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Friday, 12 June 1970

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr DOBIE - This report relates to the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Canberra Community Hospital, the National Library of Australia and the Superannuation Board, in respect of matters arising from the Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General for 1968-69.

Our inquiry into the Australian Dairy Produce Board arose from the failure of the Board to complete its financial statements in time for their inclusion in the Auditor-General's Supplementary Report. The evidence shows that the main cause of this failure related to an amount of $97,743 which the Board decided late in 1968-69 to charge against the Dairying industry Stabilisation Fund to cover administration costs incurred in that year in. earning income from its South East Asian projects. Your Committee believes that the Board should have given attention to this matter when income from those projects began to appear in 1967-68. We also believe that the Department of Primary Industry should have sought a legal opinion in June 1969 on the question of whether ministerial approval was required to give effect to the Board's decision. This would have obviated the need for such an opinion to be sought much later by the AuditorGeneral's office. However, your Committee would commend the Dairy Produce Board for consulting with the Public Service Board regarding the use of electronic data processing equipment in an effort to improve the speed of its account preparation and to improve management.

In the case of the Canberra Community Hospital we noted that sundry debtors for patient fees had increased from about $425,000 in May 1968 to more than $531,600 in June 1969. The evidence shows that this increase had arisen mainly from fee increases that occurred during the year and an increase in the number of inpatients. Moreover, a new procedure introduced in June 1968 for benefit assignment or payment of account on discharge from the Hospital resulted in an increase in the number of accounts referred to the hospital funds in 1968-69. Arising from the evidence your Committee believes that the Hospital must maintain a continuing surveillance of its outstanding debts and its methods of debt recovery. We also believe that Commonwealth departments should settle promptly all hospital accounts with which they are concerned.

Our inquiry into the National Library of Australia related to the stocktaking of the Library's assets, which stocktaking has been of a composite nature in recent years. On the evidence, your Committee believes that, in the past, there has been a need for the introduction of an appropriate stocktaking programme. Following a pilot study made by the library in 1969 and the subsequent creation by the Public Service Board of 13 new positions on the Library's staff establishment we trust that a suitable stocktaking programme can be implemented without delay.

While the late presentation of financial statements by the Superannuation Board was occasioned by audit queries that arose when draft statements were submitted for audit, your Committee is particularly concerned by the problems confronting the Board in the preparation of those statements. The evidence shows that since 1966 the Board has issued circulars to departments and authorities concerning the prompt payment of contributions and delays and errors that have occurred in the submission of fortnightly returns. In spite of this, about 30 departments and authorities submitted returns for 1968-69 subsequent to 30th June 1969 and 9 were still outstanding as at 31st July. Also during that year the Board found it necessary to investigate 224 returns from 68 ' departments and authorities that failed to reconcile. Your Committee would make it clear that this situation reflects on the administrative performances of the departments and authorities concerned. I commend the report to honourable members,

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