Question: TAFE SA Audit


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Higher Education and Skills. Can the minister confirm what appears to be the case from her ministerial statement that 100 per cent of the TAFE courses audited by ASQA were found to be noncompliant?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:56): That is correct, and that's why I have taken the step of making sure not only that TAFE responds appropriately to the questions raised about those 16 but also that we have an independent assessment of the capacity of TAFE to undertake its own internal auditing processes. They have those processes in place, and indeed they assure me that those processes have previously identified some of the issues that are repeated in the ASQA report.

Nonetheless, it is a cause of concern for me that all of the courses that ASQA looked at had a variety of issues raised. While ASQA themselves pointed out that it is not unexpected for large TAFE organisations (or TAFE-like organisations) to have a number of compliance issues, I am concerned, and therefore need to ensure myself on behalf of the people of South Australia that the internal auditing process is working well. Once we have received that report, we will make a determination about how to respond.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:58): Supplementary: in relation to the internal auditing process that the minister referred to in her answer just then and in her ministerial statement, how many of the 16 courses found to be noncompliant by ASQA have been subject to that internal auditing process within TAFE?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:58): I don't have the details yet, although I have asked for it, of exactly all the courses partly because the way the internal auditing works in TAFE is that work groups are examined rather than qualifications. Some work needs to be done to crosscheck that, so I have made those inquiries. More importantly, regardless of however recently those particular courses have been assessed by TAFE internally, they have been audited by the national accrediting body; it is the others I want to make sure that we have an accurate process for internal auditing and checking the quality.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:59): A supplementary: given that in her initial answer the minister identified that TAFE's internal auditing processes had identified some problems earlier, what action was taken by TAFE or the government or the department to address those problems, and were they the same problems then re-identified by ASQA?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:59): TAFE has said to me, obviously when they are compiling their report to ASQA—and as I have said in my ministerial statement, I am expecting a weekly report as we get towards the end of October, when that will be provided to ASQA—that they had picked some up and rectified them already. There has been a reasonable period of time between the auditing process, which occurred back in May, and today, so that will come through. That will become clear as the response to ASQA is made.

The SPEAKER: Supplementary, member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:00): Can the minister confirm that the number of students impacted by these 16 courses being found to be noncompliant is in fact in excess of 2,500?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:00): I think it's about just under 2,500 that are enrolled in the courses that have been audited by ASQA. Yesterday, I also asked that TAFE contact all of those students so that they are not simply relying on information through the media, but are being told by their training authority what is occurring, and that they will be kept up to date as the matter makes progress over the next month, for the initial response. Then of course we need to hear from ASQA in terms of their view about the report that is being made.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:00): Supplementary: in relation to both the TAFE internal audit that the minister referred to and is waiting on the responses from, and indeed the ASQA report itself, will the minister make those reports publicly available?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:01): My understanding from ASQA is that the process is that they provide a report to TAFE, which they have already done. They have a choice about whether to keep that confidential, which they have chosen at this stage. They could have put it immediately onto their website, but they chose not to do that in this instance. We then provide a report, and then a final report is made public by ASQA. I presume that that will encompass the issues that were raised and the response made by TAFE.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:01): Given that TAFE CEO Robin Murt is on a salary of $375,000 annually with $50,000 being 'at risk' or a bonus, can the minister advise how much of his at-risk remuneration Mr Murt received in the last financial year?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:02): The at-risk component for the financial year which ended at the end of June 2017 is yet to be determined by the TAFE board. It will be my expectation that the events that have led to this report will be taken into account by the board.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:02): Supplementary: given that one would expect that the reasons that led to the 16 courses being found to be noncompliant must have been in some kind of process, was the minister aware that in the last financial year Mr Murt received $48,000 of the $50,000, and will that figure be reviewed?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:02): I am aware that that was the amount that the board determined to pay of the complete package; they withheld some. As I have indicated, I am aware that they have not yet made a determination about this year's and it is my expectation that they would take into account what has occurred.

The SPEAKER: Supplementary, member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:03): Given that seven other TAFE executives are also on bonus arrangements, can the minister say how much of their bonus they received in 2016-17?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:03): I will have to take that on notice and bring back an answer, but I imagine—and have a reasonable expectation, having had a conversation with the chair of the board—that there is a view that it is important that there is accountability for any loss of quality within TAFE.

I ought to point out, though, that while I am taking this very seriously and am reasonably concerned, the process is not yet concluded. We need to give TAFE the fair opportunity to respond, as the ASQA processes allow, and then to have ASQA respond to that. But, as I have indicated, I am not content with just responding to those 16.