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Friday, 29 March 1946

Mr LAZZARINI (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Works and Housing) - As I stated some weeks ago, before the attention of the House had been focussed on the subject, as the result of information conveyed to me by a member of the staff of my department in Sydney, I asked the Treasurer, to make available the services of a high Treasury official to carry out a survey cif the activities of the Salvage Commission. Subsequently, on the basis of the report of the Treasury officer, I requested the Auditor-General to investigate the Commission's affairs. That that investigation was proceeding, some four or six weeks before the matter was raised in this House, is shown clearly in documents on the files of my department. Immediately the Auditor-General's report was presented I completely re-organized the Salvage Commission and issued a ministerial direction that the procedure followed in the past in respect of certain transactions was to cease forthwith. Since then, steps have been taken to tighten up the accounting procedure in accordance with the Auditor-General's advice. Sealed contracts are now opened in the fir.-t instance by an official of the Auditor-General's Department, and the whole procedure from their receipt is now under the supervision, of officers of that department. The main objection raised by the Auditor-General in his rep:.:'t was that the commission's accounts were kept loosely and that the accountancy procedure followed was not in accordance with the accepted practice. The Auditor-General dismissed the specific complaint made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in a small paragraph in which he said in clear terms that there was not the slightest evidence that the chairman of the commission had been guilty of improper practices. The Auditor-General did, however, report that the affairs of the commission had not been carried out on the best business lines. The files of my department indicate clearly the accuracy of the matter contained in this reply.

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