In this follow-up audit, we examined whether the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board and the Department of Education have effectively implemented the recommendations we made in Oversight of recurrent grants to non-state schools (Report 12: 2014–15). We also assessed whether the actions taken have addressed the underlying issues that led to our recommendations in that report.
The non-state schooling sector is an important part of Queensland’s education sector, representing diverse education philosophies and religious and other organisational affiliations.
The Department of Education, on behalf of the state and Australian governments, provides a recurrent grant of more than $600 million annually to governing bodies to operate non-state schools. To qualify, these schools must submit to the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board, which is a statutory body that reports directly to the Minister for Education.
The board and the department, by implementing the recommendations we made in Oversight of recurrent grants for non-state schools (Report 12: 2014–2015), have increased the accuracy of the census information and reduced the risk of fraudulent claims.
They have addressed most of the underlying issues in our original audit. With the improvements to the census instructions, schools are more confident in interpreting the guidelines and calculating their student numbers. The department can also place greater reliance on the reliability of the survey data with the audit improvements the board has put in place.
However, we have observed an increasing risk for the board regarding data security. Schools are increasingly using electronic student attendance data, and they have relatively immature processes in place to maintain its security and integrity. This could affect the board’s ability to investigate errors or fraud that lead to grant overpayments.
The board and the department have worked well together to improve the governance arrangements for the payment of the recurrent grant to non-state schools. Because grants are still open to fraudulent claims, the board and the department must continue to maintain the robustness of these processes and deal with emerging risks.