Annual Report 2021–22

Tabled: 21 September 2022



This year marks the final year of our 2017–21 strategic plan, in which we have focused on making our outputs more relevant and influential. Our strategy and our achievements over the past four years have been underpinned by investing in the skills and knowledge of our workforce and in streamlining and modernising our systems and processes.

I am pleased that over the past four and a half years we have continued to strengthen the reputation and standing of my Office. Our reports are generally regarded as objective, balanced and fair; and this has served to add to their credibility, usefulness and wide acceptance. To this end it is pleasing to see a steady improvement this year in the rate of progress by audited agencies implementing our audit recommendations.

Much of the success of our reports we attribute to our data first strategies, which embed data science into our performance audits and data analytics into our financial audits. This has served to strengthen our audits and enrich our public reports with more empirical evidence to support our findings. As well as making an impact in our audit practices this approach has also improved the way we communicate our findings. Our growing list of public-facing dashboards serve to increase transparency and strengthen accountability for public sector performance.

Work flexibility has been central to investing in our people this year. To achieve this, we have transitioned to our 'Better Normal’ hybrid working model. This combines the best of office-based and virtual work to match the way our people work with their specific situations and needs. This year we have also continued to focus on creating a more inclusive workplace with the finalisation of our Reconciliation Action Plan and the development of our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Plan 2022–25.

We still face challenges addressing workloads and time pressures that cause many of our staff undue stress—worsened by the lingering effects of the pandemic on our workforce and those of the agencies we audit. It was nonetheless pleasing to see that employee engagement increased in our People Matter survey results this year.

We recognise that our future success depends critically on our people. For this reason, we have given them prominence in our new strategic plan for 2022–25. Much of our effort over the coming years will be directed to investing in our workforce and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to be successful.

Andrew Greaves

About this report

This report covers the activities of VAGO for the period 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022. It is prepared in accordance with the Audit Act 1994 and the Financial Management Act 1994, and complies with the requirements of relevant Australian Accounting Standards and Interpretations, Standing Directions and Financial Reporting Directions.

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1. About VAGO

VAGO’s role is to provide assurance to Victoria's Parliament and community about the performance and accountability of the state's public sectors.

We achieve this by auditing and reviewing the finances and performance of state and local government entities.

1.1 Our role

The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, supported by around 185 staff and 9 firms who are our audit service providers.

Our legislation

The Constitution Act 1975 establishes the office of ‘Auditor General’ and gives them complete discretion in how they perform the functions and powers of their role.

The Audit Act 1994 sets out the legal basis of our powers and the responsibilities of our role

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) provide assurance to Parliament and the Victorian community about how effectively public sector agencies are providing services and using public money. We achieve this through an annual program of financial and performance audits and reviews of state and local government public sector entities.

We are part of Victoria’s integrity system, governed by the Constitution Act 1975 and the Audit Act 1994 (the Act). The office of 'Auditor-General' is independent—it is not controlled or directed by Parliament or the government.

Supporting continuous improvement

Our unique position and access to information across the Victorian public sector enables us to identify common issues and provide useful insights for parliamentarians, the public and the agencies we audit. 

We make recommendations to audited agencies on how to improve services and function more efficiently and effectively. 

Our assurance services

‘Level of assurance’ refers to the measure of the confidence we have in our conclusions. This depends on the source, quality and quantity of evidence we obtain.

We achieve …

When we …

This …

reasonable assurance

obtain and verify direct evidence about an agency’s performance from a variety of internal and external sources

  • enables us to express an opinion or draw a conclusion against an audit objective with a high level of assurance
  • is called an audit engagement.

limited assurance

rely primarily on an agency’s representations and other evidence generated by that agency (while aiming to have enough confidence in our conclusion for it to be meaningful)

  • allows us to quickly and cost-effectively respond to, examine and report on issues where a ‘reasonable assurance’ engagement is not required 
  • is called an assurance review and is typically expressed in the negative (for example, that nothing has come to our attention to indicate there is a problem).

We design our work programs with the information needs of our report users in mind. Taking into account cost and practicality, we consider if we need to provide them with reasonable assurance or if a lower level of assurance may be appropriate.

Types of engagements

We also distinguish our work program based on who engages us and who sets the audit objectives, scope and the criteria we use to evaluate performance.

  • Our performance audit and review program consists of direct engagements.
    Parliament engages and funds us to undertake this work.
  • Our financial audit and review program consists of attest engagements.
    The public sector entity that prepares the financial information is the engaging party and pays for the audit. The responsible party for each entity certifies (or attests) that the entity’s financial report is prepared properly and is reliable.

These engagements fall into 4 types, as shown in Figure 1A.

FIGURE 1A: The 4 engagement types

Engagement type Performance (direct)  Financial (attest)

(reasonable assurance)

Performance audits

Assess if government agencies, programs and services are effectively meeting their objectives, using their resources economically and efficiently and/or complying with legislation.

Provide reasonable assurance about activities that are performed well/represent better practice, and identify opportunities for improvement.

May involve using our ‘follow the dollar’ powers, which allow us to audit:

  • community-sector and for-profit organisations contracted to provide government services
  • how government grant recipients use their funds.

Financial audits

Provide reasonable assurance that information contained in public sector agencies’ financial and performance reports is:

  • reliable
  • relevant 
  • presented fairly and according to Australian Accounting Standards and other relevant legislation.

(limited assurance)

Performance reviews

Provide limited assurance, generally with a focus on waste, probity or compliance.

Typically have a narrow scope, examining a discrete activity or set of transactions, usually in relation to a single issue of significant public interest.

Financial reviews

Provide limited assurance that no material modifications need to be made to an entity’s financial report for it to conform with the Australian Accounting Standards and other relevant legislation.

Source: VAGO.

For more information about our assurance services, please see the fact sheets on our website at

1.2 Our operating model

Figure 1B shows our operating model, with an overview of our inputs and 2021–22 outputs and services.

FIGURE 1B: Our operating model showing 2021–22 outputs

FIGURE 1B: Our operating model showing 2021–22 outputs

Source: VAGO.

1.3 Our governance arrangements

Our strategic management group governs VAGO’s strategic direction and alignment to our vision, values and purpose. This group is responsible for:

  • setting and monitoring VAGO’s strategy
  • overseeing good governance and a positive organisational culture
  • achieving performance outcomes and sustainability
  • ensuring that VAGO has strong executive leadership.

FIGURE 1C: VAGO’s strategic management group 2021–22

FIGURE 1C: VAGO’s strategic management group 2021–22

Source: VAGO.

1.4 Our values

Our values shape our work and culture and how we grow as an organisation.

In 2021–22, we continued to promote and embed these values through team building activities and by celebrating the outstanding efforts of our employees both day-to-day and more formally at recognition events.

FIGURE 1D: The VAGO values

FIGURE 1D: The VAGO values

Source: VAGO.

1.5 Our strategic plan

The VAGO Strategic Plan 2017–2021 set out our objectives and directions (see Figure 1E) and articulated what success would look like (see Figure 1F). 

FIGURE 1E: 2017–2021 strategic objectives and directions

FIGURE 1E: 2017–2021 strategic objectives and directions

Source: VAGO.

Throughout this report we detail our progress against these objectives in this final year of operating under this plan. Figure 1F gives a snapshot of our four year progress and achievements.

FIGURE 1F: Snapshot of our progress against 'what success looks like'

What success looks like Our 4-year progress and highlights

Increase our relevance

Our audit program effort is targeted across efficiency, effectiveness, economy and compliance.

The benefits realised by the public sector show an increased return on investment from our audit work.

Key achievements:
Our reports and advice are now generally well-regarded: credible, balanced and fair.

We have delivered clear examples of our authoritative reporting, including reporting on sexual harassment, clinical governance, mental health and Budget Paper No. 3: Service Delivery.

We uplifted our financial audit methodology and rolled out of standardised procedures, forms, templates and core training.

And we developed our Empower (financial audit data analytics tool) product and commenced the adoption of technology-enabled practices.

We will continue to:

Explore our full mandate by:

  • expanding our use of review engagements
  • focus our coverage on areas of greatest risk and materiality.

Modernise our audit methodologies and our audit and assurance toolsets and complete the update of our performance engagement methodology.

Focus on data-driven auditing by extending the reach and application of Empower in our audits.

Grow our influence

More of our performance audits originate from requests from Parliament, the public sector and the public.

Use of our reports and associated datasets in government service delivery and for parliamentary purposes has increased.

