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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21937

Mr BAIRD (4:26 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, I present the report of the committee entitled Examination of the annual report for 2001-2002 of the National Crime Authority, together with evidence received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr BAIRD —by leave—Honourable members will be aware that at the beginning of this year the National Crime Authority became the Australian Crime Commission. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority became the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, with continued statutory obligations to examine annual reports, including those from the former NCA. Under section 55(1)(c) of both the National Crime Authority Act 1984 and the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 the PJC is required to examine the annual report of the authority—now the commission—and report to the parliament on any matter appearing in or arising out of the annual report.

This report examines the National Crime Authority's annual report for the financial year 2001-02. This is the final full financial year report for the National Crime Authority. The annual report, together with a letter from the Minister for Justice and Customs dated 24 April 2003, was tabled in the House of Representatives on 27 May 2003 and in the Senate on 16 June 2003.

The PJC has previously commented on the delays in tabling NCA annual reports, and the committee report tabled today comments more fully on this. It is sufficient to say that part of the reporting process includes having each member state of the intergovernmental committee sign off on the annual report before it is transmitted to the minister. From evidence provided to the PJC's public hearing on the 2001-02 annual report of the NCA it appears that this consultation process contributed significantly to the delays in transmission and tabling. The PJC emphasises to the ACC that the management of the annual reporting process and, in particular, the consultation with the IGC must result in the presentation of the annual report in a timely manner.

I shall outline briefly some of the issues which have arisen in the course of the committee's perusal of the authority's annual report. Firstly, in terms of compliance the authority has satisfied the reporting requirements issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in June 2002. The performance measures used by the authority have been the subject of previous comment, and the PJC has been assured that the ACC has reviewed them. The committee expects these concerns to be addressed in the first annual report for the Australian Crime Commission.

In terms of financial statements and expenditure, the PJC notes that the authority had a net operating surplus of $4.7 million, which compared well with the $3 million deficit in 2000-01. However, this surplus was due to underspending resulting from a number of factors associated with the transition to the Australian Crime Commission, during which time the NCA was unable to carry out all of its scheduled work.

Of some concern to the PJC was a loan of $3 million from the Australian Federal Police which incurred an interest payment of $90,480. Whilst the loan was repaid, the PJC was concerned about its statutory basis. Arguably, the strategic alliance between the Australian Federal Police and the National Crime Authority provides this, although the cost to the National Crime Authority is of some concern to the parliamentary joint committee.

In terms of resources, the parliamentary joint committee was concerned that it appeared that the SES staff of the authority did not participate in any formal performance assessment scheme in accordance with the Public Service Commissioner's Directions 1999. The parliamentary joint committee intends to monitor compliance with this matter with the Australian Crime Commission.

The parliamentary joint committee notes that there are no serious omissions or errors in the report and that the report reflects in part a time of transition from the National Crime Authority to the Australian Crime Commission. The parliamentary joint committee also acknowledges that there are difficulties in developing effective performance indicators for agencies such as the National Crime Authority and the Australian Crime Commission. The principal problem for such agencies is the extent to which detailed information has the potential to prejudice the continuing work of the agency or current or possible future court proceedings. The parliamentary joint committee considers that the Australian Crime Commission is well placed to develop a comprehensive business plan which will address this as well as other matters noted in the report. The parliamentary joint committee noted that the National Crime Authority annual report covers the required reporting areas and complies with the legislative and other formal requirements concerning the provision of annual reports.