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Wednesday, 28 October 1970

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr HURFORD - As honourable members will be aware, your Committee has, in recent years, conducted combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but has tabled separate reports on both aspects of these inquiries. The one hundred and twentythird report relates specifically to evidence taken by your Committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in 1969-70. The evidence taken in this inquiry shows cases where, in the opinion of your Committee, departments have been justified in drawing on the Advance to the Treasurer to finance

Unforeseen expenditure late in the financial year. However, the evidence also shows other cases where clerical errors, lack of adequate communications within the administration and misunderstandings between some departments and their clients have affected expenditure adversely. These factors, together with requests made prematurely, in some cases, for funds from the Advance to the Treasurer have resulted in significant proportions of the funds sought from the Advance remaining unspent. The detection by your Committee of these cases has been assisted substantially by the pro-forma developed in 1966 for the guidance of departments in the preparation of evidence.

While defects discovered in administrative arrangements have been drawn to the attention of the departments concerned throughout the report there are some matters to which specific attention should be drawn. As the report shows, there is a need for the basis of practices connected with letters of credit associated with overseas purchases to be examined by the Department of the Treasury and by other departments and authorities concerned. On several occasions in recent years your Committee has encountered the problems, including .staffing losses, that confront departments when transferring their administrations to Canberra. Your Committee believes that a clear responsibility rests with the permanent heads of such departments to recognise the problems that can arise and to ensure that they are minimised in the interests of efficient administration. The evidence shows that departments that provide computer services for other departments and statutory authorities should ensure that adequate training is provided for the staffs of such departments and authorities in the interpretation of output data from computers. Other evidence tendered in our inquiry shows a need for departments to act in such a manner that their image and that of the Public Service generally is protected from public criticism Finally your Committee would draw attention to factually conflicting information tendered by a department in its submission and by its witness in evidence. Your Committee has taken this matter up direct with the department concerned. On the broader issue of the general quality of evidence submitted during inquiries, and to which reference has been made in previous reports, your Committee notes with satisfaction that on 16th October the Secretary to the Treasury issued a circular to all permanent heads indicating the need for witnesses to be properly briefed and for evidence tendered to be of the highest quality. I commend the report to honourable members and move that it be printed.

Ordered that the report be printed.

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