Lands Department must explain $260 million audit bungle

Apr 4, 2023 | Neil Thomson MLC, State News

The Opposition is calling for the McGowan Government to finally show some gold standard transparency after the Auditor-General highlighted a $260 million bungle in the administration of land assets in the Department of Planning Lands and Heritage’s Annual Report.

Shadow Planning Minister Neil Thomson said the audit found the land is held under a Management Order, which is land with conditions that it is generally held by another entity such as local governments.

These lands can also include conservation areas, water management reserves and park lands around the State.

“DPLH stated that they were making the adjustment due to the “incorrect recognition of Management Orders,” however the Auditor disagreed stating that “some land was subject to a Management Order and therefore should not be recognised,” Mr Thomson said.

“Concerningly, the audit also found that the Department’s management “were unable to substantiate the existence of all administered land. This was due to inadequate controls over administered land.”

“The report also cited significant weaknesses in the implementation of controls…these weaknesses could result in inaccuracies in the administered land records and thereby in administered financial information as errors and/or fraud may not be detected.”

“The most concerning part of this is this the Department is responsible for administering the Land Administration Act and $2.7billion in the land their agency controls.

“This finding by the Auditor-General is even more concerning given amendments to the Land Administration Act passed this month enabling the State Government to take complete control of land parcels without seeking the agreement of the local government which controls that land.

“The Department was unable to properly explain the bungle when grilled on the matter at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee last week and we are still waiting for a full reconciliation of lands affected by this.  

“It raises even more questions over the competence of the McGowan Government in the administration of billions of dollars’ worth of land under their control.”