Key achievements

We are demonstrably independent, and while this had led to some contested reports, by and large we have been a strong influencer on important issues.

We have progressively introduced dashboards into our suite of published products, which help make our work more accessible.

We updated our annual planning methodology, introduced continuous planning and have started earlier and more meaningful engagement with the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) on current and potential future audit topics.

We will continue to:

Explore the:

  • methods we use to gather information
  • analytical and visualisation tools we use to explain our audit results
  • way in which we publicly report.

Invest in our people

Employee engagement has increased.

We develop, attract and retain the talent we need.

Key achievements

We delivered improved results across all dimensions in our People Matter survey results.

We have shifted our culture to have a people focus, underpinned by our shared values and diversity agenda including our Diversity and Inclusion Plan, People Matter Action Plans and Gender Equality Action Plan, and we started our reconciliation journey.

We also introduced our ‘Better Normal’ principles to become a true employer of choice.

And we refreshed our audit service provider panel to help us deliver our financial audit program and improve service quality and delivery.

We will continue to:

Build on our achievements in our employee experience and engagement by:

  • providing professional development and career growth 
  • refining our organisation and audit delivery models to provide our staff with a rich, diverse and challenging work experience.

Lead by example

Workforce productivity has increased.

Our internal practices set the benchmark for public sector entities and other audit offices.

Key achievements

We have streamlined our back-office practices and processes through our investment in technology.

We have put more available hours into our audit products, while investing in our data analytics capability.

Our pro-transparency agenda (publishing our People Matter survey results and Transparency Report on our website) has set a benchmark for other entities and audit offices.

We will continue to:

Contribute to better public services by:

  • making better use of our data
  • improving how we engage and share better-practice approaches and insights with the public sector.

Source: VAGO.

The next strategic planning period (2022–25)

Our 2022–25 strategic plan is on our website at:

We recently published our 2022–25 strategic plan. This builds on and continues the work set out in our 2017–21 plan.

In revisiting and refreshing our approaches we judged that our existing strategy served us well. However, we also acknowledge that we were unable to fully realise our ambitious strategic agenda over the past 4 years, as we and the public sector were significantly disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Therefore, our new plan includes work carried over as well as new initiatives.

Figure 1G gives a summary of our 2022–25 strategic plan.

FIGURE 1G: 2022–25 strategic plan at a glance

FIGURE 1G: 2022–25 strategic plan at a glance

Source: VAGO.

1.6 How we report on our performance

VAGO’s performance measures and targets are set out in Budget Paper No. 3: Service Delivery. You can find this paper on the Victorian State Budget website.

Every year, we report against a set of performance measures and targets that we agree on with the Assistant Treasurer.

We discuss our 2021–22 performance against these measures in the relevant sections in this report.

We also include an independently audited performance statement in Chapter 6. We are not required to prepare this statement or have it audited, but we believe it is necessary to promote transparency and better public sector practice. It assures readers that our non-financial performance information is reliable—the same way the independent external audit opinion on our financial statements provides assurance.

1.7 How we are accountable

We are accountable to the Parliament of Victoria and all Victorians for how efficiently and effectively we perform our auditing services and how economically we use public resources. The key mechanisms used to ensure this accountability are:

  • external audits of our office
  • oversight by the Victorian Inspectorate
  • monitoring and publishing of our expenses.

External audits of our office

The Act requires that our office is the subject of an independent performance audit at least once every 4 years. The purpose of the audit is to determine whether the Auditor-General and VAGO are achieving their objectives effectively, economically and efficiently and in compliance with all relevant Acts.

The 2019–20 external audit report on VAGO, tabled in August 2020, is on our website at

In 2019–20, PAEC appointed Allen and Clark Consulting to conduct this audit. They tabled their report in Parliament on 4 August 2020.

Overall, the report was positive, concluding that:

The Auditor-General and VAGO are operating in compliance with all relevant Acts of Parliament. Moreover, the Auditor-General and VAGO are, in all material respects, operating effectively, economically and efficiently and achieving their objectives in compliance under the Act. 

The report made 31 recommendations. We monitor our progress in implementing these through:

  • periodic updates to our operational management group, and audit and risk committee (ARC)
  • biannual updates to PAEC.

Of the 31 recommendations made to our office, we …

And have …


  • 24 in full 
  • 3 in part 
  • 3 in principle

16 recommendations completed

14 recommendations in progress or partially complete.

did not accept 1 recommendation

Oversight by the Victorian Inspectorate

The Victorian Inspectorate (VI) is a key oversight body in Victoria’s integrity system, with the power to scrutinise our activities. It can receive and assess complaints made about us and can examine our use of our coercive powers. The VI can also monitor our compliance with certain sections of the Act.

We have worked with the VI to develop a self-reporting tool about the exercise of our coercive powers. We did not exercise these powers during the past financial year.

We understand that the VI did not receive any complaints about VAGO in 2021–22. The VI conducted one investigation of a public interest complaint about VAGO and its officers referred by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). The VI concluded that all allegations were unsubstantiated. Two observations were raised with VAGO, with the VI suggesting that we:

  • review our processes and procedures to help prevent delays in the finalisation of audit files; and
  • review our employee performance management processes and procedures to ensure timely and regular performance feedback. 

Find out more about our accountability mechanisms on our website at:

Monitoring and publishing our expenses

The Standing Directions 2018 under the Financial Management Act 1994 require us to publish our Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy and register on our website.

Our ARC monitors the Auditor-General’s expenses. To further enhance transparency and strengthen accountability, we also voluntarily publish this information on our website.

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2. Increasing our relevance

In 2021–22 we continued to increase our relevance by widening our audit program to explore our full mandate. We also furthered modernising the way we work.

Analysing our performance remains key to ensuring our work continues to realise a return on investment for the Parliament and for the people of Victoria. 

Progress snapshot

Progress snapshot

This chapter covers:

2.1 Our audit programs

To realise our goal of strengthening accountability and enhancing transparency across the public sector, we need to ensure our reports and advice are not just relevant, but also timely.

The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to limit our ability to control the timeliness of our reports in 2021–22. However, we continued to increase our relevance by widening our performance audit program to cover our full mandate.

In this section we look at our performance and financial audit programs.

Our performance audit program

Planning our work

Our Annual Plan 2022–23 is on our website at:

Our Annual Plan 2022–23, tabled in June 2022, sets out our next two-year performance audit program. It informs Parliament, the public sector and the Victorian community about our short and medium-term goals and priorities. It also:

  • helps us identify opportunities for early consultation with our stakeholders
  • allows agencies to prepare for audits well in advance.

We decide which areas to audit by anticipating and responding to current and emerging risks and challenges in the Victorian public sector. We use a multifaceted approach to identify, assess and prioritise potential topic areas. Our planning process informs the development of a work program that balances predictability and responsiveness.

In 2022–23, we will continue to focus on delivering a risk-based performance audit work program that reflects our mandate. We will undertake a mix of performance engagements that examine whether the public sector achieves its objectives effectively, economically and efficiently, and whether they comply with relevant legislation.

Parliamentary reporting on performance audits 

This year we tabled 16 performance audit reports in Parliament. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on our workforce and on agencies from March 2020, some of these audits were listed in previous annual plans.

Of our planned performance audits, we:

  • cancelled one
  • delivered one as a limited assurance review
  • tabled one on 1 September 2022
  • plan to table a further 2 by 31 October 2022. 

For more information, please see the section ‘Adjusting our performance audit program due to COVID-19’ later in this section.

Our 2021–22 reports covered a diverse range of topics including hospitals, schools, police, transport and local councils. Our reports highlighted key governance issues, monitoring and reporting challenges, and instances of poor financial discipline. We also noted good practices, reporting on these to set a better example for others to follow. Figure 2A lists the performance audits tabled in 2021–22 by sector.

FIGURE 2A: Performance audits tabled in 2021–22, grouped by sector

FIGURE 2A: Performance audits tabled in 2021–22, grouped by sector

Source: VAGO.

It is important that we communicate our findings in ways that are relevant to our stakeholders and audiences. From limited assurance reviews to full-scale performance audits, we used a wide array of products to achieve this, including long-form reports, summary videos, briefings, presentations and dashboards. We also use surveys in a variety of ways, both to gather evidence and to seek feedback.

Adjusting our performance audit program due to COVID-19

For more information about how we adjusted our audit program due to COVID-19, see our Annual Plan 2022–23 on our website at:

In 2021–22, 10 of the 16 reports we tabled were carried over from our previous annual plans, a direct impact of COVID-19 disruptions and pressures, both in our office and for public sector agencies. 

