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Thursday, 31 October 1996
Page: 4832

Senator MURPHY —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

That the following matter be referred to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee for inquiry and report:

The necessity for public accountability of all government services provided by government contractors, including:

(a)   how best to ensure that the rights, interests and responsibilities of consumers, contracted service providers and government agencies can be defined and protected, with particular reference to:

   (i)   whether contracting out arrangements should be governed by written contracts between the government agency and the service provider in all cases,

   (ii)   whether contracts should contain standard clauses dealing with matters such as responsibility for record keeping, complaints and dispute resolution procedures, and the allocation of responsibility between the contracting agency and the contractor in the event of financial or other loss on the part of the consumer, and

   (iii)   definition of standards of service;

(b)   the adequacy of tendering procedures adopted by government agencies in contracting out services;

(c)   whether the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman's Act 1976 should be extended to ensure that it covers all contracted out government services;

(d)   ministerial responsibility to Parliament for contracted out services, noting that in other parliamentary systems it has been argued that, with regard to corporatised or contracted out government services, ministerial responsibility extends only to policy issues and does not encompass questions of day-to-day management and operation;

(e)   whether government, to meet its responsibilities for policy making, should have access to all files, information etc. generated by private-sector contractors in meeting their contractual obligations; and

(f)   whether, and to what extent, claims of commercial-in-confidence should be accepted as limiting the right of Parliament to examine contractual arrangements between government agencies and service providers.