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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2010) . . Page.. 2091 ..

The committee received a comprehensive report from ACIL Tasman, the company selected to provide expert advice and review the ACT budget. The findings of the review assisted members throughout the hearings and the report is appended to the committee’s report. I note with disappointment that the dissenting report fails to engage with, or even reference or acknowledge, statements in the ACIL report that contradict the position they have adopted.

This year, in light of questions raised in the past, the committee attempted to streamline and improve the questions on notice process. This included an increase in the number of hearing days to facilitate direct rather than on notice questioning and a template for questions on notice. However, the number of questions was at a record high: 469 questions on notice and an additional 344 questions taken on notice—a 33.6 per cent increase on the total for the previous year.

In addition, a temporary standing order, 253A, was adopted by the Assembly for this inquiry to deal with outstanding answers to estimates questions. There are currently 120 outstanding responses.

There is a limit to public resources and a significant public cost in providing answers to all these questions. Especially given the tight time frame, it must be accepted that the demands of the estimates process for information divert resources from the ordinary operation of departments. Of course, the demands for information are in a good cause and scrutiny of executive action is a primary responsibility of all members in this place. It is a balancing exercise. It should not be the case that around 15 per cent of the questions are unanswered, but equally it is unfortunate that so many of the questions do little to aid our evaluation of the proposals. The committee has no clear answer for this but raises it merely as an issue that will have to be grappled with.

As the main vehicle for the scrutiny of government revenue and expenditure, the committee is keen to ensure that the process is not compromised. The future of estimates inquiries is discussed in chapter 1, noting the recommendations made by previous estimates committees in attempting to improve the process.

The committee recognised, in light of what I said earlier, that the efficiency and effectiveness of the process must continue to develop to ensure that we are delivering the best possible outcomes and acquitting the task asked of us to the highest possible standard with the resources available. To this end, the committee has recommended that the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure investigate the effectiveness of the select committee model and the adequacy of procedural guidelines, with reference to the standing orders and the referral motion.

The primary issues before us are whether the existing standing committees should be allocated their corresponding portfolio responsibilities, as is the case for annual reports. This would allow for a level of continuity between the accountability processes and would spread the load to the MLAs who have developed greater expertise in particular areas.

The other issue is that of the presentation of appropriation bills and budget papers. Would it be more appropriate to have a process similar to the commonwealth

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