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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1679


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE —On behalf of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts I present the report of the Committee's activities from July 1983 to December 1984.

Ordered that the report be printed.


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE —by leave-The 226th report is the report of activities of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts for the period July 1983 to December 1984. It contains a review of the inquiries conducted by the Committee during that period, issues arising from investigations and other matters which the Committee regards as significant in its development. There are advantages in having a review of the Committee's activities over the 18-month period to 31 December 1984. This covers the operations of the fourteenth Committee.

The fourteenth Committee was appointed in May 1983 and in December 1983 its membership was increased from 11 to 16. The five new members of the fourteenth Committee then appointed were Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, Senator Margaret Reynolds, Mr Lewis Kent, Dr Richard Klugman and Mr Peter McGauran. Membership of the fourteenth Committee ceased under section 5 (5) of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951 when Parliament was dissolved on 26th October 1984.

It is thus appropriate to take the 18-month period as the review period and to inform the Parliament of the fourteenth Committee's activities. The Committee scrutinises and regularly reviews the manner in which departments estimate their financial requirements and expend the moneys allocated to them by Parliament. Its primary concern is with the cost effectiveness of administration rather than the determination of policy. However, the Committee is becoming more interested in analysing the process by which policy objectives are determined. This interest and implementation is reflected in the Committee's close relationship with authorities such as the Public Service Board, the Department of Finance and the Auditor-General.

During the period under review the Committee produced 22 reports. Within the Committee's program particular attention was paid to processing government responses to earlier reports. Accordingly, 13 of the reports tabled were Finance Minute reports which completed the Committee's inquiry sequence for numerous subjects including chemists' remuneration under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and coal export levy. The Committee also presented major reports on income maintenance programs, HMAS Tobruk, excise and automatic data processing. Brief summaries of the Committee's 22 reports are presented in our report of activities.

In addition to the Committee's investigative activities to the end of December 1984, Committee members have spoken at numerous seminars and conferences both on the role of parliamentary committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, and on specific issues of interest to it. The Committee considers that these activities supplement its inquiries as a means of increasing public awareness of efficiency issues in public administration.

The Committee records its appreciation to its Secretary, Mr Michael Talberg, permanent and seconded staff and its advisers for their efforts throughout the period. In addition, the Committee thanks officers from the Department of Finance, the Public Service Board and the Auditor-General's Office who have acted as observers for our hearings. The Committee is also grateful for the work done by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and his staff, and other officers of the parliamentary departments who have assisted the Committee in its activities. I commend the report to honourable senators.