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Tuesday, 26 February 1980
Page: 340

Mr FISHER (MALLEE, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In the light of comments made in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations with regard to the Australian Wheat Board, can the Minister inform the House when the Board's 1976-77 annual report and financial statements will be presented to the Parliament?

Mr NIXON (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I am concerned that the Australian Wheat Board has not been able to present its reports to Parliament by the requested dates. The failure to do so is not occasioned by any failure of the Board to recognise its responsibilities, or any lack of endeavour by the Board to meet the requirements of the Senate. Indeed, I was pleased to notice that the Rae Committee recognised the efforts of the Board in its conclusions, in that it stated: the steps now taken by the Board, including the appointment of suitably qualified additional staff and the introduction of new accounting systems and practices appear to be likely to ensure that future financial statements and reports will be both timely and accurate.

Regrettably, the Board has found that the exercise of changing the accounting systems from a pool year to a financial year has been somewhat more complicated and complex than was first thought and it has not been able to meet the requirements of the Senate Committee. The fact is that at the moment the field audit by the Auditor-General's Office of the Australian Wheat Board's accounts for 1976-77 is nearing completion and the Board 's financial statements in final form have been received by the AuditorGeneral. Subject to there being no unforeseen difficulties, the preparation of the AuditorGeneral 's report will commence shortly. Because of this I think it proper, appropriate and certainly logical to await the completion of the final audit by the Auditor-General before taking any decision on any further action that might be necessary. Having said all that, I should say that I have sought from the Board further information and assurances about its activity in terms of staffing arrangements and what it is doing in respect of the accounting problem to see whether the problem can be overcome more quickly.

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