Page 2984 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 15 September 2015

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Act 1996 to provide flexibility to the government to respond to emerging priorities, reduce red tape by streamlining the administrative requirements, reduce ambiguity by making the provisions simpler and clearer, and increase transparency and accountability to the Legislative Assembly and the community.

Key considerations that the government brought to my office’s attention during the briefing include the following: clause 6 replaces the existing subsection words “the provision of outputs by the directorate” with the words “any controlled recurrent payment to be provided to the directorate”, signifying a shift in funding recurring inputs rather than outputs. Clause 27 allows for the transfer of funds between capital and recurrent appropriations of up to five per cent or $500,000 if this occurs via instrument signed by the Treasurer. If more than five per cent or $500,000 it will be done by disallowable instrument.

Clause 47 notes that if a Treasurer’s advance is given but not spent it goes back into the Treasurer’s advance bucket. Additionally if a sub-appropriation bill passes, money from the Treasurer’s advance is replenished by the bill being passed. Clause 81 allows for directors-general to enter into multiyear contracts and MOUs relating to the operation of a directorate.

This bill has the technical prudence of the ACT public service and as it is a machine-of-government bill we are supportive of these amendments. However, an amendment bill in the hands of this Chief Minister and his cabinet, allowing them greater flexibility to commit and move ACT taxpayers’ funds, is something we should be concerned about and keep a great watching eye on. This bill purports to remove red tape but the only red tape they seem to be removing is bureaucratic processes that would make it easier for them to spend on their legacy projects. And I note Mr Hanson had the same comments to make on the red tape bill that we have just passed as well.

For instance, with capital metro, a significant part of these changes will impact on this government’s capital spending and this is in light of the last budget where we saw significant underreporting of the government’s capital expenditure items and funding flows with its capital provision allowances. We see this best summarised in the CIE’s report on the budget where they concluded:

Without any further details provided on the flow of funds into and out of this capital provisions pool or on the estimated allocations to different projects within the pool, there are limited conclusions that can be drawn from this information.

In fact, regarding the government’s capital metro project the CIE report stated:

… it is not clear what payments for the Capital Metro are accounted for in the Capital Provisions.

They go on to say:

The lack of clarity is further enhanced by a lack of detail around whether the $51.8 million of capital expenditure for Capital Metro has come out of the capital provision fund.

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