Page 4891 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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to be notified in writing to the Speaker by 4.00 pm today;

(3) the Committee report by 30 March 2006;

(4) if the Assembly is not sitting when the Committee has completed its inquiry the Committee may send its report to the Speaker or, in the absence of the Speaker, to the Deputy Speaker, who is authorised to give directions for its printing, publishing and circulation; and

(5) the foregoing provisions of this resolution so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.

I have moved this motion today to seek to have a committee examination of the functions, policies, procedures and financial performance of the Emergency Services Authority. The request is well justified, as there are many unanswered questions around a number of aspects of the Emergency Services Authority and its agencies, it replaced the previous ESB after the January 2003 bushfire disaster.

There appear to be discrepancies in answers, or non-answers to questions, both with and without notice, that I have posed to this government in areas of ESA management. There appear to be discrepancies in documents, or the lack thereof, from FOI requests that I have made. There appear to be discrepancies in comments that have been made by the Chief Minister, his emergency services minister and the ESA commissioner about ESA management and activities.

It is not just the opposition that is concerned. The Auditor-General has identified in her report No 7 of 2005 2004-05 Financial audits that the ESA does not even have an internal audit function—an essential requirement in any department. On page 4 of the report, the Auditor-General says:

The internal audit function for the Authority was not established as at 30 June 2005.

This raises serious questions about how the ESA has been managing its finances, especially as it advertised recently for finance officers to “provide analysis on the identification of financial and resource anomalies”. The report also shows on page 53 that the ESA spent $45.099 million on employee expenses. That was $3.242 million under approved budget expenditure of $48.341 million.

Normally a department would be commended for coming in under budget. However, what concerns me is that the ESA requested, and was given, a number of Treasurer’s Advances totalling about $5.4 million for the 2005-06 year to cover unexpected salaries and other administrative expenses. On the one hand the Auditor-General’s report is saying that employee expenses were $3.2 million less than the amount budgeted as the authority did not fill all planned positions during the year, but on the other hand we have the ESA screaming out for additional funding to cover additional salaries and the like. Why did they urgently need the additional appropriated funding if they have actually come in under budget—on salaries anyway? This is certainly a matter of some concern.

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