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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4695


Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (10:34): Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak briefly in support of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Report No. 430: Review of Auditor-General's reports Nos 47 (2010-11) to 9 (2011-12) and reports Nos 10 to 23 (2011-12).I do so as the Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.

The chair has already outlined the role of the committee in reviewing the audit reports each year. The committee continues to take a pro-active role in pursuing opportunities for improvements in transparency and accountability, particularly in terms of decision making and performance measurement. The three reports were viewed by the committee in Audit report No. 430, Audit report No. 5 2011-12: Development and implementation of key performance indicators to support the outcomes and programs framework, Audit report No. 7 2011-12: Establishment, implementation and administration of the infrastructure employment project stream of the Jobs Fund, and Audit report No. 21 2011-12: Administration of grant reporting obligations.

With these reports and many like them across other agencies the committee has identified, during this term of parliament, that there needs to be ongoing improvement in the way in which Commonwealth guidelines are adhered to by agencies. Whether it is the grant guidelines or procurement guidelines, there are deficiencies in the way that those guidelines are being followed and adhered to by agencies and in the support that they are getting in clarifying and implementing those guidelines. The committee believes that there is a strong role to be played by the Department of Finance and Deregulation in providing guidance and clarity around agencies' responsibilities; however, it is fair to say that agencies themselves need to be taking more responsibility in the way they administer their obligations. The committee acknowledges the work of the finance department in developing the guidelines, providing updates and, most recently, the release of model chief executive instructions. I take note of the evidence that we have received from the finance department that, although they provide all of that guidance and assistance and there can be improvements in what they are providing, the fact is the agencies do stand alone. It is, at the end of the day, their obligation to ensure that those guidelines are being followed appropriately. This report makes recommendations to assist in continuous improvement in the areas of transparency and accountability, and the committee will continue to monitor the progress in these areas.

I wish to briefly go specifically to Audit report No. 21 2011-12 as it has attracted some media around it. The chair has already outlined that there was correspondence between the relevant ministers and the Australian National Audit Office in relation to the issue of declarations by the ministers of any grants within their electorates. This correspondence will form part of the public record for all to view. I think it is fair to say that, because of some of the media reports that have gone on around this issue, the evidence before the committee states that there is no deliberate act by the ministers in not declaring those grants within their electorates. The deficiencies do lie within the agencies and the briefings provided to those ministers, and it is expected that agencies' briefings to ministers in the future will clearly outline where a grant actually falls within a minister's electorate and advise of the need to provide notification of such grant to the finance department. So the Australian National Audit Office report and this report of the committee clearly outline that there are failings in the way agencies brief ministers, and that certainly needs to be improved on. But I do acknowledge that it was this government that brought that process into place in the first place. It is a process worth pursuing and improving on.

In closing, I would like to sincerely thank the chair and each of the committee members for their ongoing support and willingness to work together in a non-partisan manner to deliver these reports. I am also thankful for the ongoing support of the secretariat in the committee's ongoing work.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Lyons ): The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the honourable member for Lyne wish to move a motion in connection with that report to enable it to be debated at a later occasion?