Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 23 August 1985
Page: 307

Senator GEORGES —I present report 235 of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts which is the response to the Advance to the Minister for Finance 1981-82.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator GEORGES —I seek leave to incorporate a short statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

In essence Report 235 presents the Government's response to the Committee's report on Expenditure from the advance to the Minister for Finance (Appropriation Acts 1981-82). That report, Report 204, was presented in October 1983.

Report 235 has been structured to enable readers to place the Government response in context. Chapter 2 of our Report 235 sets down the main issues highlighted in the Committee's original report, report 204, and the conclusions and recommendations arising from its inquiry into expenditure from the advance to the Minister for Finance (AMF) (1981-82). Chapter 3 of Report 235 reproduces Departments' responses to the Committee's recommendations and conclusions. That is to say Chapter 3 reproduces the minute co-ordinated by the Department of Finance using information provided by the particular Departments cited in the Committee's original report. Chapter 1 of our Report 235 presents the Committee's reactions to that Government response.

By way of background to the subject matter of this Report, the Advance to the Minister for Finance is a provision authorised by the annual Appropriation Acts and made available to the Minister. In 1981/82 amounts of $125m and $100m were provided for this purpose in Appropriation Acts Nos 1 and 2 respectively.

As a general principle the only amounts which should remain a charge to the appropriations for the Advance to the Minister for Finance at the end of the financial year are urgent and unforeseen expenditures which arise between the time of preparation of the additional appropriation Bills Nos. 3 and 4 and the close of the financial year. In its examination of use of the Advance the committee seeks to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance conforms to that general principle.

In its examination of use of the AMF (1981-82), the Committee received explanations relating to 118 items of expenditure. Supplementary written information was obtained on 11 items and one item was selected for public inquiry.

The main subject of scrutiny in Report 204 was that of the Government Printer-more specifically its loss of operations in 1980-81 which, as customary, was recouped by appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the subsequent year. An administrative error resulted in the necessity to fund the loss using the advance to the Minister for Finance. This item, which was within the Portfolio of the Minister for Administrative Services, and now is within the Portfolio of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, was selected for public inquiry. The Committee also examined the use of the Advance by the Department of Aviation and the Departments of Capital Territory and Education.

The Committee's inquiry relating to the Government Printer focussed on the financial and operational practices of the Government Printer where it found weaknesses in accountability and inefficiencies in administration. The Committee also found clerical errors and deficiencies in estimating procedures in the Departments of Aviation, Capital Territory and Education.

The Committee is generally satisfied with the responses and undertakings offered by Departments following Report 204.

The main initiatives in the response by the Government Printer to the Committee's inquiry are:

A review of the AGPS accounting section which has been completed, resulting in the establishment of a management accounting sub-section which prepares and reviews operational and financial budgets in consultation with managers;

An improved performance in the accounts receivable system of the Government Printer Trust Account and a target for the billings systems which represents an improvement on past performance and which is achievable under AGPS current production control and costing methods; and

the drafting of a printing and publishing manual to replace the set of AGPS circulars setting out procedures.

The Committee's major concern regarding the Government Printer's responses relates to scrutiny of the financial statements of the Government Printer's operations. Essentially the Department argues that it does not have the resources to devote to improving its accounting system to a standard consistent with that set down in the accounting guidelines issued by the Minister for Finance on 20 May 1983. The Committee appreciates that the guidelines are not mandatory and that Departments must allocate scarce resources among competing priorities. However, the Committee regards it as essential that the Department allocate its resources to permit the conversion of its cash based accounting system to one based on the notion of accrual. Such a system will provide improved financial management information for the Department.

The Committee's original concerns in the Department of Aviation and the then Departments of Education and the Capital Territory relating to administrative oversights and staff inexperience have been met with approved training and checking procedures in the relevant areas. The Committee accepts these measures and expects to see improved performance in these areas in the future.

I therefore commend this report to honourable senators.