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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2884

Senator WATSON —I present the 261st report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator WATSON —by leave-This report is about the Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network known as ACTION. Its findings show that ACTION conducts a reliable and comfortable service which is generally of a high standard but that there are significant problems which prevent it maximising efficiency and accountability. This report addresses these problems.

The Committee believes that ACTION's lack of suitable information systems and its administrative location within the Department of Territories are fundamental to many of its difficulties. ACTION does not appear to have full control and responsibility for its operations. While the Committee believes that ACTION should be given greater autonomy, it is firmly of the view that ACTION should remain accountable to the Minister for Territories, the Parliament and the community it serves. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that:

steps be taken to form ACTION into a ministerially accountable authority to serve the public transport needs of Canberra.

The Committee was somewhat reluctant to accept that ACTION should become a statutory authority in order to improve efficiency. However it believes that ACTION should operate with greater independence. As Canberra's population continues to grow this independence will become vital to ensure the continuation of an efficient bus service. The granting of greater independence to ACTION should not be, however, at the cost of accountability. The Committee became aware of several sensitive industrial issues associated with ACTION. On two of these issues-split shifts and part-time drivers-the Committee recommends that:

ACTION conduct a detailed evaluation of these matters with the Transport Workers' Union.

The Committee was concerned to find that ACTION had no bus acquisitions policy. ACTION now has five brands of buses in its 400- strong fleet of buses. This variety of buses contrasts markedly with other transport operators and appeared to lead to higher costs. The Committee therefore recommends that:

ACTION develop a methodology for estimating the economic life of its bus fleet and then proceed to

estimate the expected bus life of the various types of bus in the ACTION fleet,

formulate a bus acquisitions policy, and

annually review that policy.

The Committee's report addresses several other important issues connected with: ACTION's performance standards, inadequate information systems, limited annual reporting, problems with fare collection, and the provision of school bus services. While the implementation of the recommendations of this report will assist ACTION in overcoming many of its problems, the joint study currently being conducted by the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Territories should also provide ACTION with much-needed information on which to base its future operations.

The problems identified by the Auditor- General in the operation of ACTION and the necessity for further recommendations in this report confirm the importance of such audits and their review by this Committee and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure, which shares the responsibility to review efficiency audits. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the Public Accounts Committee, and especially Mr Trevor Rowe, who assisted in the preparation of this report. I commend the report to honourable senators.