As in the previous year, we carefully considered all requests from agencies for short and medium-term delays, and we have worked with agencies to reschedule our work program to support their COVID 19 response. Last year we deferred planned audits on supporting sexual and reproductive health to 2022–23 and clinical trials in public hospitals to 2023–24 due to the significant impact on the health sector in responding to COVID-19. 

In 2021–22, we:

  • delivered our planned performance engagement on council waste management services as an assurance review (see section 2.2 for information) 
  • cancelled our planned performance engagement on supporting workers in transitioning industries due to planned reforms addressing the issues we would have considered in our audit. Key points:
    • In July 2021 the Victorian Government established the Victorian Skills Authority (VSA) in response to the recommendations of the Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy Review.
    • The VSA will gather evidence and data about Victoria's training and employment needs, match these needs to training, and provide independent advice to government. They will also produce Victorian Skills Plans and Regional Skills Plans, the first of which is due in 2022. 
    • We plan to reassess this topic over the coming years to assess the level of risk at that time.

Our financial audit program

The independent audit opinions we provide to agencies on their financial reports—and, where applicable, performance statements—enhance the credibility and reliability of that information. They also allow agencies to publish an annual report, which they are required to do due to their accountability obligations.

Financial (attest) engagements


of audit opinion target met
for public sector agency financial reports

Each year, we audit approximately 550 agencies' financial reports and provide opinions on more than 100 performance statements. We audit agencies including government departments, statutory bodies, educational institutions, public health services, water corporations, insurers and local government councils.

We also conduct an annual assurance review of the estimated financial statements contained in the state Budget. We provide our review opinion to the Treasurer to include in the budget papers.

Audit opinions issued

In 2021–22 we issued 550 audit opinions on the financial reports of public sector agencies. Six of these opinions were carried over from a previous reporting period. 


of management letters issued within target timeframe

We also issued 109 audit opinions on the performance statements of local councils, water agencies and TAFEs, meeting our target.

Parliamentary reporting on financial audits

Under the Act, we must report to Parliament the results of our audit of the state’s financial report, which is prepared by the Treasurer.

We also report separately on the results of our audits of local governments, universities and Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFEs). Although this is not mandatory, we believe the size and impact of these sectors makes the more detailed reporting a valuable tool for parliament and the community. Figure 2B lists the financial audit reports we tabled under our 2021–22 program.

FIGURE 2B: Reports tabled on the results of 2020–21 financial audits

Report Tabled
Tabled in 2021–22
Auditor-General’s Report on the Annual Financial Report of the State of Victoria: 2020–21 Nov 21
Results of 2020–21 Audits: Local Government Dec 21
Tabled since 1 July 2022
Results of 2020–21 Audits: Technical and Further Education Institutes Jul 22
Results of 2020–21 Audits: Universities Jul 22

Note: Reports on results of audits of universities and TAFEs were delayed due to staff resource challenges as a result of COVID-19.
Source: VAGO.

Measuring the quality of our audit work

2.2% of agencies disclosed prior-period material errors in their financial statements. Our target was less than 5%

As auditors, it is critical that our work is reliable. We design our audit procedures to detect material errors. We measure how we perform on this by assessing the number of financial statements that require corrections to take account of undetected errors from prior periods.

This year 2.2 per cent of agencies disclosed prior-period material errors in their financial statements. This within our target of less than 5 per cent.

A financial audit opinion can only provide reasonable, not absolute, assurance that there are no material errors in the information. 

Delivering our financial audit program in a pandemic

Financial reporting and audit timelines are challenging in a normal year for all stakeholders involved. COVID-19 continued to add to this challenge for some state government entities to meet their annual reporting requirements and our ability to undertake our audits for the 30 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 financial reporting periods.

Consistent with the previous reporting period, we addressed this by working with entities to develop an entirely remote approach to completing year-end processes and audit functions. Working towards a common goal helped us to the deliver the 2021 audit program.

As we did last year, we also delivered our audit program incrementally: 

  • For the 30 June audit delivery, we prioritised our audit of the Annual Financial Report of the State of Victoria for 2020–21 and material entities, where non material entities audits occurred after. As a result, we provided many of our non-material audit opinions later in 2021–22 than in other years.
  • For our 31 December audit delivery, we prioritised based on entity type and reporting timelines. As a result, some audit opinions were issued later than in other years. 

The challenges faced to our financial audit program also saw us table some of our reports on results of our financial audits later than previous years. 

We have encountered further challenges with the 2022 audit program, due to: 

  • the narrowed timeframe of the last pre-election sitting day of Parliament 
  • flow-on workforce impacts from the pandemic
  • scarce resources in the accounting industry that complement our workforce during peak reporting season
  • workforce pressure on corporate finance functions of the agencies we audit. 

We have again prioritised material entity audits for the 2022 year-end to help ensure that the state can deliver its annual financial report for 2021–22 ahead of the state election in November 2022.

2.2 Our assurance review program

In 2021–22 we delivered 4 limited assurance reviews (shown in Figure 2C), one of which was not in our Annual Plan.

The additional review—Managing Conflicts of Interest in Procurement—was developed in response to 4 separate referrals we received from Members of Parliament and the public between July and October 2020. Each of the referrals alleged conflicts of interest in procurement. In examining these allegations, we considered the referrals as 4 separate case studies.

A second limited assurance review—Council Waste Management Services—was originally included in our Annual Plan as a performance audit. As part of our audit planning, we considered whether an efficiency audit into Victorian councils' waste management services would result in an impactful report, including whether it would lead to process improvements and efficiency gains for councils. Based on the evidence we obtained during planning, we found that continuing with a full performance audit would not provide value for money and we instead decided to conduct a limited assurance review. This is an example of our flexible approach and ability to effectively apply both the Act and Australian Standard on Assurance Engagements ASAE 3000.

FIGURE 2C: Assurance reviews tabled in 2021–22

Review Tabled
Responses To Performance Audit Recommendations: Annual Status Update  Jun 21
Managing Conflicts of Interest in Procurement Sep 21
Major Projects Performance Sep 21
Council Waste Management Services Dec 21

Source: VAGO.

2.3 Delivering services efficiently

The average cost of our parliamentary reports in 2021–22 was $683,636. This is 28 per cent higher than the 2020–21 average ($535,300), and 30 per cent over our 2020–21 target ($527,000).

The higher costs of our reports correlate to the additional time we spent on audits. Figure 2D summarises the average cost and time to complete for our reports by type.

FIGURE 2D: Average cost and time to complete—parliamentary reports by type 2020–21

Engagement/report type 2021–22 average cost 2021–22 average time to complete Prior year average time to complete Target average time to complete
Performance audits $876,225 14.3 months 13.6 months 9 months
Reports on the results of financial audit $185,937 4.9 months 6.7 months 5 months
Limited assurance review  $351,204 7.9 months 4.6 months N/A

Source: VAGO.

Delivering performance audit reports

This year our average time to complete performance audits (from initiation to tabling) was 14.3 months. As shown in Figure 2D, this is 0.7 months more than last year and more than 5 months above our target.

These delays were caused by: 

  • large, complex audits with multiple audited agencies
  • allowing agencies more time to respond to us due to COVID-19 
  • fewer available staff hours due to:
    • unforeseen additional leave resulting from COVID-19
    • staff departures.

Delivering financial audit reports

The average time to produce our parliamentary reports on results of our financial audits after the balance date in 2021–22 was 4.9 months. As shown in Figure 2D, this is below the prior year result and within our target of 5 months.

We tabled two financial audit parliamentary reports during 2021–22:

  • Auditor-General’s Report on the Annual Financial Report of the State of Victoria: 2020–21 was delivered within 4.6 months and within our target of 5 months as required by the Act. 
  • Results of 2020–21 Audits: Local Government was delivered just over the target, at 5.1 months. 

Our two education sector reports—Results of 2021 Audits: Universities and Results of 2021 Audits: Technical and Further Education Institutes—were both delayed due to COVID-19, and tabled in early July 2022, outside our reporting period. These reports would have increased our overall average time as they took over 6 months to complete.

Delivering financial audit services

The public sector agencies we audit pay us for the financial audit work we perform. The Act allows us to recover reasonable costs only, so it is important that we continuously monitor and benchmark our service costs.

As shown in Figure 2E, the average cost of the audit opinions we issued on financial statements during 2021–22 was $54,319, above both our 2020–21 result and our target.

