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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 2781..


MS FOLLETT (continuing):

The committee sought and received from all Ministers comment on the audit findings, although the relevant Minister did not comment on the audit findings in relation to ACTEW cars, so in effect there has been no comment to this committee on that aspect of the Auditor-General's report. The committee supports the 14 audit recommendations and, in turn, we have made a range of recommendations of our own. I think it is fair to say on behalf of the committee that we believe that agencies have been rather less than zealous in their approach to reducing and making more efficient the use of government passenger cars.

The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Government provide a comprehensive report to the Assembly within six months on the extent of adoption of the audit recommendations and that it report quarterly thereafter, with reasons, on those recommendations which have not been implemented. The committee further recommended that the Government actively pursue a further reduction in the numbers of government owned and leased cars; that it examine and report to the Assembly within six months on the feasibility of pooling car parking at appropriate centres; that it ensure that all buildings owned or leased in the future for government purposes have adequate on-site secure car parking; and that the Office of Financial Management prepare guidelines for calculating fringe benefits tax and for minimising the liability arising for the ACT.

It is of concern, Mr Speaker, that ACTEW has entered into a quite generous arrangement with its senior officers to allow them the private use of ACTEW cars without any offsetting productivity improvements by those officers. It seems to me that, in addition to the question of use of public funds, there is also a question of equity both with ACTEW's other officers and with officers throughout the ACT Government Service. The committee has therefore recommended that the Government review the circumstances of the offer to ACTEW senior officers and that it report to the Assembly on what productivity improvements are agreed with those officers in return for the benefit provided. An associated recommendation is that ACTEW seek urgent legal advice on its liability for loss or damage to ACTEW cars used by officers for private purposes and take action to protect the public interest.

This is not the first time that the matter of government passenger vehicles has been examined and I believe that, as with the issue of performance indicators, this will not be the last time it is examined either. I do, however, believe that it is time that the agencies themselves actually got a bit tougher about this. I think government cars, like some other matters, have been regarded as a bit of a freebie. Agencies have handed them out rather freely to non-SES officers. We have not looked very closely at the use of SES cars. Cars appear to have been handed out without enough regard for the actual cost of that amenity. It seems to me that in successive governments we have seen continual criticism by the public on the numbers of ACT government cars, on the use of those cars and on the apparent waste of public funds that those cars represent. I think it is quite disappointing that both the audit report and the Public Accounts Committee have again found there is a great deal of room for improvement.


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