Lifestyle Report

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Auditor-General Grant Hehir says budget pressures have left him with no choice but cut audits, which he says contribute to a better performing public sector. Auditor-General Grant Hehir says over the next four years he has to cut the number of performance audits his office does, which in the past year has uncovered the sports rorts scandal and the $30 million paid check this for the Leppington Triangle land valued within a year at just $3 million . Auditor-General Grant Hehir says budget pressures have left him with no choice but cut audits, which he says contribute to a better performing public sector. The cut will bring down the number of audits by a quarter, from a historical average of 48 a year to 36, the lowest number this century, bar 2016 when the double dissolution of Parliament meant fewer sitting weeks to deliver his reports. “In effect, I am unable to provide the Parliament to the same extent with the evidence it has used to hold executive government to account, thereby reducing accountability and transparency,” Mr Hehir on Friday told a parliamentary committee reviewing the Australian National Audit Office. Over the past two years, the performance audit section has lost 20 staff, equivalent to the capacity for eight audits. ANAO funding as a proportion of government spending is now half what it was 10 years ago. “Should it be going up proportionately? I’m not arguing that, but I think it shouldn’t be going down,” Mr Hehir said. Since 2013, the Australian National Audit Office’s budget has been cut by nearly $6.3 million – or more than 22 per cent in real terms – although Mr Hehir told the committee “we probably wouldn’t use the word cut, it’s fallen”. While the budget has shrunk, the number and complexity of financial statement audits the ANAO must do has grown. Mr Hehir said the budget squeeze meant he’d had to increase the risk tolerance of these financial audits to a point where he was “uncomfortable”. As well as a reduced number of audits, their scope will be narrower, there will be fewer “positive audits” that could offer good lessons, and they will focus on higher-risk activities in large entities like the Tax Office and Defence. “Many smaller agencies may not be audited for extended periods of time, potentially over 20 years,” Mr Hehir said. “When we’re coming in, entities change things, they clean up their act, they get a bit more focused on issues and then, even more, the fact that they know we’re around drives changes in behaviour. “What’s the outcome of audit work? In the end, a better performing public sector.” Labor MP Julian Hill, the deputy chair of the committee, said the impact of the budgets cuts was shocking. “Surely even the government muppets who voted for these cuts must now be shocked that the Commonwealth Auditor-General has said he is ‘uncomfortable’ with the level of risk he is being forced to bear in financial statement auditing,” he said. “This is serious stuff, alarm bells are ringing.” The ANAO comes under the Prime Minister’s portfolio, making Mr Morrison responsible for funding decisions, although the role of Auditor-General has statutory independence. Previously, Mr Morrison said it would be premature to increase the ANAO’s budget before the committee review is done. Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/alarm-bells-auditor-general-budget-cuts-will-see-agencies-avoid-scrutiny-for-decades-20210219-p5741h.html

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VSU Celebrates Ninth Tree Campus USA Recognition Communications and Media Relations Coordinator VSU Celebrates Ninth Tree Campus USA Recognition VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University celebrates its ninth Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA recognition and steadfast commitment to effective urban forest management. VSU traditionally hosts an on-campus Arbor Day Ceremony with speakers, activities, and tree plantings. However, due to the ongoing global pandemic, officials decided to recognize the occasion with a video message from Monica Haynes, superintendent of Landscape and Grounds at VSU, and a look at the university’s unwavering commitment to maintain, preserve, and protect its trees and eye-catching landscaping. (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xMy2B0i-hE ) “Each year it takes the combined effort and support of the entire campus community and the surrounding City of Valdosta to make sure VSU’s urban forest is preserved and enhanced,” Haynes says. Haynes thanked every member of the VSU community for helping the university’s grounds maintenance team continue to create a desirable campus for living, learning, working, and playing. She credited Kevin Jenkins, City of Valdosta arborist; Dr. Brad Bergstrom, VSU Department of Biology professor; Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president; and the Campus Beautification and Stewardship Committee with providing “all of the support in making sure VSU can continue to receive the Tree Campus USA designation.” She and her team hope to plant some new trees in April. Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and to engage college and university community members in conservation goals. Collectively these institutions of higher education invested more than $51 million in campus forest management last year. "Tree campuses and their students set examples for not only their student bodies but [also] the surrounding communities [by] showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of … [VSU’s] participation air will be purer, water cleaner, and … students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.” The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. VSU’s Department of Landscape and Grounds is committed to providing the campus community with the highest quality service in the areas of horticulture, landscape maintenance, landscape construction, irrigation, and trash compaction. Each grounds maintenance team member takes pride in his or her efforts to maintain the distinctive beauty of the campus and how that supports university-wide recruitment and retention efforts.   Office of CommunicationsPowell Hall West, Suite 1120

https://www.valdosta.edu/about/news/releases/2021/02/vsu-celebrates-ninth-tree-campus-usa-recognition.php
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