Jackie Jarvis owes WA taxpayers an explanation over ‘scathing’ DPIRD report: Steve Martin

Olivia FordCountryman
Agricultural Region MLC Steve Martin said Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis owes WA taxpayers an explanation over her department’s financial controls.
Camera IconAgricultural Region MLC Steve Martin said Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis owes WA taxpayers an explanation over her department’s financial controls. Credit: Adam Poulsen/Countryman

Agricultural Region MLC Steve Martin has demanded a public explanation for why the State agriculture department copped a “scathing” auditor-general report in 2023 over its financial controls, and what actions have been taken to rectify issues since.

It comes after Mr Martin raised several questions to WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis during parliamentary question time about issues identified by an auditor-general report.

In 2023, WA’s auditor-general issued an adverse control opinion to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development for the 2022-23 financial year, marking the first time in WA history a government entity had received such an opinion.

In the report, the auditor-general determined financial control weaknesses in DPIRD were “so pervasive, it (was) not possible to conclude that controls were designed and implemented appropriately”.

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Areas flagged for concern included the lack of processes in place to prevent the inappropriate use of restricted cash, failure to prepare monthly reconciliations in the 2022-23 financial year, and the weaknesses of payroll controls which increased the risk of salary errors, overpayment and payment to people not entitled pay.

Mr Martin raised several questions to Ms Jarvis about what had been done to address the identified weaknesses during parliamentary question time in March, including if a public explanation had been provided.

In response, Ms Jarvis said DPIRD was working with the Office of the Auditor General to address the areas of concern raised in the report.

Mr Martin, who had previously written to Ms Jarvis for an answer before being diverted to parliamentary procedures, said he was not satisfied with the response.

“The Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis has refused to outline publicly why her department received such a scathing report card from the auditor-general,” he said.

“I wrote to Minister Jarvis for an explanation, and she suggested I use parliamentary procedures to get an answer.

“When I put a question to her in the Parliament, she would not outline what steps had been taken to address failures over the monitoring of cash balances to ensure there is sufficient cash to meet operational payments.”

Mr Martin said he would continue to seek an answer from Ms Jarvis on the issue.

“I have now submitted a written question on notice to Minister Jarvis asking for details on how her department is planning to rectify the problems discovered by the auditor-general,” he said.

“Minister Jarvis owes the taxpayers of WA a public explanation that she is aware of the issues outlined by the auditor-general and is acting to rectify the problem.”

In earlier reporting, a DPIRD spokesperson said the department had taken serious action following the auditor-general’s 2022-23 report, resulting in a more favourable unqualified audit opinion, or clean opinion, from the auditor-general for DPIRD’s financial statements and key performance indicators.

“DPIRD has now updated its systems and processes to address the main areas of concern raised by the office,” they said.

“Additional personnel and resources have also been allocated to pursue ongoing finance system and control improvement.”

Ms Jarvis was contacted for comment.

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