The Auditor-General responded on 6 April 2023 to correspondence from Senator Andrew Bragg dated 8 March 2023, requesting that the Auditor-General conduct an investigation into the costs of the ongoing legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP. The Auditor-General responded on 11 May 2023 to follow-up correspondence from Senator Bragg dated 18 April 2023, requesting a timeline for finalisation of the 2022–23 financial statements audit of the Department of Finance.

The Auditor-General responded on 15 December 2023 regarding the ANAO enquiries and that the results are published in the Auditor-General Report No.9 (2023-24) Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities ended 30 June 2023 that tabled in the Parliament on 14 December 2023.

Auditor-General's follow-up response

15 December 2023

Senator Andrew Bragg
Senator for NSW
By email: Senator.Bragg@aph.gov.au

Dear Senator

Request for an audit of the use of public resources in relation to the legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP

I am writing as a follow-up to my letter dated 6 April 2023 which advised that the ANAO will make enquiries regarding the matter identified in your letter of 8 March 2023 in the course of our 2022–23 financial statements audit of the Department of Finance. Auditor-General Report No.9 (2023-24) Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities ended 30 June 2023 was tabled in the Parliament on 14 December 2023 and includes the results of these enquiries. Please find a link to the report on our website: Financial statement audit reports.

The ANAO performed testing over selected transactions relating to this matter. The ANAO confirmed the relevant requirements and processes that apply to this type of matter include:

  • The Department of Finance (Finance) manages Comcover, a self-managed scheme, that provides insurance cover to General Government Sector Commonwealth entities, for all normally insurable risks (excluding Comcare worker’s compensation) and other specific risks.
  • Comcover covers workplace claims brought against the Commonwealth by Commonwealth staff, including staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MoP(S) Act).
  • Finance’s Comcover claims management processes are governed by the Legal Services Directions 2017, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and other relevant laws. As part of the management of claims, external legal advice and representation is sought from legal service providers procured from the Whole of Government Legal Services Panel.
  • if required, members’ representation is managed and funded separately via insurance cover provided under the Parliamentary Business Resources (PBR) framework including the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017. The Ministerial & Parliamentary Services branch within Finance arrange that separate parliamentarian insurance cover using the approved, whole of government insurance broker. [paragraph 4.7.27]1

Based on the testing performed by the ANAO, the payments made by the Commonwealth were in accordance with the relevant legislative frameworks and no control deficiencies or instances of non-compliance were identified. [paragraph 4.7.28]2

I hope this information is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely

Grant Hehir

Auditor-General for Australia

1 Auditor-General Report No.9 (2023–24) Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities ended 30 June 2023

2 Auditor-General Report No.9 (2023–24) Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities ended 30 June 2023 

Auditor-General's follow-up response

11 May 2023

Senator Andrew Bragg
Liberal Senator for New South Wales
By email: Senator.Bragg@aph.gov.au

Dear Senator Bragg

Request for an audit of the use of public resources in relation to the legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP

I am writing in response to your letter of 18 April 2023 where you have requested a timeline for finalisation of the 2022–23 financial statements audit of the Department of Finance.

I will report on the results of the financial statements audits of all Australian Government Entities, including the Department of Finance, in the report to the Parliament, Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities. This report is expected to be tabled in the Parliament in December 2023.

I hope this information is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely

Grant Hehir

Follow-up correspondence from Senator Andrew Bragg

Letter from Senator Andrew Bragg

Transcript of follow-up correspondence from Senator Andrew Bragg

18 April 2023

Mr Grant Hehir
Auditor-General
Australian National Audit Office
GPO Box 707
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Mr Hehir

I refer to your letter of 6 April 2023 regarding the costs of the legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP.

As you stated in your letter, the Australian National Audit Office (‘ANAO’) will make enquiries into the costs of Dr Ryan’s legal dispute in the course of its 2022-23 financial statements audit.

You stated that the Department of Finance’s responses to these enquiries will inform your consideration of whether to conduct further audit or assurance activity.

Could you please advise a timeline for when this process may be finalised?

I look forward to your response.

Your sincerely

Senator Andrew Bragg
Liberal Senator for New South Wales

Auditor-General's response

6 April 2023

Senator Andrew Bragg
Liberal Senator for New South Wales
By email: Senator.Bragg@aph.gov.au

Dear Senator Bragg

Request for an audit of the use of public resources in relation to the legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP

I am writing in response to your letter of 8 March 2023 requesting that I consider an audit into the use of public resources in relation to the legal disputes concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP.

Payments made by the Commonwealth, including in relation to legal matters, are subject to financial audit by the ANAO. In the course of our 2022–23 financial statements audit of the Department of Finance, we will make enquiries regarding the matters identified in your letter. The Department of Finance’s responses will inform my consideration of whether to conduct further audit or assurance activity.

I report on the audits of financial statements to the Parliament twice a year. The first of these reports, Interim Report of Key Financial Controls of Major Entities, reports on our coverage of key financial systems and controls in major Australian Government entities, including the Department of Finance. The second report, Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities, reports on the results of the financial statements audits of all Australian Government Entities. The 2022–23 reports are expected to be tabled in the Parliament in June and December 2023 respectively.

I hope this information is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely

Grant Hehir

Correspondence from Senator Andrew Bragg

A page of text. You can view the transcript on this page.

Transcript of correspondence from Senator Andrew Bragg

8 March 2023

Mr Grant Hehir
Auditor-General
Australian National Audit Office
GPO Box 707
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Mr Hehir

I am writing to request the Australian National Audit Office (‘ANAO’) undertake an investigation into the costs of the ongoing legal dispute concerning the Commonwealth and Dr Monique Ryan MP.

An action has been brought in the Federal Court against Dr Ryan and the Commonwealth in relation to an employment dispute.

It was revealed to me by the Minister for Finance through question on notice no. 1380 that Commonwealth resources have been provided to Dr Ryan to cover legal costs. In addition, the Minister revealed that external legal advice and representation has been sought from legal service providers procured from the ‘Whole of Government Legal Services Panel’.

I understand that the ANAO assesses the appropriateness of Commonwealth spending according to the standard of ‘proper’ provided in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which necessitates ‘efficient, effective, economical and ethical’ use of public resources.

I expect that the cost of this legal dispute to the taxpayer will be significant.

I believe that it is therefore suitable that the ANAO exercise its powers under section 11 of the Auditor-General Act 1997 to conduct a financial statements audit into these matters.

I look forward to your consideration and response.

Your sincerely

Senator Andrew Bragg
Liberal Senator for New South Wales