Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions a fraud risk

Oct 12, 2022 | State News, Tjorn Sibma MLC

Shadow Environment Minister Tjorn Sibma has expressed serious concerns about weaknesses identified within the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA’s) internal controls after the Office of the Auditor General provided a qualified opinion in DBCA’s 2021-22 annual report.

The independent auditor reported as follows: “I identified significant weaknesses in the procurement controls designed and implemented by the Department, specifically in the use of purchase orders and authorisation limits of expenditure. The combined weaknesses increase the risk of erroneous or fraudulent payments and ordering of inappropriate or unnecessary goods or services.”

Mr Sibma is alarmed by this opinion considering that DBCA spent almost $380 million in the 2021-22 financial year, including approximately $90 million on supplies and services.

“It appears that the McGowan Government has done little to eradicate the potential for fraud and waste in public sector procurement despite the lamentable number of high-profile cases these last five years,” Mr Sibma said.

While the Director-General bears legal responsibility for designing, implementing, and maintaining controls to safeguard DBCA’s management of public expenditure, ultimate responsibility in our Westminster system must be borne by the Minister.
“The merry-go-round of ministerial appointments to the environment portfolio since early 2021 has meant that there has been an absence of keen, capable and consistent ministerial oversight in recent times,” Mr Sibma said.

“The DBCA mega department is the offspring of the McGowan Government’s botched 2017 machinery of government changes. I therefore find it implausible that the weaknesses in expenditure controls uncovered only recently by the independent auditor, have not existed in some form over the last five years.

“Nevertheless, I call on the Minister to come to grips immediately with this systemic departmental weakness and to assure the community that no fraud or unnecessary expenditure has occurred at DBCA under the watch of the McGowan Government.”