FIGURE 2E: Average cost of audit opinions 2020–21 compared with previous year, target and benchmark 

Financial service 2021–22 average cost Prior year average cost Target average cost Benchmark: state & territory average cost (2020–21)
Audit opinion on financial statements: overall $54,319 $50,700 $50,000 N/A
Audit opinion on financial statements: state government entities  $55,556 $58,640 N/A $84,236
Audit opinion on financial statements: local government entities $48,788 $58,709 N/A $63,015

Source: VAGO.

The average cost of audit opinion were higher than last year, primarily because:

  • audit fees we pay to our audit service provider panel increased in line with the market
  • we increased some of our in-house audit fees to better reflect the full cost of service provision.    

We benchmark our average costs against other state and territory audit offices with similar mandates. As also shown in Figure 2E, our average costs for both state and local government entities were well below these comparators. 

Meeting statutory timeframes

Agencies have statutory timeframes in which to:

  • complete their annual financial reports
  • table their annual reports.

This means our work must be timely. As shown in Figure 2F, we missed our target for issuing audit opinions and met our target for final management letters, with our performance slightly lower than the prior year. COVID-19 continued to impact timely service delivery, particularly for audit opinions issued between July to October 2021 and February to April 2022.

FIGURE 2F: Time to issue compared with previous year and target

Financial service and required time to deliver 2021–22 % of cases deadline met Prior year % of cases deadline met Target % of cases deadline met
Issue audit opinion on financial statements within 4 weeks of receiving finalised statement from agency 96.0% 97.3% 98.0%
Issue final management letters to agencies within 4 weeks of issuing the audit opinion  90.0% 93.8 % 90.0%

Source: VAGO.

2.4 Modernising our audit methods

VAGO has long been committed to exploring and embracing new technologies to enhance audit techniques.

From advanced statistical techniques, data analytics and data communication to leveraging cloud-based technologies, our innovative approach is driving the efficiency and effectiveness of our work and leading the way in the government sector.

Enhancing performance audit through data science 

We are working collaboratively with Australian and international audit offices to foster and develop the emerging discipline of performance audit data science.

Performance audits are bespoke and qualitative, presenting unique challenges for the design and application of data analytics. To address this, we are working to integrate and embed a data approach into our performance audit methodology.

While some of this work will take time to realise, embedding data scientists with performance audit teams is already making an impact—on the way we plan for, gather and analyse evidence, and on the way we communicate our findings.

We see the impact of the data science team’s work in our engagement statistics (for example, from our online dashboards). It has also been gratifying to be recognised by our peer audit offices, including at the Australasian Council of Auditors-General (ACAG) Innovation Awards:

  • 2021: Received Innovation Award for Accessibility of Tram Services
  • 2022: Received Innovation Award for Major Projects Performance dashboard. 

Other examples of data science’s contribution in 2021–22 include the following.

Our engagement on …

Was enhanced by the work of data scientists to …

Managing Body worn cameras

merge separate datasets to calculate police officers’ compliance with their body-worn camera policy

Offsetting Native Vegetation Loss on Private Land

analyse geospatial imagery to identify undocumented clearance of native vegetation

Fraud Control Over Local Government Grants

identify potential cases of fraud in council grants data

Government Advertising

create a public-facing dashboard visualising Victorian Government spending on campaign advertising

ICT Provisioning in Schools

analyse asset registers and purchase data to understand the ICT resources available in schools

Major Projects Performance

create a dashboard providing transparency over Victoria’s major projects

Council Waste Management Services

generate individualised reports to councils, benchmarking their waste management spend

Effectiveness of the Navigator Program

use school attendance data to estimate Navigator program effectiveness

Kinship Care

calculated compliance with child protection policies and effectiveness of services.

Empowering financial auditors with data analytics 

In 2021–22, we used our in-house data analytics platform—Empower—to generate 96 financial audit dashboards. These internal dashboards cover 53 of our audit clients and are now regularly updated. 

The benefits of these dashboards include: 

  • providing our auditors with source data 
  • assisting with planning analytics  
  • assisting with sampling  
  • enabling auditors to run computer-assisted audit techniques over data
  • assisting with more traditional substantive testing, such as fully recalculating material classes of revenue.

Embedding our new financial audit methodology 

We continue to refine our Engage, Plan, Implement and Conclude (EPIC) methodology, as well as developing training and guidance to support our auditors. 

We have also commenced work on replacing our existing legacy audit toolset, to support our future financial audits. Our project team is evaluating the market and identifying our preferred replacement software that can meet the current needs and future aspirations of our financial auditors.  

We expect to select and begin to progressively implement new financial audit software during 2022-23 

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3. Growing our influence

In 2021–22 we continued to find better ways to engage our stakeholders.

To help maintain our high levels of stakeholder satisfaction and overcome the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, we continued with our remote parliamentary briefings and live-streamed forums, increased our social media engagement and introduced financial reporting alerts.

Progress snapshot

Progress snapshot

This chapter covers:

3.1 Our impact in 2021–22

Despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic in 2021–22, we continued to make an impact.

In this section we look at our impact on our key stakeholders, Parliament and the agencies we audit.

Impact on Parliamentarians

Many of our performance audits received attention in Victoria's Parliament during 2021–22, as shown in Figure 3A.

FIGURE 3A: Examples of our impact in Parliament in 2021–22

Joint Committees Example of impact

Electoral Matters Committee

September 2021: The committee’s Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2018 Victorian State Election drew heavily on our 2016 Victorian Electoral Commission report, which assessed the commission’s elections planning systems, performance across a range of indicators, and ability to provide accessible services.

March 2022: The committee’s Inquiry into Whether Victoria Should Participate in a National Electoral Roll Platform made references to our 2003 Parliamentary Control and Management of Appropriations report.


Under the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003 (Vic), PAEC has the important function of conducting follow-up inquires on recommendations made in some of our selected performance audit reports:

  • September 2019: PAEC resolved to conduct the Follow-up Inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report No. 253: Managing School Infrastructure (2017). PAEC received submissions and held public hearings. However, in response to a request by the Premier in April 2020, it resolved to undertake an inquiry into the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to conflicting priorities and time pressures, PAEC resolved it was unable to adequately acquit its Managing School Infrastructure follow-up obligations, discontinuing its inquiry. It tabled an interim report in April 2022.
  • May 2022: The Government tabled its response to PAEC’s June 2020 Follow-up Inquiry into the Auditor General’s Report No. 202: Meeting Obligations to Protect Ramsar Wetlands (2016). PAEC’s inquiry provided an opportunity to examine what actions government agencies had taken in response to our 2016 report’s findings and recommendations. Of PAEC’s 16 recommendations, which focused on the governance arrangements and the management, funding and monitoring of Ramsar sites, the government accepted 9 in full, one in part and 6 in principle.
Legislative Assembly  Example of impact

Economy and Infrastructure Committee

March 2022: The Government tabled its response to the committee’s Inquiry into Access to TAFE For Learners with Disability. The inquiry referred to the finding in our 2019 report Enrolment Processes at Technical and Further Education Institutes that none of 5 TAFEs we audited had a detailed documented process for how students’ capabilities and learning needs were determined. The committee reinforced the finding TAFEs need to identify learners who need additional support and make adequate allowances in their enrolment processes.

Environment and Planning Committee

February 2022: The committee tabled its Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations, in which it referred to findings and recommendations from 3 of our previous reports:

  • Managing Surplus Government Land (2018)
  • Protecting Critically Endangered Grasslands (2020)
  • Managing Development Contributions (2020).

The committee is currently waiting for the Government’s response.

Legislative Council  Example of impact

Legal and Social Issues Committee

March 2022: The committee tabled its Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System, in which it referred to findings and recommendations from 4 of our previous reports:

  • Managing Rehabilitation Services in Youth Detention (2018)
  • Managing Community Corrections Orders (2017)
  • Safety and Cost Effectiveness of Private Prisons (2018)
  • Administration of Parole (2016).

The committee is currently waiting for the Government’s response.    

October 2021: In its final report on Inquiry into the closure of I Cook Foods Pty Limited the committee recommended that our office undertake an audit of food safety regulation in local councils.

You can read more about our regulating food safety audit in our Annual Plan 2022–23 or on our website at

Minister for Local Government, the Hon Shaun Leane MP

June 2022: In response to the findings and recommendations in our Fraud Control over Local Government Grants report, tabled in May 2022, the Minister wrote to Victorian mayors, noting that our audit found that grant-related fraud controls are not always well designed, consistent or operating as intended.

