The Auditor-General undertook a limited assurance review of the Department of Finance’s reporting and administration of the Advances to the Finance Minister (AFM) for the Period 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020.

Assurance review — section 19A of the Auditor-General Act 1997

INDEPENDENT ASSURANCE REPORT

ADVANCES TO THE FINANCE MINISTER 30 MAY 2020 TO 26 JUNE 2020

Conclusion

Based on the procedures I have performed and the evidence I have obtained, nothing has come to my attention that causes me to believe that, in all material respects:

  1. there were any Advance to the Finance Minister (AFM) Determinations made for the period 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020; and
  2. the internal controls related to the Department of Finance’s administration of AFM were not suitably designed, implemented and operating effectively to achieve appropriate approval, recording and reporting of AFM if there had been any during the period.

    My limited assurance conclusion has been formed on the basis of the matters outlined in this report.

    I have undertaken a limited assurance review of the Department of Finance’s reporting and administration of the AFM, in order to express a conclusion on Determinations made from 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020, based on the following criteria:

    • Have accounts and records been appropriately obtained and maintained to support the complete and accurate reporting of AFM, taking into consideration whether:
      • the Department of Finance has a central register of all applications and approvals;
      • all decisions for any AFM Determination made have been documented appropriately, including identifying the appropriation act under which each advance is made;
      • all accounts and records for the applications for any AFM Determination have been adequately maintained; and
      • the Department of Finance has effective processes in place to obtain assurance from entities over the completeness and accuracy of the information provided to the Department of Finance.
    • Are the controls related to the Department of Finance’s administration of AFM suitably designed, implemented and operating effectively to achieve appropriate approval, recording and reporting of any AFM if there had been any during the period, taking into consideration whether:
      • the Department of Finance has guidance or a framework that communicates clearly to entities as to the requirements to apply for the AFM, and whether this was complete, accurate, and compliant with the criteria set out in the Annual Appropriation Acts;
      • the Department of Finance has an appropriate risk framework for the AFM;
      • existing controls are capable of addressing the identified risks effectively;
      • the Department of Finance has implemented and operated effective controls over the approval process to ensure applications for any AFM Determination are only approved when applying entities provide sufficient information to support compliance with the criteria set out in the Annual Appropriation Acts; and
      • the AFM Determination approval process complied with the criteria set out in the Annual Appropriation Acts.

    Basis for conclusion

    I have conducted the review in accordance with the ANAO Auditing Standards, which include the relevant Standards on Assurance Engagements ASAE 3000 Assurance Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information (ASAE 3000) and ASAE 3150 Assurance Engagements on Controls (ASAE 3150).

    I believe that the evidence I have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for my conclusion.

    Responsibilities of the Secretary of the Department of Finance

    The Secretary of the Department of Finance is responsible for the administration of the AFM, and maintenance of supporting accounts and records relevant to the reporting of the AFM in accordance with Appropriation Acts Nos. 1 to 6 2019–20201 and Appropriation (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Acts Nos. 1 and 2 2019–2020.2

    The Secretary is also responsible for such internal control procedures as the Secretary determines necessary to enable the administration of the AFM that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.

    Independence and quality control

    I have complied with the independence and other relevant ethical requirements relating to assurance engagements, and applied Auditing Standard ASQC 1 Quality Control for Firms that Perform Audits and Reviews of Financial Reports and Other Financial Information, Other Assurance Engagements and Related Services Engagements in undertaking this assurance review.

    Responsibilities of the Auditor-General

    My responsibility is to express a limited assurance conclusion on whether the Finance Minister’s and the Department of Finance’s reporting of the AFM is complete and accurate, in all material respects, and internal controls related to the AFM were designed, implemented and operating effectively for the period from 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020, as evaluated against the criteria. The ANAO Auditing Standards require that I plan and perform my procedures to obtain limited assurance about whether anything has come to my attention that the Department of Finance’s reporting of the AFM is not complete and accurate, in all material respects, and internal controls related to the AFM were not designed, implemented and operating effectively for the period from 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020.

    An assurance engagement to report on the design and operating effectiveness of controls involves performing procedures to obtain evidence about the suitability of the design of controls to achieve the control objectives and the operating effectiveness of controls throughout the period.

    The procedures performed in a limited assurance review vary in nature and timing from, and are less in extent than for, a reasonable assurance engagement and consequently the level of assurance obtained in a limited assurance review is substantially lower than the assurance that would have been obtained had a reasonable assurance engagement been performed. Accordingly, I do not express a reasonable assurance opinion on the reporting of the AFM or on the internal controls.

    I have conducted my limited assurance review by making such enquiries and performing such procedures I considered reasonable in the circumstances, including:

    • making enquiries of management and others within the entity, as appropriate;
    • examining the internal control design specifications and documentation;
    • examining documentation that indicate if there was any AFM; and
    • evaluating the evidence obtained.

    The procedures selected depend on my judgement, including the assessment of the risks that the reporting of the AFM is not complete and accurate or the controls are not suitably designed, implemented or operating effectively.

