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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 1317


The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -

As honourable senators will know, the Committee has, for many 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 fortieth report relates specifically to evidence taken by the Committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, in 1971-72. The one hundred and fortieth report differs from all previous reports tabled by the Public Accounts Committee, inasmuch as the public inquiry from which it arose, was conducted for the first time by 2 sectional committees, rather than by the Committee itself. In this regard I should mention that, early this year, the Committee took a series of important, related initiatives connected with its future development and design to improve its effectiveness. To fac- ilitate the operation of an improved programme, the Committee decided that it would operate in 2 standing sectional or sub-committees of 5 members each, for the purpose of taking evidence. As honourable senators will be aware, provision is contained in section 9 of the Public Accounts Committee Act for the appointment of sectional committees to inquire into and report to the Committee on matters with which it is concerned. This new arrangement, which has proved to be very successful from the Committee's view-point, came into operation as planned, on 15th August 1972, when the Committee commenced its annual examination of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and the Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the financial year 1971-72.

As part of this new administrative arrangement, page 2 of the Report shows the date of appointment and membership of the 2 sectional committees and the marginal notes in each chapter show which of the sectional committees took evidence on the matter concerned. In Chapter 1 of the report, the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, it has sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Original and Additional Estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether or not the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases where expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the appropriation legislation. In other cases, however, there is evidence of clerical errors, failure to establish adequately based administrative arrangements, and lack of adequate communication between central and regional offices of departments and between branches of the central office of the same department. These defects result in either poor standards of estimating or inadequate expenditure performances. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered.

As in several previous inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, the Committee has found further evidence of charges having been made to the Advance without warrant Authority, in contravention of sub-Regulation 1 of Treasury Regulation 90. These charges usually arise from clerical or administrative errors. In recent years, the Committee has had cause to comment adversely on the quality of written submissions and oral evidence tendered by departments. In this regard, the Committee is pleased to note a considerable general improvement in the quality of evidence tendered during the present inquiry. At the same time, however, some evidence tendered by a department was factually imprecise and, but for a correction subsequently tendered by an observer, could have misled the Committee into unjustified criticism of the department. Imprecisions of the nature to which I have referred, highlight the need for departments to exercise great care in the presentation of documenatry and oral evidence. I commend the report to honourable senators.

Ordered that the report be printed.







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