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Since its emergence in late 2019, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global pandemic that is impacting on human health and national economies. From February 2020 the Australian Government commenced the introduction of a range of policies and measures in response to the emergence of COVID-19 that included:

  • travel restrictions and international border control and quarantine arrangements;
  • delivery of substantial economic stimulus, including financial support for affected individuals, businesses and communities; and
  • support for essential services and procurement of critical medical supplies.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the pace and scale of the Australian Government’s response impacts on the risk environment faced by the Australian public sector. This audit is one of five performance audits conducted under phase one of the ANAO’s multi-year strategy that will focus on the effective, efficient, economical and ethical delivery of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of the phase one audits focus on risk management in two frontline entities — the Australian Taxation Office and Services Australia — and provide assurance that the new and increased risks to sound public administration, and the proper use of public resources posed by the rapid implementation of COVID-19 measures, have been effectively considered and managed. In addition, this audit will assist all Commonwealth entities to consider the effectiveness of their own arrangements in identifying and responding to the risks associated with the rapid implementation of government initiatives.

The objective of the audit was to assess whether Services Australia had effectively managed risks related to the rapid preparation for and delivery of COVID-19 economic response measures. 

Main conclusions:

  • Services Australia’s preparation for the delivery of the COVID-19 economic response measures was effective. The agency developed fit-for-purpose governance arrangements and scaled-up resourcing to meet increased demand.
  • In implementing the COVID-19 economic response measures, Services Australia adequately identified, addressed and communicated its risks except for risks related to welfare payment system access changes.


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Auditor-General Report No.23 2020–21