While our audit only examined 6 councils, the Minister asked all mayors to consider the report’s findings, noting that 9 of the 10 recommendations were applicable to all councils and for them to take steps to review their own grant and fraud processes.

Source: VAGO and Parliament of Victoria.

Impact on agencies: responses to our performance audits

In our 2021–22 Responses to Performance Audit Recommendations: Annual Status Update report, we reviewed agencies’ progress on recommendations from performance audits published between July 2018 and December 2021.

As agencies are not legally required to accept, complete or publicly report on our recommendations, we use our assurance review powers to provide greater transparency and accountability to the Victorian public and parliamentarians. 

Our 2021–22 review assessed whether agencies have effectively addressed our performance audit recommendations. It involved:

  • 66 performance engagements
  • 93 agencies
  • 1,316 outstanding recommendations.

Figure 3B shows a high-level status update of the performance audit recommendations we reviewed.

FIGURE 3B: Status of performance audit recommendations based on 2020–21 review

FIGURE 3B: Status of performance audit recommendations based on 2020–21 review

Note: The response rate for assurance review surveys was 100 per cent.
Source: VAGO.

One way we rate our performance is by measuring the ‘Percentage of accepted performance audit recommendations that audited agencies report as completed across a 2-year period’.

As shown in Figure 3C, the 2021–22 result of 77.9 per cent was an improvement on the previous year but still below our target.

FIGURE 3C: Results of our review of outstanding performance audit recommendations

Criteria 2021–22 result Previous year result Target
Total recommendations under review 1,316    
Recommendations tabled in 2018–19 and 2019–20 858
Number of those tabled recommendations accepted fully, in part or in principle 837
Number of those accepted (fully, in part, or in principle) recommendations reported as complete 652
Overall result
Percentage of accepted performance audit recommendations audited agencies reported as completed across a 2-year period
77.9% 70.8% 80.0%

Source: VAGO.

As part of our review, we look at the completion rate for individual agencies. Figure 3D shows the percentage of recommendations we made between July 2018 and December 2021 that have been completed by each department.

Agencies continue to get faster at completing actions in response to our recommendations. The time taken to complete a recommendation after the audit tabled improved by 2 months, from a median of 13 to 11 months.

FIGURE 3D: Percentage of performance audit recommendations completed by departments across a 2-year period, based on our 2021–22 review.

FIGURE 3D: Percentage of performance audit recommendations completed by departments across a 2-year period, based on our 2021–22 review.

Source: VAGO.

Agency responses to financial audit recommendations

Our financial audits have made a measurable impact on internal controls this year. Part of our financial audit process is to issue management letters to agencies highlighting issues of internal control weakness and other matters we find and make recommendations to resolve them. Agencies respond to these letters with their intended actions. 

This year, we again found the majority of control issues related to IT weaknesses. Although we did see improvement on the percentage of issued resolved from prior years.

Figure 3E shows the progress we have made on strengthening agencies’ internal controls over the last 4 years.

FIGURE 3E: Percentage of resolved issues from prior years

FIGURE 3E: Percentage of resolved issues from prior years

Source: VAGO.

3.2 Improving stakeholder engagement

Our primary stakeholders are parliamentarians, the public sector agencies we audit and the Victorian community. We also actively engage with our peers and the accounting and auditing professions.

We constantly seek better ways to engage with our stakeholders. This year we uplifted our digital engagement and marketing activities, including becoming more active on social media. This has included:

  • reviewing and enhancing our report communications plans, including selecting images and key words more strategically
  • updating our direct communications (for example, email invitations), applying plain language conventions
  • establishing Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • increasing the frequency and variety of our posts on LinkedIn
  • encouraging our employees to continue developing their plain language writing skills and to become involved in our social media activity, including promoting VAGO as a workplace of choice.

This activity has allowed us to raise engagement and expand the reach and impact of our work. For example, as a result of consistently posting more engaging content on our 3 social media channels we have:

  • increased our LinkedIn followers by approximately 20 per cent 
  • seen a 750 per cent increase in page views across the board, and:
    • a 2400 per cent increase in reactions 
    • an 1,100 per cent increase in comments and shares. 

This is in line with our social media goals to:

  • better identify and engage with our audience across multiple channels
  • promote and share our work to increase the reach of our products
  • become an employer of choice and deliver improved recruitment and talent acquisition outcomes.

FIGURE 3F: Examples of our social media presence and activity

FIGURE 3F: Examples of our social media presence and activity

Source: VAGO.

Engaging with parliamentarians

In 2021–22 we continued to engage with parliamentarians with the aim of better understanding their needs. In particular, we worked to develop opportunities for Members of Parliament to have input into, and receive insights from, our work.

Engaging with PAEC

Throughout the year we engaged with PAEC on annual planning and audit topic selection. This relationship provided valuable feedback on our forward audit program, including ideas about potential areas of audit interest.

We have continued to conduct online briefing sessions on tabled reports during 2021–22. We run the briefings on the day the report is tabled, providing parliamentarians and their staff with an overview of our audit findings and the opportunity for a question and answer session on areas of interest and concern.

Responding to enquiries

We also responded to enquiries from parliamentarians throughout the year. On average, we took 18 days to finalise a response, successfully meeting our target of 20 days or fewer.

Improving information delivery

Our dashboard and data visualisation products, which allow easier analysis and deeper exploration than static tables of information, have continued to receive positive feedback. We published the following dashboards in 2021-22:

FIGURE 3G: Example view from our dashboard on government advertising

FIGURE 3G: Example view from our dashboard on government advertising

Source: VAGO.

Strengthening accountability through transparent service performance 

As part of our wider strategy to reform and enhance the reporting of service performance by the public sector, we published a service performance dashboard on our website as part of our 2021 Measuring and Reporting on Service Delivery audit. We update this dashboard annually and published our 2022 revision in September 2022.

FIGURE 3H: Snapshot of our Measuring and reporting on Service Delivery dashboard

FIGURE 3H: Snapshot of our Measuring and reporting on Service Delivery dashboard

Source: VAGO.

This dashboard allows users to:

  • compare departments’ performance against each other
  • drill down to examine performance trends for individual measures over time
  • download raw data on output performance measures and conduct their own analysis. 

We also publish our own VAGO dashboard on our Annual Report webpage. This complements the audited performance statement in our annual report and provides a more visual representation of our performance over time.

Public sector forums and conferences

Our staff regularly attend and present at forums and conferences for professionals across sectors. We attended the following events in 2021–22:

  • IBAC, Victorian Ombudsman and VAGO joint webinar
  • Victorian Local Governance Association Connect webinars
  • FinPro conference presentations, regional meetings and question and answer panel sessions
  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ): Finance Business Tech Conference and events
  • Certified Practising Accountant Australia (CPA Australia): Public Sector and Not-for-profit Committee events
  • CPA Australia: Virtual Congress 
  • ACAG: committees, events and webinars
  • Department CFO forums.
COMPACT conference

In May 2022 we hosted the first ever COMPACT (Country Meeting of Performance Audit Critical Thinkers) conference. More than 200 performance auditors from across the country joined us for this virtual forum.

Supporting the conference theme of Integrity, Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia, was our keynote speaker. We also hosted a lively panel discussion with 3 Auditors-General (Michael Harris from the ACT, Grant Hehir from the Australian National Audit Office and Andrew Greaves from VAGO) discussing auditing in the time of COVID-19.

The winners of the annual performance audit awards were also announced during COMPACT. These awards recognise examples of achievement in the categories of Communications, Excellence and Innovation

Our office was honoured to win the Innovation award for the second consecutive year, this time for our Major Projects Performance limited assurance review and accompanying dashboard.

Our aim in conducting the Major Projects Performance review and establishing the dashboard was to supplement existing publicly available major capital project investment and reporting, enabling Parliament to better understand performance against approved scope, cost, time and benefit analysis. We spotlighted this dashboard in last year’s annual report and are pleased to confirm that we will be delivering an annual update in September 2022.

Live-streamed Audit Committee Forum

In July 2022 we ran our fourth annual Audit Committee Forum as a live-streamed event, extending an invitation to all audit committee members. More than 120 attendees learnt about current sector-wide topics and areas of interest, including:

  • our Annual Plan and strategy
  • securing innovation in the cloud
  • ‘Better Normal’: a new way of working.

There was also an interactive question and answer session.

