By Sally Whyte, originally published on the Canberra Times on October 1
Funding cuts to the Australian National Audit Office threaten the integrity of the country’s democracy, a top former judge says.
Anthony Whealy QC, who served as a justice of the Supreme Court of NSW and an assistant commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption in that state, has sounded the alarm over the funding of the audit office.
“The ANAO has been doing an outstanding job, unearthing where public money has been misspent: from the airport deal to sports rorts,” Mr Whealy, who is now chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, said.
Auditor-General Grant Hehir has written to the Prime Minister appealing for more funding for his office and warning the number of performance audits will continue to drop without more cash.
Research released by the Centre for Public Integrity on Wednesday shows the audit office has lost $17.27 million in funding between 2016-17 and 2019-20.
“The continued funding cuts by government beg the question: are they attempting to avoid scrutiny by undermining one of our most effective accountability agencies?” Mr Whealy said
“The ANAO is critical to our system of government working coherently. Democracy requires public trust, and public trust requires independent scrutiny of government decisions.”
“With the federal budget coming out next week, the government must increase funding to the ANAO to conduct more performance audits and scrutinise all government agencies,” he said.