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Auditor-General Calls For Special, Regular Reporting On Covid-19 Expenditure

The Auditor-General, John Ryan, is urging the Government to improve its reporting on Covid-19 expenditure.

In a report published today, Update on the Government’s Covid-19 expenditure, the Auditor-General says the financial reporting required by law is not enough to give a meaningful picture of the Covid-19 spend.

“More reporting is needed to give an overall picture of how much money has been allocated to, and spent on, the Covid-19 response and what the money has been spent on,” he says.

“Summarising and reporting this information regularly will significantly increase the transparency of this spending. It will help the public and Parliament hold the Government to account.”

The Update gives a partial picture of Covid-19 spending based on information from the Treasury. It details how about $18 billion, of the $62 billion put aside, has been incurred so far, with over $15 billion of this on the Wage Subsidy and the Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme.

However, it is difficult for the public to know how much Covid-19 funding has been allocated to specific initiatives, how much remains unallocated, and the total amount of spending so far.

The problem is the format for standard financial reports does not help the public see how Government expenditure relates to the Covid-19 funding announcements.

This is nothing new – expenditure is always reported differently from how funding and spending decisions are presented. But the Auditor-General’s view is that Covid-19 expenditure calls for special reporting.

“An exceptionally large amount of funding has been set aside to tackle the many challenges created by Covid-19. Future generations will likely inherit significantly more public debt as a result,” the Auditor-General says.

“Current and future generations will want to know where the money has gone. They will also want to know what has been achieved.

“Maintaining public trust and confidence in the Covid-19 response requires more transparency, and accountability, than the minimum reporting requirements provide.”

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