We received positive feedback from attendees, including that they enjoyed the reduced session time of 1.5 hours (down from 2.5 hours). We also received feedback that the sessions were informative and provided real value for audit committee members. They enjoyed the flexibility afforded by a virtual forum, particularly the ability to revisit the information after the event.

Of the attendees who completed our post-event survey: 

  • 33 per cent were attending the forum for the first time
  • 93 per cent were satisfied with the content presented
  • 93 per cent were satisfied with the presentation length
  • 93 per cent were satisfied with the opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback
  • 70 per cent said they would like similar forums to be run more than once a year.

As a result of this feedback we are reviewing our approach and planning additional forums in 2022–23.

Professional and peer organisations

Throughout the year we engaged with our peers from other audit offices through ACAG. We were involved in role-based subgroups focused on promoting and strengthening public sector auditing. Subgroups included:

  • Heads of Performance Audit
  • Heads of Financial Audit
  • Financial Reporting and Accounting Committee 
  • Auditing Standards Committee. 
Publishing thought leadership 

Financial Reporting Alerts, our FRA team’s thought leadership series helps the Victorian public sector stay on top of topical financial reporting issues and emerging technical developments. The series is on our website at:

In 2021–22, our financial reporting advisory (FRA) team launched their ‘Financial Reporting Alerts’ series. This project aims to create awareness among the Victorian public sector and help them to stay on top of the latest financial reporting developments in a timely fashion.

The first alert, published in March 2022, gave an update on the Australian Accounting Standards Board’s (AASB) proposed amendments related to revenue and income recognition.

The second alert, published in April 2022, discussed the AASB’s proposals on fair value measurement of non-financial assets of not-for-profit public sector entities. We shared the article with our clients and promoted the publication through our website and LinkedIn page.

Engaging the Australian Accounting Standards Board 

The FRA team also regularly engaged with the AASB to discuss how accounting standards are applied in the public sector. We attended staff liaison meetings, provided feedback on AASB consultation documents, and participated in AASB project advisory panels (including the Fair Value project advisory panel and Not for profit project advisory panel).

FRA also worked closely with the accounting policy team at the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) on changes to financial reporting directions, model financial statements and other technical accounting matters. We also liaised with professional accounting bodies (such as CPA Australia and CA ANZ) and various industry technical discussion groups.

Engaging the Australian Auditing and Assurance Standards Board

Our audit quality team continued to engage with the Australian Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AUASB) to discuss auditing standards and potential implementation issues in the public sector. We gave feedback on various projects and exposure drafts released by AUASB via ACAG and project advisory group network.

Systems assurance

In 2021–22, our data analytics and systems assurance (DASA) team hosted a virtual meeting involving the heads of systems assurance/IT audit across ACAG offices. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss how our different offices approached the revisions to ASA 315 Identifying and Assessing the Risks of Material Misstatement

A member of our DASA team participated in an AUASB-led project advisory group. This group assists the AUASB’s Technical Group by drawing on our professional expertise and experience in developing guidance to support the use of technology by auditors in executing audits and to support auditors in auditing.

3.3 Listening to our stakeholders

We survey parliamentarians every year to understand how well we are serving them. Our 2021–22 survey told us that parliamentarians find our reports and services useful sources of information on public sector performance that help improve public sector administration and assist them in their roles.

Our overall satisfaction rating among parliamentarians was 77.9 per cent in 2020–21, compared to 87.5 per cent in 2020–21. This result was from a relatively small sample size of 40 Parliamentarians representing a 34 per cent response rate; 22.5 per cent of parliamentarians indicated they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, indicating some additional respondents’ satisfaction levels were neutral. Our satisfaction target is 85 per cent.

We will continue to work with Members of Parliament to enhance our products and services, and to make them more accessible, readable and relevant.

Parliamentarians reported being generally satisfied with the accessibility of our products and services, including our online offerings and briefings. Feedback on our performance more generally was also positive, highlighting the important role VAGO plays for Parliament and the public. Figure 3I illustrates this feedback.

FIGURE 3I: Parliamentarian satisfaction survey data

FIGURE 3I: Parliamentarian satisfaction survey data

Source: VAGO.

Public sector agencies

After each performance audit, we ask the agencies involved how they rate our processes, reporting and value. We aim for our average score across the year to be at least 75 per cent on each of these measures. 

Figure 3J shows our results for 2021–22 tabled audits. Scores across all dimensions are slightly lower than 2020–21, with 72 per cent of performance audit clients satisfied with the overall performance audit process and reporting. For 2 of the audits we tabled in 2021–22, we received no response from the clients.

FIGURE 3J: Performance audit survey results

FIGURE 3J: Performance audit survey results

Source: VAGO.

The results of our financial audit survey this year indicated relatively consistent levels of satisfaction with last year’s result, with average satisfaction of 93.5 per cent in 2021–22 compared to 95.7 per cent in 2020-21. As with our performance audit surveys, we asked CFOs about our process, reporting and value. Figure 3K shows the highlights of our 2021–22 results.

FIGURE 3K: Financial audit survey results

FIGURE 3K: Financial audit survey results

Source: VAGO.

Sourcing engagement topics from stakeholders

In developing our annual plan of engagement topics, we consult with the agencies we audit and a wide range of Victorian stakeholders. We want to ensure that our audit topics reflect issues of concern to parliamentarians and the public, so we aim to increase the number of our audits that originate from these sources. 

In 2021–22, we received 238 requests and comments from the public and elected officials. This was 30 less than the 268 requests and comments received the previous year.

The correspondence comprised: 

  • 211 requests and comments from the general public 
  • 10 requests from parliamentarians
  • 4 requests from local government councillors
  • 13 requests from the public sector. 

Some of our 2022–23 planned audits relate to issues raised in these referrals, including: 

  • Contractors and consultants in the Victorian public service: spending
  • Principal health and wellbeing
  • Supporting students with disability
  • Staff wellbeing in Fire Rescue Victoria
  • Regulating food safety

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4. Investing in our people

Despite the disruption and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to workplaces, we are pleased that in 2021–22 our employee engagement increased.

We prioritised health and wellbeing, provided more training opportunities, and continued building upon our commitment to being an employer of choice.

Progress snapshot

Progress snapshot

Source: VAGO and VAGO Gender Equality Action Plan 2022–25.

This chapter covers:

4.1 Who works at VAGO?

Appendix A includes a profile of the VAGO workforce. It shows our employees by age, seniority and gender and whether they are part time or full time, on fixed-term or ongoing contracts.

Gender pay gap

As of 30 June 2022, 53 per cent of our workforce were women, comprising:

  • 82 per cent of our part-time workers, down from:
    • 90 per cent in 2020–21
    • 100 per cent in 2019–20
  • 46 per cent of our executives, up from:
    • 44 per cent in 2020–21
    • 42 per cent in 2019–20.

Our gender pay gap is 3.7 per cent in favour of men, compared to 4.5 per cent in 2020–21.

While there is room for improvement, our gender pay gap is significantly lower than the:

4.2 Putting our people first

This year we continued to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff.

Our COVIDSafe Plan

Our COVIDSafe Plan is designed to protect staff from COVID-19 when they are working away from home.

Better Normal
To be an employer of choice we need to provide our staff with the most contemporary work practices possible. Work flexibility is central to achieving this objective. 
We have designed our Better Normal principles to guide this flexibility.

This plan continually evolved throughout the year, as we updated measures in line with updated health advice from the government. 

Building a ‘Better Normal’

Like all workplaces, we initially moved to remote working because we had no choice—the pandemic changed the workplace in ways we could not have imagined. But it has also presented opportunities and we want to retain those things that improve the way we work and deliver services. 

To achieve this, we have transitioned to a hybrid working model called ‘Better Normal’. Our model is not simply remote working. Rather, it matches work modes with situations and needs, combining the best of office-based and virtual work. 

Figures 4A and 4B show our Better Normal principles and working model. This is based on a Gartner model, and balances high-value engagement with opportunities for deep focus. 

FIGURE 4A: Our Better Normal principles 

FIGURE 4A: Our Better Normal principles 

Source: VAGO, from an information pamphlet for our clients.

Better Normal empowers our staff to decide what works for them while taking into account our client’s circumstances. We value in-person interaction and come together when it matters most. In-person interaction and onsite visits can and will occur, although remote auditing remains our default position.

Offering this flexibility has 2 critical benefits:

  • It helps us attract and retain highly skilled, experienced people, including external financial audit service providers, allowing us to continue delivering high-quality audits.
  • It also drives greater job satisfaction for our team by facilitating better work–life balance. People have the flexibility to work in ways that suit them.

