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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1047

Mr TICKNER —On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, I present the 255th report of the Committee relating to the Committee's activities from January 1985 to June 1986.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr TICKNER —I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr TICKNER —I thank the House. This report, the Committee's 255th, informs the Parliament of the Committee's activities for the period 1 January 1985 to 30 June 1986. The report also provides a convenient medium for the Committee to review its own activities and to suggest areas of public and financial administration which may need further review and reform. The period under review has seen the Committee conducting a number of important and wide-ranging inquiries which have highlighted the need for change in many areas of public administration. Examples of these include: Firstly, the inquiry into medical fraud and overservicing in pathology services; secondly, an inquiry into project management by the Department of Defence and the armed services; and, thirdly, several reviews of proposed major acquisitions of computing equipment by departments in the Australian Public Service. These inquiries are, however, but a few of those conducted by the Committee.

The Committee's duties have continued to grow, and this report notes that the Committee is now charged with extensive reviewing responsibilities in relation to the public accounts and public expenditure. In particular, the Committee examines the accounts of the receipts and expenditures of the Commonwealth; the Committee examines all reports of the Auditor-General, including reports of efficiency audits; the Committee reviews, at the discretion of Cabinet, major computing acquisition proposals put forward by the Australian Public Service; and, finally, the Committee reviews all Government responses, known as Finance minutes, to its reports. In addition, the Committee is charged with the responsibility of examining the financial affairs of authorities of the Commonwealth and intergovernmental bodies.

During the period under review the Committee has also been given two additional tasks. One is to assess the suitability of auditors to be appointed to statutory marketing authorities, and the other is to approve the guidelines for the form and content of departmental annual reports. While this range of duties often gives the Committee a burdensome work load, it continues to be well served by a dedicated and hardworking secretariat. The Committee acknowledges with great appreciation the contribution made to its work by the members of its secretariat, its panel of advisers, and, indeed, the support staff, some of whom are in the gallery this afternoon.

On behalf of the Committee I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work and leadership of Senator George Georges, who resigned from the Committee earlier this year. Senator Georges served on the Committee for over seven years. He was Vice-Chairman from 1980 while in opposition, and Chairman from 1983. Senator Georges presented 61 reports to the Parliament on behalf of the Committee. The more notable of these included medical fraud and overservicing, HMAS Tobruk, defence project management, Job Seeker-computer acquisition by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, and Project Desine-proposed computer acquisition by the Department of Defence. I say as an aside that even though not all members of the Parliament would agree with Senator Georges on every single occasion, I think all of us hold him in high regard and with some personal affection. Certainly, his work on the Public Accounts Committee is respected by all of those who have had the privilege of working with him.

I add that this is the first report I have tabled as Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It is my intention as Chairman to use my best endeavours to devote considerable time and energy to the Committee as it pursues its work on behalf of the Parliament. I am privileged to serve as Chairman of this bipartisan Committee of the Parliament. I hope that the Committee will continue its independent and forthright action in the public interest. I commend the report to honourable members.