Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3131..
MR STEFANIAK: Yes, thank you. Minister, will you table, by close of business today, the memos advising of the unavailability of these vehicles last weekend; if not, why not?
MR CORBELL: No.
MR PRATT: My question is directed to the minister for emergency services. Minister, why have you decided to deal with the bushfire and State Emergency Service brigade/units' bank accounts issue at the end of the bushfire season by forming a working committee, when you could take action now to rectify a minor administrative oversight?
MR CORBELL: The premise of Mr Pratt's question is incorrect. The agreement I have reached with the Volunteer Brigades' Association and the representatives of volunteer brigades-both the RFS and SES-is that we will deal with this issue now. To that extent, a working party has been formed. It met last Tuesday to discuss these issues and to agree on a process for resolving them.
Just a bit of background advice is needed on this issue. Members may or may not be aware that for many years it has been the usual practice for volunteers of the RFS and the SES to raise funds, which are then used for the purchase of equipment above and beyond that which is provided by the government and for social events in the brigade or unit. This occurs through things such as fund raising at shopping centres or accepting donations in return for providing labour at community events, fetes or other such things.
Advice was received from the Government Solicitor's office in relation to the status of these funds at the request of the Emergency Services Authority. That advice highlighted the view that, to continue to allow the management of these funds, it would appear-in the way that they are managed, which is through private bank accounts-on the face of it, to be a breach of the Financial Management Act.
The issue needs to be further explored. Obviously as minister in receipt of advice from the Government Solicitor that says that management of these funds would appear to be in breach of the Financial Management Act, I cannot ignore that advice. I must-as the responsible minister-take heed of that advice and work out the most appropriate way of addressing the issues that that advice raises.
I have indicated to the Volunteer Brigades Association that the range of issues needs to be worked through. For example, should the funds be instead managed in a trust account? Should the existing arrangements be continued with some modification to address the requirements of the Financial Management Act? Or indeed, do we need to clarify, through legislation, whether these accounts do-or should-fall into the application of the Financial Management Act?
I have asked the working party to work through these issues. The acting commissioner, Mr Clement, has met with representatives of the VBA and the volunteer brigades to discuss these issues and to work out the best way of addressing them. I offered to volunteer brigades that this issue not be progressed in any way until after the bushfire