How the Overseas Investment Office uses information
The Auditor-General’s report How the Overseas Investment Office uses information was presented to the House of Representatives today.
In this report, we discuss how the Overseas Information Office (OIO) uses information to review applications from potential overseas investors to advise Ministers (or, in certain cases, senior staff in the OIO) on whether consent for the investment should be granted according to the criteria in the Overseas Investment Act 2005 and ministerial direction. We wanted to know whether the OIO was collecting and using the right information at the right time to support good decisions.
We found that the OIO provides decision-makers with the right information. The OIO collects, considers, and uses information carefully in making recommendations. It applies judgement in considering whether the statutory criteria are met. Although the files we reviewed showed that the OIO demonstrated effective judgement, it could sometimes benefit from more ready access to specialist advice.
There are other elements of the OIO’s use of information that can be improved. These include the nature of conditions placed on consents, the information that the OIO makes available to the public about overseas investments and their benefits, and the use of information for monitoring and enforcement of the conditions placed on consents.
As we were carrying out our work, the OIO was improving the way it monitors and enforces compliance with the conditions it places on consents. Although it was too early for us to assess the effect of the changes the OIO has made, they should improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the OIO. It is important that the OIO follows through with the changes it has begun to make.