Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1572 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
(3) the effectiveness of this Act and the arrangements made under it in facilitating scrutiny of the financial management of the government of the Territory;
(4) the impact that this Act and the arrangements made under it have had on the achievement of the objectives of the government of the Territory;
(5) the possibility of incorporating environmental and social accounts into the financial management framework; and
(6) any other matter relating to the financial management of the Territory.
Mr Speaker, it is now three years since the Financial Management Act was passed and we have just seen the third budget presented by the Government under the accrual accounting system that was introduced by this Act. The Financial Management Act was a radical departure from the previous financial system used by government. At the time the Act was debated the Greens and even the ALP raised concerns that there was considerable uncertainty about how well the financial reforms would work in practice. The point was raised at the time that considerable work was being put by the Public Service into the technical implementation of the new accrual accounting system, but that relatively little time was being spent on looking at the policy implications of moving to this new system, in particular the move to output-based budgeting, service purchasing and the setting up of performance targets.
I therefore put up an amendment to establish a statutory review of the Act by no later than 30 June 1999. This amendment was not supported by the Assembly, primarily on the ground that it was not necessary to write a review into the Act as the Assembly already had the power to initiate a review at any time. No-one believed that there should never be a review of the Act. The ALP specifically acknowledged in the Assembly that a review of the Act would be worth while in time, but that this could possibly be undertaken by the public accounts committee. The date of 30 June 1999 is nearly here and I think the need for a review is now coming to a head, with the recent revelations over the financing of the Bruce Stadium redevelopment.
While the Government may have technically acted within the law - and I say "may have" - by borrowing money to cover the additional funds spent on the Bruce Stadium because private sector investment in the stadium had not occurred, there is still the question of whether it acted responsibly in managing its appropriation and whether the provisions of the Financial Management Act are adequate to regulate this type of action. This incident has highlighted that section 6 of the Act, which states that no payment of public moneys shall be made otherwise than in accordance with an appropriation, may be too general to cope with the types of public and private sector business partnerships that this Government seems so fond of.