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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2649 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

funds are paid from the territory banking account to enable departments to implement government policy. There may, however, be circumstances where departments have received appropriated funding for projects that were subsequently not undertaken, or where departments have achieved significant savings. In these instances, departments will have surplus cash in their bank accounts which is not required to fund the original purpose for which it was appropriated. It is appropriate that, where departments cannot justify these cash surpluses, the government should have the ability to decide upon the best use for that cash across the government service.

The government may wish to transfer the surplus cash back to the territory banking account. The act, however, currently does not provide a means for such cash surpluses to be paid out of departmental banking accounts into the territory banking account. Amendments proposed in this bill allow the executive to issue a direction that money be transferred from a departmental account to the territory banking account. This will ensure the best use of cash across the ACT government.

Members will be aware that the Financial Management Act 1996 allows the government four months after the end of a financial year to prepare the consolidated financial statements of the territory, and a further one month to be audited. This means that the audited statements are usually tabled in the Assembly in the December sittings. This is some five months after the end of the year on which they are reporting. The government believes that the presentation of annual financial statements under this timeframe has the potential for the statements to be less useful to many users.

Amendments proposed in this bill, therefore, facilitate the bringing forward of the presentation of the territory's whole-of-government audited financial statements. The amendments will achieve this by, firstly, reducing the time, from four to three months after the end of the financial year, in which the Treasurer is required to provide the Auditor-General with a copy of the territory's annual financial statements. Secondly, the amendments proposed in this bill remove the requirement for the Auditor-General to provide an audit opinion on departments' and territory authorities' annual financial statements, including performance measures, within 30 days of receiving those statements.

Instead, the Auditor-General will be required to provide an audit opinion as soon as practicable after receiving these statements. This will allow the Auditor-General to complete auditing agencies' financial statements before commencing the audit of agencies' performance measures. Splitting of this audit process will allow Treasury to undertake earlier its consolidation tasks, based on agencies' audited financial statements.

As I have said earlier, these amendments flow from the review of the act that is still being undertaken by the Department of Treasury. It is expected that further amendments will flow from this review and be presented to this Assembly later this calendar year. In conclusion, I reiterate that the amendments proposed in this bill reflect a commitment to accountability, prudent fiscal management and improved transparency and disclosure.

I trust that members will support this bill. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Humphries ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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