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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 805 ..

The committee liaised with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to establish a lead committee for the purpose of managing the administrative aspects of the direct invite process and publication of submissions. It was agreed that the invites would be extended on behalf of both committees, with the administrative aspects falling to the EGEE committee. After publication, submissions were made available for other standing committees also inquiring into the 2020-21 ACT budget to access. This was drawn to the attention of the relevant committees.

The committee held public hearings on 22 and 23 February 2021. At these hearings, the committee heard from ministers and accompanying directorate and agency officers and statutory office holders. The committee would like to thank directorates and agencies for providing responses to questions taken on notice at its public hearings and questions submitted on notice following its hearings. That information assisted the committee in understanding the many issues it considered during the inquiry.

The committee acknowledges that the 2020-21 ACT budget was framed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the reporting period for referred 2019-20 annual reports span the period preceding the World Health Organisation’s declaration that COVID-19 was a global pandemic and the period the ACT government was at the front line in implementing emergency response systems and crisis management to respond to COVID-19’s asymmetric health, economic, social and physical impacts.

The committee observes that the impact of COVID-19 will underpin government functioning and finance, the framing and presentation of budgets, and parliamentary oversight and scrutiny, not only for the 2020-21 budget and across its out years but for future budgets over many years to come. In considering the several issues it sought clarification on at public hearings and the evidence received in written submissions, together with emerging best practice on managing COVID-19’s impact, the committee identified a number of matters that it was of the view were important. These included accounting for how responsibilities have been discharged and public funds were utilised over the preceding 12 months; the framing of future budgets; the sustainability of recovery strategies; and restoring fiscal stability over the medium and long terms. The committee’s report includes its views on these matters and makes 18 recommendations. In the committee’s view, nine of its recommendations were directly related to the ACT budget for 2020-21.

The committee’s recommendations cover a range of matters, including parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of future budget estimates; incorporating gender perspectives on recovery funds and policies; recognising the economic contribution of the community sector to the ACT economy; implementation of investment recovery strategies; making artsACT facilities climate ready; COVID-19 organisation emergency support funding for arts organisations; a Canberra economic advisory group; job retention rates for people with a disability and people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background who participate in ACT public service programs; flexible work provisions in the ACT public service; insecure work; the gender pay gap; review of the pricing arrangements in place for non-potable water in the ACT together with assistance programs; Icon Water’s expansion of its Staying Connected

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