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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4257 ..

Auditor-General's Report No 7 of 2002

Mr Speaker presented the following report:

Auditor-General Act-Auditor-General's Report-No 7 of 2002-Financial Audits with Years Ending to 30 June 2002, dated 10 December 2002.

Motion (by Mr Wood , by leave) agreed to:

That the Assembly authorises the publication of the Auditor-General's Report No 7 of 2002.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this audit report.

Leave granted.

MR QUINLAN: I have not seen this audit report, but I have been advised that it contains adverse comment in relation to a payment from the Treasurer's Advance to ACT Housing for the purpose of addressing urgent fire safety retrofitting. I take the Auditor-General's comments seriously. I understood at the time of preparing this statement-I do not know what is in the report-that it contained the terms "misuse of Treasurer's Advance"and "its legality could be questioned". This statement was prepared without the benefit of reading the report, so I cannot give a page number.

Understandably, I am anxious to make a prompt statement in response, particularly as I am also informed that this report was issued to the media at midday today under embargo. Nevertheless, it is likely to receive promulgation today.

Under advice from Treasury to cabinet, the government applied $10 million of unexpended Treasurer's Advance to an urgent maintenance need in relation to fire safety within public housing. This was done late in the financial year when the urgent need was communicated to cabinet. As Treasurer, I take responsibility for that decision.

Criticism of the action would swing on the timing of the expenditure by government versus the timing in carrying out the work by ACT Housing-that is, was the expenditure in the year 2001-02?-and would also swing on the foreseeability of the need for the spending.

Let me first address the expenditure in 2001-02. The Auditor-General expressed concern that the moneys would not be expended in the financial year. However, I am advised that in discussions with officials the Auditor-General did not broach the subject of changed accounting treatment other than as expenditure in the 2001-02 year. At no time was there a suggestion that the expenditure should be treated as a prepayment to transfer the actual cost into 2002-03. The Auditor-General's certification of the financial statements-again I am assuming-without a related qualification within that certificate means that it has been accepted as expenditure by government in 2001-02, at least technically.

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