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The Commonwealth has significant foreign exchange risk exposures including $A8.4 billion of foreign currency transactions with the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1998-99. Under the Financial Management and Accountability Act and its associated Regulations, all agencies are required to assess and, where possible, manage, foreign exchange risk. The audit reviewed four agencies that have substantial foreign currency payment exposures namely:
the Department of Defence;
the Australian Agency for International Development;
the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and
the Department of Finance and Administration.
The objective of the audit was to identify and assess the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the management of foreign exchange risk across the selected agencies, also to identify opportunities to improve the management of foreign exchange risk, including any associated potential financial savings that could accrue to the Commonwealth.
The management of Australia's overseas posts has not previously been scrutinised by the ANAO from a performance perspective. This audit is the first in a series planned to examine different aspects of the administration of Australian representation abroad, focusing particularly on DFAT and Austrade, as the agencies responsible for managing almost all overseas posts.
The diversity and complexity of issues at overseas missions of different sizes mean that posts generally cannot be treated as if they were all the same. This audit concentrated on small and medium-sized posts. The findings and conclusions should, therefore, not be regarded as automatically applicable to large posts.