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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 14 May 2015) . . Page.. 1794 ..

The ACT Greens have followed annual reporting requirements fairly closely over the years. As I said, these requirements are extremely important in terms of ensuring that the public, especially interested stakeholders, as well as members of the Assembly of course, are able to see where the government’s funds go and how far we are going in achieving the goals of government and fulfilling government strategies.

There are generally two places where such reporting is required: through the Chief Minister’s annual reports directions—a notifiable instrument, which is reviewed by the public accounts committee—and legislation that requires specific reporting for specific areas, sometimes as part of that agency’s annual report and sometimes separately on their website or elsewhere. This legislation, of course, comes to the whole Assembly.

This bill is an attempt to streamline those requirements so that government staff do not need to replicate their reporting work by reporting from requirements in two places and then also sometimes reporting the information in two places as well. This is an understandable and commendable intent, and it is a welcome effort to make sure resources are spent on the things they need to be and not on things simply being done for perhaps some outdated requirements.

There are certainly many things that need regular reporting. These add up, and often gathering all the right data in the right way can take up a significant amount of staff time. As legislators, we need to weigh up which things are worth this time and effort and ensure that, on balance, we are still receiving sufficient information to be able to see whether the government is making progress towards achieving its goals and strategies. The ACT Greens have worked hard over many Assemblies to get the ACT government to introduce triple bottom line accounting into its decision-making and reporting frameworks. It was addressed as part of the 2008 parliamentary agreement, as we understand the public and MLAs do not just want to hear about the financial bottom line in the annual reports; they are also very keen to hear about whether the funds expended have gone towards achieving our social and environmental aims for the territory.

There is still some way to go in terms of ensuring our annual reports, through their reporting on strategic and accountability indicators, actually do this—that is, whether they tell the public whether we are moving towards our goals. A lot of government strategies are simply not reflected in our strategic or accountability indicators. But I also understand that government agencies find it difficult to create indicators that are meaningful as well as being easily measurable and auditable. Sometimes the data we would like to see simply is not able to be collected with the available technology and staff resourcing. But that may be a long story for another day.

Having moved into a ministerial role and looked at issues of accountability indicators and measures of government achievement, I have sought to make improvements and I have got into detailed discussions with agencies about the availability of data and how a measure might be defined in a way the Auditor-General also finds acceptable. There are complexities involved, and this is one of these spaces where we simply need to keep striving to make them better rather than lamenting too much the fact they are perhaps not what we would like at the moment.

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