The Auditor-General responded on 22 June 2017 to correspondence from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young dated 31 May 2017, requesting that the Auditor-General conduct an audit of the current and historical funding practices of the Catholic Education Commissions.

Auditor-General's response

22 June 2017

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Australian Greens' Senator for South Australia
Parliament House

By email:

Dear Senator Hanson-Young

I am writing in response to your letter of 1 June 2017 requesting that I consider undertaking an audit of the current and historical funding practices of Catholic Education Commissions.

My office is currently undertaking an audit to assess the arrangements established by the Department of Education and Training to measure the impact of Australian Government school funding which is due to be tabled in the 2017 Spring session of Parliament.

More information about the audit can be found on the ANAO website.

In the context of this audit, the ANAO will consider, among a range of issues, transparency and accountability measures related to the provision of funding for schools by the Australian Government.

In light of the scope of the ANAO performance audit currently underway, I do not plan to undertake a separate audit on the current and historical funding practices of Catholic Education commissions.

Yours sincerely

Grant Hehir

Correspondence from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Transcript of letter from Senator Hanson-Young

31st May 2017

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

Dear Mr Hehir,

I write to you in relation to the Catholic Education Commission and the concerning lack of sufficient transparency surrounding their use of Commonwealth Government funding.

Total Commonwealth funding to Australian schools, across all sectors, is projected to grow from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion in 2027. A significant proportion of that funding will go the various Catholic Education Commissions in each state and territory across the country.

The mechanisms used to distribute this funding have been decidedly opaque in the past and remain so to this day. It is concerning that such significant public funding is handed to an impenetrable system, which then chooses to redirect that money as it sees fit.

I have obtained an internal report, created on behalf of the New South Wales and ACT Catholic Bishops in 2016, which;

  • suggested the way funds are pooled and redistributed within that sector is not always fair, citing "evidence that resources for quality education are being captured in the more populous dioceses ... to the detriment of the greater need in the rural and remote dioceses."
  • Warned that Commonwealth funds must only go towards education and not to broader parish operations.
  • labelled current governance structures within the NSW Catholic schools as "flawed" and "inadequate".

The ABC aired some of the contents of that report on May the 4th, 2017.

Other reports in the Sydney Morning Herald on February the 24th, 2017, point to a possible new arrangement wherein Catholic schools are now being made to pay 'rent' to the Catholic Church, using Commonwealth funding, for the continued use of the land on which they sit.

I request that an audit be undertaken, by your office, to investigate the current and historical funding practices of the Catholic Education Commissions. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact my office. I'm also available to meet you to discuss this issue further if you wish.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Hanson-Young