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Tuesday, 7 December 1993
Page: 4091

(Question No. 595)

Senator Calvert asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 September 1993:

  (1) Has the Australian Securities Commission (ASC) sent invoices when the amount due is $1?

  (2) How often does this occur?

  (3) Has the department sought to restrict this practice; if so, to what extent; if not, will the department restrict this practice and how?

  (4) What is the approximate cost of sending an invoice to a client of the ASC, including postage?

Senator Bolkus —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) The Attorney-General has been advised that the ASC operational debt management policy, formulated in consultation with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), directs that invoices for amounts less than a set minimum not be issued. Clearly, the dollar amount of that set minimum is commercially sensitive information. The ASC's processing system (ASCOT) has been programmed to withhold invoices for amounts less than that minimum. However, an operator may override the system in the normal course of processing actual payments received as follows:

  (a) multiple invoices of $1 (or multiples of $1 and other amounts) may be sent back to the lodging party for payment of the aggregate debt. For example, where there have been 50 applications from one lodging party each of which has been deficient by $1 or more. Multiple invoices of $1 will also be sent back to the lodging party where that lodging party would appear to be engaging in a continuing practice of short payment;

  (b) invoices of $1 will also be given where the transaction is an over-the-counter transaction that has been short-paid. This does not involve the postage of an invoice;

  (c) under section 1355 of the Corporations Law, where full payment has not been received for documents requiring service transactions, as distinct from register up-dating (eg, annual returns), an invoice is raised for the balance regardless of the amount owing and has to be paid prior to completion of the transaction. This is a requirement of the Law.

  (2) The Attorney-General has been advised by the ASC that in 1992/93 there were 1,260 occasions where invoices with a balance owing of $1 were printed. Of those invoices, 756 were issued across-the-counter at ASC Business Centres and were generally for service transactions, covered under (c) in the answer to question (1), and for short paid company annual returns. The balance of 504 invoices were printed by the ASC Information Processing Centre at Traralgon and were generally for multiple lodgments of annual returns which were short paid as covered in (a) in the answer to question (1). A small number were printed in error but were not issued.

  (3) The Attorney-General has been advised that most instances of $1 owing on document lodgments occurred immediately after the last general companies fees review in 1992, when the maximum late fee for lodgment of a company annual return was increased from $80 to $81. The Attorney-General has been advised that the Information Division of the ASC is presently reviewing the option of accumulating small amounts due by debtors and subsequently issuing a single invoice for the total sum owing. The ASC also has operating procedures specifying that invoices for small amounts only be sent out in the circumstances listed in the answer to question (1).

  (4) The cost of sending out an invoice is estimated at approximately $2 including postage, operators time and system time. This amount drops significantly where multiple invoices are sent out to the same lodging party. This amount is also less where the invoice is issued in the context of an over-the-counter transaction which has been short-paid.