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- A. Australian Taxation Office
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The Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio principally comprises the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade). The portfolio’s overarching objective is to advance Australia’s national interest—the security and prosperity of Australians—by contributing to improvements in international security, national economic and trade performance, and global cooperation.
In recent years the ANAO has focused its audit coverage on addressing risks associated with operating a network of missions overseas and with AusAID’s delivery of an expanding aid program.
Planned audit work for 2010–11 will have a continuing focus on these areas, and will also examine an important aspect of border security—biometric passports.
DFAT is responsible for the management of the Australian Government’s overseas estate, which comprises both owned and leased properties. The leased estate comprises 506 properties across 83 locations, including 55 chanceries, 39 Head of Mission residences and some 380 staff residences, with rent totalling $65 million in 2009–10. Management of the leased estate is shared between DFAT’s head office and its posts, with much of the day-to-day management and budgeting responsibility being devolved to posts.
The objective of this audit is to examine the effectiveness of DFAT’s management of the overseas leased estate. The audit focus includes governance, funding and reporting arrangements, day-to-day property management and management of key relationships with landlords and attached agencies. The audit complements the ANAO’s 2009–10 audit, Management of the Overseas Owned Estate.
The audit report is expected to be tabled in the Spring 2010 Parliamentary Sittings.
Aid for tertiary education has been an important element of Australia’s aid program since the 1950s, when scholarships were offered under the Colombo Plan. While scholarships to study in Australian tertiary institutions continue to dominate tertiary education spending, accounting for around 80 per cent of Australia’s assistance in the sector, some support is also provided in the form of assistance for in-country tertiary education institutions, including through initiatives such as the $149.5 million ‘Australia-Pacific Technical College’, which aims to provide internationally recognised post-secondary qualifications for Pacific Islanders through training centres in Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Major increases in the allocation of scholarship aid were announced in the 2010–11 budget, including $303.7 million over four years for Education and Development Awards (with a significant proportion going to scholarships) and $346.9 million over four years for scholarships to African countries.
The objective of this audit is to assess the effectiveness of AusAID’s management of aid for tertiary education.
The audit report is expected to be tabled in the Autumn 2011 Parliamentary Sittings.
Australia was one of the first countries to introduce the ‘ePassport’ in October 2005. The ePassport has an embedded microchip that stores the holder’s identity information, including a digitised photograph, for use with biometric facial recognition technology. In 2007–08 DFAT introduced an improved version of its facial recognition program to enhance its ability to confirm identity and detect fraud. In May 2009 it introduced the second generation ePassport—the N series—which is Australia’s most secure passport to date. DFAT issued over 1.5 million passports in 2008–09.
An audit would examine the efficacy of the new Australian biometric passports to ensure they are delivering the outcomes intended. The audit would complement previous audits of DFAT’s Passport Services and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s (DIAC) management of the introduction of biometric technologies.
AusAID’s regional programs aim to achieve shared development outcomes for multiple countries in a particular region. Examples include: management of shared natural resources; management of trans-boundary issues; or attempts to achieve economies of scale in achieving common national objectives (most relevant to small states), including through capacity-building of regional organisations. Regional programs will be one of the major mechanisms through which expansion of the Australian aid program to Africa and South America will occur. To date, aid delivered through regional programs has grown from $183.4 million in 2005–06 to $677 million in 2009–10.
An audit would examine the effectiveness of AusAID’s arrangements for integrating regional program expenditure with the objectives of participating partner countries, and supporting Australia’s aid program objectives.
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