Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 1363..
Financial Management Amendment Bill 2004
Debate resumed from 4 March 2004, on motion by Mr Quinlan:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (9.56): Mr Deputy Speaker, the opposition will be supporting this bill. Essentially this bill facilitates the preparation of the financial information by departments following the passage of an appropriation bill subsequent to the annual budget. It is important that we always seek to balance the need for appropriate responsibility, accountability and scrutiny related to financial matters against the requirements that may lead to unnecessarily detailed financial reports having to be prepared. If you have a casual look at the 258 pages that comprise Appropriation Bill 2003-04 (No 3) it shows just how detailed and complex documents dealing with financial matters can get. And that does not include either the presentation speech or the EM.
Mr Deputy Speaker, while the bill before us today does not deal directly with appropriations it does deal with the consequences of passing legislation to appropriate additional funds. So it is easy to imagine the amendments to departmental financial reports that are required once the Assembly has finalised its consideration of the latest appropriation bill. So it is essential that we, as elected members with the responsibility for ensuring proper use is made of public funds, are in the best position to exercise that responsibility.
One of the major dilemmas many of us face, and that many in the community face, is to comprehend the detail contained in the annual budget papers and then to relate that information that is set out in those papers to changes that might be made during the financial year. Allied to this type of analysis is the need for us to understand the way in which government departments and agencies have performed in managing their budgets during the year; so sometimes it can be quite difficult to reach reasonable judgments on performance because of the complexity of the information that is provided.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we believe that this bill achieves the outcome of balancing financial obligations against seeking efficiency in the use of public funds and, therefore, we will support the bill.
MS DUNDAS (9.57): Mr Deputy Speaker, the ACT Democrats will be supporting this bill put forward by the Treasurer today. The Financial Management Act is the primary legislative basis for financial accountability of the government to both the Assembly and the people of the territory. In particular, the act governs the methods by which the budget is prepared and amended.
The bill before us is a relatively simple piece of legislation that changes the way alterations to the budget are disclosed. The ACT government actually has very flexible abilities to alter the budget according to changes to financial circumstances. These include the ability to transfer small amounts both within and between appropriations, altering the budget to reflect transfers of responsibility between departments or changing the budget to reflect changes in Commonwealth/territory funding arrangements.