FIGURE 4B: Our hybrid working model

FIGURE 4B: Our hybrid working model

Source: VAGO, based on Gartner’s 4 modes of collaboration.

Providing standardised equipment for working from home

To better support our staff in performing their work duties under our new hybrid working model, we have offered all VAGO personnel a standardised workstation that meets ergonomic and electrical safety levels. This includes:

  • a motorised sit–stand desk with integrated cable management and power outlets
  • an Australasian Furniture Research and Development Institute Level 6 certified chair and optional floor mat
  • up to 2 external monitors (with integrated monitor arms and cables)
  • a laptop riser
  • a Microsoft surface dock
  • a keyboard and mouse.

In 2021–22 we successfully provisioned 192 standardised workstations to help support our Better Normal approach and enable our people to perform their work duties at home.

Reducing our lease footprint

Our hybrid working model has led to a reduction in the demand for our office premises and on 1 December 2021, we exited our lease agreement for level 32, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne. This resulted in a net gain on disposal of non-financial assets of $0.4 million and further cost savings for the remaining year of $0.9 million due to a reduced tenancy footprint and office operating costs. We retained our office premises on level 31, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne.

We redirected these cost savings into other areas of the organisation—particularly in modernising our audit methods through the increased use of data science and data analytics and investing in our replacement audit toolsets.

Flexible learning and development approaches

We have restructured the delivery model for our professional learning and development program to enable the virtual delivery of all courses using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Articulate 360 and other online learning technologies, consistent with our approach to flexible working.

Formal learning programs

Our formal learning program includes a combination of technical and professional topics. This is a sample of some of our modules, courses and programs:

  • Aboriginal cultural awareness training
  • Evidence and the EQCR
  • Cognitive bias training
  • How modern government works
  • Improving cognitive critical thinking
  • Introduction to audit standards
  • Introduction to instruction design and running training
  • Investigative interviewing
  • Mastering FA technical consultations and enquiries
  • MS Excel learning pathway
  • Power BI learning pathway
  • Risk-based audit planning
  • The art of communicating with confidence and subtly
  • Understanding and testing internal controls
  • Working papers and findings
  • Writer and reviewer learning path.
FRA technical training

In 2021–22 our FRA team partnered with the audit quality (AQ) team and conducted a 2-day training program for all financial audit staff. The purpose of the training was to develop the technical knowledge and awareness on financial reporting requirements and emerging technical developments that would allow staff to undertake technically compliant audits and improve audit quality.

This training was conducted via a hybrid mode where staff had the option to attend either face-to-face or online.

As part of their e-learning series, the FRA team also launched a module summarising the requirements of financial reporting directions (FRDs) issued by DTF and how they compare with the requirements of the Australian Accounting Standards.

Given most public sector entities are required to comply with the FRDs in their financial statements, this training particularly helped our new starters. It also provided a valuable refresher for our existing financial audit team members.

Other learning opportunities

Less-formal learning opportunities include our ongoing ‘Lunch 'n’ Learn’ sessions, where people from across VAGO come together to share learnings from external training and best-practice experiences. In 2021–22 we extended this to join similar sessions being run across other jurisdictional audit offices.

Another exciting collaboration this year has been the data visualisation ‘book club’. Led by our data scientist, staff worked their way through a guide on using data visualisation as a means of storytelling.

Live-streamed briefings and catch-ups

Each fortnight we come together for our stand-up briefing. Pre-pandemic, we came together in person to share important messages, provide status updates and celebrate our successes. Maintaining these briefings has been another important way we have transitioned to a ‘Better Normal’.

Now run as a Microsoft Teams live event every second Tuesday morning, the briefings are hosted by one of the 4 members of our strategic management group, with an average 100 staff and contractors joining. These events are recorded and available later in the day on our ‘Stand-ups’ channel on Stream. The recordings include a searchable transcript are an important resource for staff who are unable to attend the live event, including people on extended leave who wish to stay up to date with VAGO news.

In addition to our fortnightly stand-ups, we also have quarterly business unit forums, run as a Teams live event, together-together event, or a hybrid combination.

We also meet virtually with our audit service providers (ASPs) on a quarterly basis across the financial year.

‘Data Champions’ program

Our Data Champions comprise senior representatives from financial audit sector teams who work alongside our data assurance experts to support and progress our goal to maximise the use of the Empower product within our financial audits. The program’s aim is to work with individuals and teams to:

  • promote the application and use of Empower to its full potential throughout the practice
  • refine and further develop training and guidance materials for our auditors
  • feed requests for feature enhancements into future evolutions of our product.

Staying social

Our social club remained extremely active throughout 2021–22, focusing on smaller group activities where people could interact outside their immediate work teams. Activities included online quizzes, movie, book and other hobby clubs, happy hour get-togethers, picnics in the park and trivia nights.

The social club held in-person events where possible, such as for Halloween, Christmas and the end of financial year. 

Audit service provider panel 

To help us deliver the more than 560 annual financial audits for public sector organisations, we employ a panel of ASPs to perform audit work on our behalf. Our panel was refreshed last year, reducing the number of firms who are ASPs from 25 to 9. In 2021–22 we completed 2 quote rounds under our ASP panel arrangements.

4.3 Enhancing our workplace culture

To enhance our workplace culture, in 2021–22 we continued to implement new practices, technology, equipment and other measures to support our staff, whether working from the office or working from home. Our senior leadership team also continued to prioritise employee experience throughout the year by making meaningful connections.

Refresh of our values collateral

In December 2021 we refreshed our values collateral through consultation with our staff.

Using interesting visual elements is one of the ways we can capture the imagination, encouraging staff to consider, discuss and live our values. Figure 4C shows an example of this collateral.

We work to make our values part of the everyday conversation at VAGO. We do this formally at events and in corporate publications, but also informally, for example, by posting praise on our Teams channels and using #Accountabilty, #Collaboration #Innovation and #Respect in chats between colleagues.

These small actions can make a big difference to how we see ourselves and how we act.

FIGURE 4C: Example of values collateral

FIGURE 4C: Example of values collateral

Source: VAGO.

We also formally recognised the efforts of employees who embody our values through our twice-yearly Values and Recognition Week. During these weeks we run team building exercises and social activities that culminate in values and recognition awards. These awards honour employees for their positive contributions.

At our June 2021 event, speaker Hacia Atherton joined us to share her insights about how courage and connection underpin both our personal and organisational wellbeing.

Supporting diversity and inclusion

This year we completed the second and third phases of our Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2019–22, which focuses on internal education, the introduction of new practices, and external engagement. 

We also delivered our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan and developed the initial drafts of our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Plan 2022–25 and Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan. 

To further progress our work in this space, we welcomed nominations from employees to join working groups to help advise and inform our priorities across a range of diverse cohorts including: 

  • reconciliation 
  • disability and accessibility inclusion 
  • cultural inclusion 
  • gender equality 
  • LGBTIQ inclusion. 

Our Gender Equality Action Plan 2022-2025 is on our website at: 

November 2021 we conducted our first gender equality audit in line with the requirements of the Gender Equality Act 2020. The audit analysed employee data to better understand the workforce composition, gender representation across Victorian Public Service (VPS) levels and gender pay gaps. We used the data, together with feedback from our staff to prepare our Gender Equality Action Plan 2022–2025. 

Our Gender Equality Action Plan 2022–2025 outlines a range of objectives and targeted strategies that we will implement to achieve workplace gender equality. We will know that we have achieved workplace gender equality when all VAGO’s employees are able to access and enjoy equal rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of their gender or background. 

2022 People Matter survey

Each year, the Victorian Public Sector Commission invites employees to have their say about their workplaces by participating in the People Matter survey.

Our People Matter survey results are on our 
website at:

2022 People Matter survey was open for Victorian public sector employees between 6 June 2022 and 1 July 2022. Across the sector, 92,000 employees from 241 organisations completed the survey. This includes 138 VAGO employees (a 75 per cent response rate).

We received our 2022 People Matter survey results in August 2022. Our survey results were positive, with an employee engagement score of 76, slightly up from 75 in 2021, and above the public sector result of 69.

  • Employee satisfaction also increased, to 72 per cent in 2022 up from 61 per cent in 2021. 
  • In 2022, fewer VAGO staff felt high to severe work-related stress (25 per cent, down from 30 per cent last year). 

