Private schools in Victoria face a sweeping investigation into their finances, with the auditor-general raising concerns there is not enough accountability in the way taxpayer funds are being spent.
Four months after the Andrews government introduced new laws giving greater funding certainty to non-government schools, Auditor-General John Doyle has launched a probe into whether state grants are being used "economically, efficiently, and effectively" in the Catholic and independent systems.
Recently the Auditor General:
❑ Revealed the government is unlikely to provide him with long-awaited "follow-the-dollar powers" until after he completes his audit of the East West Link, which may mean a second audit is required once the legislation is in place to ensure Victorians get "the full story" about the controversial road proposal.
❑ Criticised the education department for poor record keeping, the growing gap between city and country schools and consistently failing to follow many of the recommendations he has made in previous reports.(Still nothing is being done about this)
❑ Warned resources were becoming stretched in his office, given the number of audits under way and the growing focus on government spending on infrastructure and information communications technology, but the government had rejected a request for additional funding in the May state budget.
The review of state grants to non-government schools is likely to be tabled by the end of the year. Mr Doyle said more than $650 million in recurrent funding was provided to the private system each year, but how the money was used was not routinely examined by the education department.
"There is quite limited accountability coming back the other way as to what the money was used for, how it was used, and whether it was effective," he told The Sunday Age today
The Auditor-General's latest annual report points out that six private schools closed in 2012-13 after experiencing financial difficulties, finding it put "additional pressure on the government school system to accommodate these students and placed these students at a considerable disadvantage".
He said given non-government schools were receiving public funds, the parliament had a right to know how it was being spent.( hear hear!)
Mr Doyle's comments come six months after the Andrews government faced a backlash ( and rightly so ) over new laws guaranteeing private schools would consistently receive at least 25 per cent of the funding given to public schools.
While the government defended the changes, teachers, parents and education officials accused Labor of betraying the principles of the Gonski funding reforms, which recommended a "sector-blind" system in which funding is allocated to students based on need.
Asked about the audit, Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said the review "presents us with an opportunity to show we are already subject to the highest levels of accountability in the country and that we fully comply with our funding agreements with both the Commonwealth and state governments".(Yeah sure....tell that to those who sent their kids to Mowbray, Acacia College, St.Anthony's and others interstate who have closed under a cloud over the last few years.Pity the commonwealth Auditor General doesn't do the same.)