Title Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Waiver of Debt and Act of Grace Payments) Bill 2019
Database Explanatory Memoranda
Date 09-08-2021 03:41 PM
Source Senate
System Id legislation/ems/s1242_ems_bf89e6d8-4425-4b84-a37c-8e67056d0777


Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Waiver of Debt and Act of Grace Payments) Bill 2019

 

 

 

 

2019

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

PUBLIC GOVERNANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENT (WAIVER OF DEBT AND ACT OF GRACE PAYMENTS) BILL 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Katy Gallagher)

 


PUBLIC GOVERNANCE, PERFORMANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENT (WAIVER OF DEBT AND ACT OF GRACE PAYMENTS) BILL 2019

 

OUTLINE

 

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Waiver of Debt and Act of Grace Payments) Bill 2019 is being introduced to increase transparency in government operations.

 

Under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Finance Minister has the power to extinguish debts owed to the Commonwealth, meaning the debts are completely forgiven and cannot be recovered. These debts relate to non-corporate Commonwealth entities, such as the Australian Tax Office or Centrelink (Services Australia) and departments of state.

 

Debt waivers are granted where the decision-maker considers recovery of the debt would be inequitable or cause ongoing financial hardship, and that other debt treatment options (such as an agency writing off the debt or deferring payment) are not appropriate.

 

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 also authorises the Finance Minister to make payments to a person if they consider it appropriate to do so because of special circumstances. These special circumstances can include where a non-corporate Commonwealth entity has taken action, or failed to take action, and this has caused an unintended and inequitable result for someone.

 

There is currently no mechanism for reporting to the public:

·         how many waivers of debt or act of grace payments have been made,

·         what amount of debt has been waived, or

·         what amount has been paid out in act of grace payments.

 

The bill would require the Department of Finance to state in its annual report the number of waivers of debt granted and act of grace payments made, and the total dollar amount of debt waived and act of grace payments made. There would be no personal information reported, given all that is sought is the publication of global figures.

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1: Short Title

1.           This clause provides for the Act to be cited as the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Waiver of Debt and Act of Grace Payments) Act 2019.

Clause 2: Commencement

2.           This clause provides for the Act to commence the day after the Act receives Royal Assent.

 

Clause 3 – Schedules

4.                  Each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as is set out in the applicable items in the Schedule. Any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1—Amendments

Items 1 and 2

5.                  Items 1 and 2 insert a note after the existing note at the end of subsection 46(1) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 relating to the proposed requirement that the Department of Finance include information on waivers of debt and act of grace payments in its annual report.

Item 3

6.                  Item 3 inserts a new section 65A into the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 which requires the Department of Finance to include in its annual report:

(a)    the number of debt waiver authorisations made during a reporting period, and the total amount waived as a result of those authorisations; and

(b)   the number of act of grace payments made during a reporting period, and the total amount paid as act of grace payments.

7.                  This would be in the following format: ‘In [insert financial year], [x] debt waiver authorisations were made, with [$y] in debts waived,’ and ‘In [insert financial year], [x] act of grace payments were made, totalling [$y].’

Item 4

8.                  Item 4 provides that the amendments apply to reporting periods that begin on or after 1 July 2019. This would mean the information on debt waivers and act of grace payments would be included in the Department of Finance’s 2019-20 annual report, to be released in the second half of 2020.


 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Waiver of Debt and Act of Grace Payments) Bill 2019

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

 

Overview of the Bill

The bill would require the Department of Finance to state in its annual report the number of waivers of debt granted, and the total dollar amount of debt that was waived, under the authority granted by section 63 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It also requires the Department of Finance to state in its annual report the number of act of grace payments made, and the total dollar amount of those payments, under the authority granted by section 65 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

 

Human rights implications

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

It simply requires the Department of Finance to report on the total number of debt waivers and act of grace payments, and the total dollar amount of debt waived and act of grace payments, in its annual report. No personal or other identifying information would be required to be published.

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

Senator Katy Gallagher