The most improved indicators concerned understanding:

  • how individuals’ jobs help the organisation achieve its goals
  • workplace flexibility
  • VAGO’s commitment to earning a high level of public trust.  

We publish our People Matter survey results on our website.

People Matter Action Plan 

Our People Matter Action Plan is a living document that articulates the actions we will take to enhance how we work. We envision that our plan will help us create a culture that brings everyone together around shared values and purpose, creating a strong sense of connection. 

This year we applied a different approach to analyse staff feedback and identify trends over the last three years so we can better tailor our focus and response to identified themes. Importantly, this approach has also helped us identify areas of progress more clearly, creating an opportunity to celebrate our successes.   

Our human resources and data science teams analysed the responses to every question asked in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This highlighted responses to 35 key questions. Our People Matter Action Plan is the result of these considerations and has been prepared to ensure that we act on staff feedback and address the themed areas of concern.

The results highlighted focus areas across the following themes: 

  • diversity and inclusion
  • learning and development
  • manager support
  • safety climate
  • recruitment and career development
  • professional workplace behaviours
  • engagement and workplace culture.

In future years, we will analyse the results using the same criteria. This will give clarity on how we are tracking against existing themes as well as highlight any new themes, helping us continue our journey to make VAGO a high-performing organisation.

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5. Leading by example

We continued to strengthen our cybersecurity controls and data protection approach. We also enhanced the user experience for our people.

We published our first audit reports using more accessible and navigable layouts, and finalised our Quality Control Framework, providing training to all staff to ensure they understand its purpose.

Progress snapshot

Progress snapshot



Source: VAGO.

This chapter covers:

5.1 Improving our IT security and systems

In 2021–22, our IT projects focused on two key pillars: cybersecurity and user experience. 

Strengthening cybersecurity

To protect our IT systems and public sector information against the loss of availability, confidentiality or integrity, we implemented security controls to fully aligned with level two of the Essential Eight Maturity Model as defined by the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

FIGURE 5A: The Essential Eight Maturity Model

FIGURE 5A: The Essential Eight Maturity Model

Source: VAGO, adapted from the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Actions in 2021–22 include:

  • implementing controls to remove the risk of physical information being accessed, used or removed without proper authorisation
  • continuing to advance our Protective Data Security Plan, which we have provided to the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
  • strengthening our identity protection by implementing strong multi-factor authentication with password-less authentication
  • decommissioning legacy applications such as Microsoft Internet Explorer to reduce both the likelihood of cybersecurity threats and a compromised user experience.

Enhancing user experience

As part of our goal to enhance end-user capability and productivity, we also continued to refresh our laptop fleet, replacing our second-generation Microsoft Surface Book 2 devices with premium Microsoft Laptop 4 devices.

We continued to leverage our Microsoft investments by:

  • using Microsoft Teams and OneDrive to provide secure cloud-based storage that promotes flexibility and transparency, which allows better collaboration
  • using Microsoft Shifts for resource planning and to seamlessly export and analyse our resource requirements globally, leading to more efficient decision making on resource budgeting and planning 
  • using Azure Machine Learning to empower our data scientists and developers to build, deploy and scale high-quality analytic solutions faster and with greater confidence.

5.2 Improving our communications

Given that VAGO works in the public interest, we are passionate about continuously improving our products to ensure all users can access and understand our work.

User-friendly reports

In 2021–22, we continued to enhance the accessibility and usability of our reports. We have focused on communicating our conclusions and summaries in a way to make our reports easier for readers to navigate and find areas of interest. 

We also launched our next-generation reporting project. This project aims to transform our existing suite of information products, which have relatively low engagement, so that we give our stakeholders more insightful and consumable content. 

We also completed our user experience uplift project, which modernises our communication approach through UI and UX training, knowledge-sharing and capability building for key internal staff. 

Audit video summaries

Our audit teams also continued to refine and update the video summaries that accompany each parliamentary report. These short videos are primarily for the public and give a snapshot of who and what we examined, what we concluded, essential background information, and our key findings and recommendations.

More tools for better writing

Behind the scenes, we continued to roll out our suite of e-learning modules on writing and reviewing, designed to lift the capability and confidence of all VAGO employees. We now have 6 live modules that cover topics such as using active voice, writing resources and readability tools. The remaining modules will be developed over the coming 12 months.

Greater engagement with our content

Our YouTube channel had 25,222 viewers in 2021–22, and collectively they watched 1,060 hours of content. Our website had 404,880 page views by 163,390 users over 238,632 sessions. Figure 5B lists the reports and videos with the largest audience engagement over the year.

As part of our engagement strategy, we also focused on social media as a key channel to engage with our audience. We claimed our Twitter handle and created our Facebook page. LinkedIn continues to be our primary social media engagement channel. Over the 12 month periods we had more than 12,000 page views and grew our followers by approximately 20 per cent to 5,400.

FIGURE 5B: Most viewed reports and videos of 2021–22

FIGURE 5B: Most viewed reports and videos of 2021–22

Source: VAGO.

5.3 Our workforce directed to producing outputs

We measure our workforce production as the total percentage of available paid staff hours that are charged to our 4 outputs:

  • parliamentary reports
  • parliamentary services 
  • assurance reviews
  • audit opinions on financial and performance statements.

Staff are able to monitor their contribution to production targets and that of their direct reports using real time business intelligence dashboards.

Our overall production effort this year was 55.2 per cent, lower than our 2020–21 result of 57.97 per cent and our target of 60 per cent. This can be attributed mostly to a lower-than-budgeted staff full-time equivalent (FTE) in our performance audit business unit.

5.4 Refining our governance 

We continued to mature our governance and compliance systems in 2021–22. We met our obligations under the Financial Compliance Management Framework, the Victorian Government Risk Management Framework, and the Victorian Protective Data Security Framework.

As part of this, we conducted 5 internal audit reviews. These covered:

procurement and contracts

  • a follow-up of the implementation of agreed management actions
  • our legislation and compliance framework 
  • privacy and data security review (this review was completed in accordance with the Victorian Protective Data Security Standards)
  • our risk management framework.

After consultation with management, our internal auditors, and our ARC, we also endorsed our 3-year Strategic Internal Audit Plan 2022–23 to 2024–25. Planned reviews will focus on the areas of:

  • finance
  • governance and risk
  • audit quality
  • people and culture 
  • information technology. 

Managing complaints

To promote transparency and a safe and inclusive work environment, we have processes designed to support staff and stakeholders who wish to raise concerns or complaints. We make sure that we manage and respond to those issues quickly and appropriately. 

Our complaints management policy and procedure are publicly available on our website and make it easier for our staff and stakeholders to understand their protections and obligations when making a complaint.

Complaints can be submitted anonymously through our website or through direct communication with our audit teams. When we receive a complaint, we assess, investigate, respond to and remedy it to the best of our ability. We aim to resolve all complaints within 28 days. 

In 2021–22, we received 2 complaints, both related to our application of the Australian Accounting Standards. After reviewing both complaints, we were satisfied that our application of the standards was appropriate.

We responded to the first complaint within 26 days. We resolved subsequent correspondence seeking further clarification within 52 days of receipt of the original complaint. The second complaint was closed within 29 days. 

Transparency Report

We discuss our monitoring programs, results of independent feedback reviews and effectiveness of our quality control in our Transparency Report, on our website at:

In October 2021 we produced our second annual Transparency Report. As we are not a public accounting firm, we are not required to produce a Transparency Report each year. However, as a public sector equivalent, we choose to adapt the requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 to the extent that they are relevant and appropriate to us.

The report expands on and is an adjunct to our Annual Report. We produce it to help stakeholders understand how we support our auditors to perform high quality audits.

Our Transparency Report outlines:

  • our approach to transparency reporting
  • our legal structure, governance and finances
  • our quality-control system and how it aligns with Australian auditing and assurance standards
  • external reviews and audits of our organisation.

The Transparency Report exemplifies our desire to be fully transparent about our operations and is a key deliverable under the 'Lead by Example' pillar in our strategic plan.

We plan to publish our latest Transparency Report on our website later in 2022.

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6. Performance statement

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7. Our financial management

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APPENDIX A. Workforce profile

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APPENDIX B. Workplace health and safety

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APPENDIX C. General executive information

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APPENDIX D. Audit and risk management

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APPENDIX E. Policies and compliance

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APPENDIX F. Additional information available on request

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APPENDIX G. Disclosure index

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APPENDIX H. Acronyms and abbreviations

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