Page 3604 - Week 11 - Thursday, 22 September 2005

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ministers will only have to present annual statements of performance and associated Auditor-General’s reports to the Assembly within six sitting days of the responsible chief executive receiving the Auditor-General’s report. I refer to proposed section 30D.

The problem is that there is no time limit in legislation for when statements of financial performance are to be received by chief executives. That could result in lengthy and unnecessary delays in members of the Assembly receiving reports, especially if the Assembly is not sitting. For example, if an Auditor-General’s report associated with a departmental annual financial statement is received by the responsible chief executive at the end of September of this year, the composite document may miss the October sittings of the Assembly, because there are only four sitting days, and may not be tabled until the third week of November.

I believe that that situation is clearly unsatisfactory and quite unnecessary. Those reports should be delivered to members of the Assembly out of session, if necessary, and as soon as they are available. I would like the Treasurer to assist this debate by explaining why the six sitting days rule is included in this bill, especially as reporting by the end of September has worked quite well in the past, even though financial reporting, as distinct from performance reporting, by that point in time is not in fact required by law.

To overcome this problem, the opposition will seek to move amendments to provide for annual financial reports and the accompanying audit opinions to be delivered to the Assembly according to the requirements of the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 2004. At present, there is no formal link between the Financial Management Act and the annual reports act. These amendments seek to create that link and bring into line the timing of the presentation of all annual reports to the Assembly.

The effect of that would be that the Treasurer would be required to deliver annual financial reports of departments and authorities, including the reports of the Auditor-General, to the Assembly within three months of the end of the relevant financial year. The rules governing the presentation of annual financial reports, along with audit comments and performance reports, should be the same for each and simplified. Basically, that would mean that all reports must be presented to the Assembly within three months of the end of the relevant financial year.

Another matter of concern is the proposal for departments to report on their performance in delivering outputs every six months, instead of quarterly. I am referring to proposed section 30E. Although it was not mentioned in the Treasurer’s presentation speech, I understand that his defence or rationale for this move is that less frequent reporting will be offset by higher quality measures and more useful reporting. The opposition finds this explanation a tad unconvincing. I think that the problem really is that government agencies frequently do not provide information to Treasury on time and that the information they provide is incomplete or inadequate.

We are aware from various meetings, briefings and discussions with the Auditor-General of the challenges facing some agencies in terms of their capacity to deal with financial management issues, but I would suggest that the answer to that problem is not to reduce the demand on accountability or the presentation of information. The solution to this underperformance by agencies is not, I would suggest, to acquiesce by taking off the

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