In 2021–22 the Victorian Inspectorate (VI) will fully realise the benefits from the scaling up in FTE resources achieved in the final quarter of 2020-21 due to the increased funding received in the State budget handed down on 24 November 2020. As at the time of writing, the increased FTE funding is only in place until 30 June 2023. This will be a matter for discussion early in 2021–22.
An independent base review of the VI, for which funding was provided in the November 2020 budget, is anticipated to be completed by 30 June 2021. That review should place the VI in an informed position going forward to make submissions about the appropriate level of resourcing required for the effective and efficient performance of its functions.
The VI has been notified by the Integrity and Oversight Committee of the Parliament (IOC) that an independent performance auditor is proposed to be appointed to conduct a performance audit of the VI in accordance with s 90D of the Victorian Inspectorate Act 2011. The audit is expected to commence in October 2021 and be completed by March 2022.
The performance audit will be hot on the heels of the independent base review. While both are valuable exercises, they have the inevitable consequence in an entity as small as the VI of diverting a considerable portion of the VI’s resources away from the performance of its ordinary operational and corporate functions. This will undoubtedly impact on the VI’s work program for 2021–22.
This foreword has been written during a time when an increase in COVID-19 restrictions is impacting how we work. COVID-19 restrictions, on top of the performance audit and seeking appropriate ongoing funding following the base review, will no doubt continue to impact the VI’s performance in the coming year.
The VI’s operational functions are large and, seemingly, ever increasing. From 1 July 2021 they extend to monitoring the exercise of coercive powers by Wage Inspectorate Victoria and investigating and assessing its conduct, and that of its officers, in exercising those powers. In addition, as a budgetary independent entity since 1 July 2020, the VI, despite its small size, has the same corporate compliance obligations as large Victorian government entities.
The VI has developed a strong and positive workplace culture in alignment with our values. We will continue to invest in that culture which helps contribute to the VI’s ability to deliver strong integrity outcomes.
In developing this annual plan describing its proposed work program and priorities (both operational and corporate) for 2021–22, the VI has remained conscious of the fact that it operates in a dynamic environment and needs to be ready to adapt its plans at any time to accommodate developments. I am grateful to the IOC for its helpful comments on an earlier draft of this plan. Putting the plan together has been a valuable exercise. While there seems to be divided views on who to credit with the quote “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, I regard it as a truism.
Despite the challenges, I very much look forward to a year of consolidation and achievement and a year that, particularly as a result of the independent base review, will result in the VI being appropriately resourced in the years ahead for the important functions that it has in Victoria’s integrity system.
Eamonn Moran PSM QC