Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 19 March 2015) . . Page.. 906 ..
that information about each notifiable invoice will be available, the government considers that publishing a copy of the invoice would have questionable benefit to the community. Access to full invoices is available through the freedom of information process.
Mr Coe’s bill also required that information to identify the contract for a notifiable invoice be published. Unfortunately, the government system does not allow this information to be easily identified. Invoices generally do not include a reference to the related contract, so an administrative process would need to be established to find this information. Again, with approximately 14,000 invoices, this would pose a substantial administrative burden. Individuals can search the contracts register, for example, by entering the supplier’s name and territory entity if they are interested in seeing the contract for a given invoice.
Another issue with Mr Coe’s bill is the requirement to publish the date an invoice was raised. One problem with this is that the meaning of “raised” is unclear. It could mean, for example, the date of the invoice, the date the invoice was received by the government, or the date the invoice was approved for payment and presented to the accounts payable unit. The bill I am introducing instead requires publication of the date the invoice was received. As well as not needing a definition, this will ensure that the government is only reporting on matters within its control. For example, it is not unusual for invoices to take up to 10 days to be delivered, so the date of an invoice being issued or raised could distort measures of the government’s performance on timeliness of payments.
The government’s bill meets the open government objective whilst dealing with the many shortcomings in Mr Coe’s bill. The government system does not currently allow for the date an invoice is received to be readily captured. Shared Services Finance has funding to implement an invoice automation system, and it is expected that this will be in place within the next 12 months. The new system will capture the date an invoice is received, so the bill sets the relevant provision to commence on 1 July 2016 or earlier by commencement notice if the system is in place for that date. The other information about invoices contained in the bill is available without changing ICT systems and can be readily recorded.
The provisions in the bill, except for the date the invoice is received, will commence on 1 July 2015. The bill requires that the information about notifiable invoices be published within 21 days at the end of the month in which the invoice was paid and remain on the register for at least two years.
Openness in government is important, and it is right and proper that the territory’s citizens are able to see where their money is spent. However, the cost of implementing new transparency measures must be kept to a reasonable minimum. Therefore, the notifiable invoices register will consist of a monthly report uploaded to the procurement website. This process means the relevant information will be available for interested individuals within existing funding.
Some jurisdictions publish information about all their payments, including salaries and intergovernmental payments, such as where the Government Solicitor invoices a