    Inherent limitations

    Because of the inherent limitations of an assurance engagement, together with the internal control structure it is possible that, even if the controls are suitably designed and operating effectively, the control objectives may not be achieved so that fraud, error, or non-compliance with laws and regulations may occur and not be detected. Further, the internal control structure, within which the controls that I have assured are designed to operate, has not been assured and no opinion is expressed as to its design or operating effectiveness.

    A limited assurance engagement throughout the specified period on operating effectiveness of controls is not designed to detect all instances of controls operating ineffectively as it is not performed continuously throughout the period and the tests performed are on a sample basis. A limited assurance engagement throughout the specified period does not provide assurance on whether complete and accurate reporting of the AFM or the outcome of the evaluation of controls will continue in the future.

    Australian National Audit Office

    Grant Hehir

    Grant Hehir
    Auditor-General
    Canberra
    2 July 2020

    Appendices

    Appendix A

    What this report is about

    1. This report is the third monthly limited assurance review of the Advance to the Finance Minister (AFM) covering the period from 30 May 2020 to 26 June 2020. The objective of this review is to provide Parliament with timely assurance on the AFM made under the Government’s stimulus package response to COVID-19.

    2. The review focused on evaluating whether controls have been implemented as designed by the Department of Finance and are operating effectively to support my audit conclusion. There were no AFM Determinations made between 30 May 2020 and 26 June 2020.

    3. This report should be read in conjunction with the first monthly limited assurance review of the AFM tabled on 7 May 2020 (Auditor-General Report No.36 2019–20).

    Background

    4. The AFM is a provision in the annual Appropriation Acts which enables the Minister for Finance (Finance Minister) to provide additional urgently needed appropriation to entities for expenditure in the current year. The Finance Minister may only agree to issue an AFM if satisfied that there is an urgent need for expenditure that is either not provided for or has been insufficiently provided for in the existing appropriations of the entity. The Finance Minister provides the additional appropriation by means of a Determination. Before issuing a determination to increase an entity’s appropriation item, the Finance Minister must be satisfied that the legislative criteria set out in the annual Appropriation Acts are met.

    5. Entities may have urgent need for expenditure because forecasts of future expenditure may be based on assumptions that prove to be wrong, assessments of future economic conditions that do not eventuate or circumstances that are unanticipated. It is therefore an established practice to build into estimates of future expenditure some flexibility to account for contingencies. The AFM is a long-standing feature of the Appropriation Bills dating from 1979 when the AFM replaced the Advance to the Treasurer following the establishment in 1976 of the office of the Finance Minister. Typically, the Advance is established in the first Appropriation Acts each year and then replenished whenever supplementary Appropriation Acts are passed.

    Accountability for Advances to the Finance Minister

    6. Entities are required to report AFM spending fortnightly to the Department of Finance. Entities also need to advise how they intend to manage any underspend. To ensure transparency, AFM determinations are:

    • registered on the Federal Register of Legislation (FRL);
    • tabled in Parliament at the next available opportunity; and
    • listed on the Department of Finance’s website with a link provided to it on the FRL.

    7. At the end of the financial year, the Department of Finance prepares an AFM annual report, which is subject to review by the Australian National Audit Office, detailing all AFMs that have been issued in that financial year. The report is tabled in the Parliament and is made available on the Department of Finance’s website.

    Overview

    8. This report analyses the AFM Determinations issued totalling $1.974 billion to 26 June 2020 out of the available $42.975 billion for the financial year 2019–20.

    9. Table 1 below contains a summary of the Determinations made during the period from 1 July 2019 to 26 June 2020 and Figure 1 details the cumulative totals of AFM Determinations.

    Table 1: Determinations made as at 26 June 2020

    AFM Determination no.

    Period

    Details

    Amount ($’000)

    1 to 7

    1 Jul 2019 to 24 Apr 2020

    Refer to Auditor-General Report No.36 2019–20 available from https://www.anao.gov.au/work/assurance-review/advances-to-the-finance-minister-for-the-period-1-july-2019-to-24-april-2020

    1,974,000

    Nil

    25 Apr 2020 to 29 May 2020

    Refer to Auditor-General Report No.40 2019–20 available from https://www.anao.gov.au/work/assurance-review/advances-to-the-finance-minister-the-period-25-april-2020-to-29-may-2020

    Nil

    30 May 2020 to 26 Jun 2020

    There were no AFM Determinations issued.

    Total

    1,974,000

           

    Source: ANAO analysis

    Figure 1: Cumulative totals of AFM Determinations (1 July 2019 – 26 June 2020)

     

    Source: ANAO analysis.

    Footnotes

    1Appropriation Act (No. 1) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019A00100.

       Appropriation Act (No. 2) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019A00101.

       Appropriation Act (No. 3) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00033.

       Appropriation Act (No. 4) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00034.

       Appropriation Act (No. 5) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00039.

       Appropriation Act (No. 6) 2019-2020, available from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00040.

    2Appropriation (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Act (No. 1) 2019-2020, available from
       https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00025.

       Appropriation (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Act (No. 2) 2019-2020, available from
       https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020A00026.