have also established assurance mechanisms for the management of fraud and corruption risks, including oversight by audit committees and regular reporting from the Senior Executive Responsible for Business Integrity Risk (SERBIR),” he said.

“Expectations of ACT public servants to declare real and perceived conflicts of interest is set out in legislation and whole-of-Government policy.”

Mr Harris said however that the effectiveness of Agencies’ conflict of interest practices was largely determined by employees recognising and knowing what to do when a conflict of interest existed, and managers having the tools to actively manage those conflicts.

The Auditor-General said a shift towards ‘positive reporting’, requiring employees to declare whether they did or didn’t have a conflict of interest, would help ensure that conflicts didn’t go undeclared.

“The Agencies undertake activities designed to foster fraud awareness among employees, including through training and awareness-raising activities,” he said.

“However, further work could be done to ensure that training is tailored, learning is tested and staff completion of relevant training is recorded and tracked.

“More could also be done to measure staff perceptions of fraud and corruption risks and test the effectiveness of the communication and training activities on staff awareness.”

Mr Harris made six recommendations including three to all the ACT Government Agencies to mandate conflict of interested reporting; provide mandatory induction training; and undertake staff surveys to collect information about the level of staff awareness of fraud and corruption reporting obligations and channels.

He also made three recommendations to the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate to provide clarity on the purpose of Fraud and Corruption Prevention Plans; guidance on requirements for the documentation and recording of conflict of interest declarations; and conduct a regular ACT Public Service survey that included questions related to fraud and corruption and integrity-related risk.

The Auditor-General’s 84-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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