Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 73 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
I would like to thank the committee members. At one stage, it was Ms Tucker and Ms Gallagher, who has now moved on to bigger and better things. We were then joined by Ms MacDonald. First and foremost, to get through this amount of information was a big task and we were ably assisted by the secretariat staff, through Patrick and Derek. I thank them for their assistance.
The vast array of information presented to us as the Public Accounts Committee is the issue at heart. How do we get this into a format where somebody who is interested in public accounts, or indeed members of the public who want to access these reports so that they can learn a little about what is happening with their money and what is going on inside their public service, can do so?
Mr Speaker, the curious thing is that, at the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees conference a fortnight ago, one of the issues which came up was reporting, the formats in which reports are done, and their usability.
The recommendation at 2.22 that the Auditor-General's proposal for the layout of financial statements to use a 'net costs of outputs' presentation be adopted was an important issue at the ACPAC. It was an issue which also came up in the committee's hearings and deliberations. That is simply so that people can quickly get a handle on what something costs. The clear examples given in the report-I will not go through them-are the CTEC and Stadiums Authority reports. There is a suggestion that that will add to clarity and enhance usability.
On page 12 members will find some comments about the layout of the annual reports and how difficult it is to navigate your way around, for instance, some of the reports of the Chief Minister's Department. There was no cross-referencing or systematic referencing in volume 1. In volume 2 there is no numbering for the financial statements of the department. That makes it somewhat difficult, particularly if you are talking in a committee to refer somebody to where you want them to look.
Something that was a worry to the committee is mentioned in paragraph 2.29-that the use of the word 'monitor' is perhaps an inadequate description for the purchase of more than $16 million worth of services from CTEC. If the department is just there to monitor the purchase of services from CTEC, at $16 million that is a big job in its own right.
The question of usability again came up-that is on page 14. Indeed, the recommendations there suggest that the Chief Minister's directions be amended so that we get some usability into the reports, and consistency across reports, to make sure people can easily access them.
Mr Speaker, on page 19, there are some comments from ACTCOSS. The PAC has chosen to comment substantially on the ACTCOSS submission, and it has been left by some of the other committees to us to do so.
ACTCOSS described annual reports as general purpose documents. I want to make it clear that we disagree with that. We think the documents are specific in their purpose and in what they do. We go on to look at some of what the ACTCOSS submission asks to occur, so that sector at least can make better use of the annual reports. I will give one example-again, I will not go through it all because it is there for members to read.