Home' Be : Issue 10 Contents Be: Accountable
Departments obfuscate, politicians
recriminate and the media inflate.
Still, Victoria's top investigator of
government will not abate, writes
Government and the Opposition may be ambivalent, but
news editors love him because he provides great material
for headlines and front page stories:
• Brumby attacks auditor over 'bias'
The Australian, 6 May
• Secret dossier shows risk of attack on our rail network
The Herald Sun, 13 October
• Auditor finds government department uncooperative
ABC, 5 October
• Personal data not secure
The Age, 26 November
And that's just a sample of recent coverage garnered by Des
Pearson, Auditor General of Victoria, following reports he tabled
with Parliament which raised questions about the efficient and
effective use of government resources.
"Mypositionis aposition withno realallies,"he shrugs, chuckling,
in his office 24 storeys above the tram and tree-lined Collins Street
in the heart of Melbourne. It's a position which provides a bird's eye
view and oversight of the government's terrain and activities. It's his
For Barcaldine (Western Queensland) born accountant Des
Pearson -- also the former Auditor General of Western Australia
and Chief Auditor of the Northern Territory -- the test of whether
he's doing the job appropriately is whether both Government
and Opposition are complaining. And by all [media] accounts the
independent officer of Parliament is passing with flying colours.
Raised in Central Queensland, in Rockhampton and Mackay,
this husband and father of three grown children -- none, by the way
an accountant -- espouses a simple bush philosophy: "be sure of your
facts and have a balanced approach to reasoning".
And it has ser ved him well. The longest-ser ving active Australian
Auditor General, Des -- a self declared "paid sticky-beak always
working in someone else's backyard" -- started his public ser vice
career 40 years ago as a graduate cadet (graduating from what is
now CQUniversity) with the Commonwealth Australian Auditor-
"But for the availability of the Uni I would not have had the
wonderful opportunities and would have not ended up where I
Today, Pearson examines and reports to Parliament and the
community on the efficient and effective management of public
sector resources, and provides assurances on the financial integrity
of Victoria's systems of government.
His remit, he says, is "to do so without fear or favour and to say
what you think".
Though plaudits for audits are few and far between, Pearson
is widely respected by his peers for improving the accountability,
transparency and performance of the public sector and the
Office of the Auditor General.
The government watchdog, who is not subject to control or
direction by either the Parliament or the
Government, says the public sector has
and is improving the way it delivers and
reports on programs.
"I'm in awe of the public sector and the
job it does because the breadth of ser vices
it delivers underpins our democracy," he
explains. "90 -95% of what's in my reports
is positive and demonstrates that things
are working well."
He believes, however, that people are
more sensitive than ever about adverse
findings, largely due to what he describes
as "far more intense" scrutiny by the media
and the public.
"By and large public ser vants are
conscientious and dedicated... [but] I have
to call it as I see it and stand by that."
Whilst he tries to have his eyes on
everything, Pearson knows all eyes are
on him. "Effectively, everyone is auditing
what I do because no one likes being
audited. I'm always being held to account."
The Auditor General himself comes
under the magnifying glass regularly with
an annual financial audit undertaken by
a Parliament-appointed firm and a full
performance audit ever y three years.
appears to have contributed to Pearson's
character. Or maybe it's the other way
around. He's upfront, fair, open and
"The biggest risk I take is driving on
the highway. I love motoring and touring
around the country. There's not many
highways I haven't driven." •
BBus, GradDip Mgt,
Hon D Bus CQU, FCPA,
FIPAA, FAIM, FCA
for the audit
of some 600
̈ Self proclaimed
advice: Take a
firm and fair
things, be open
horizon so not
blind to new
PHOTO: IAN CURRIE; NEWSPIX
Victoria Auditor General Des Pearson
in his office in Collins Street.
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