Page 3922 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017
enormous rates bill, they expect their money to be spent efficiently and to serve a cause which is befitting of our community. This amendment bill puts the government on notice that their spending will be reported and the public will be looking to see if they are getting value for money for the taxes that they pay.
The bill has reasonable exceptions and only captures outgoings by the territory. Goods, services, works or property provided by the territory or a territory entity, granting of a licence or lease of land and sales of a lease of land and an invoice prescribed by regulation have been exempted. The inclusion of property in the register will only include acquisitions and will not capture the land releases or sales in new suburbs. The bill also introduces an act of grace payments register to provide greater clarity and increase reporting on payments made under the Treasurer’s powers. The existing reporting requirements mean that act of grace payments are only reported once a year and are buried within the financial statements of the entity that the payment is related to.
If we look back at the year 2014-15, act of grace payments worth over $700,000 were made across all directorates. The year before, there were 11 payments totalling more than $900,000. This is a significant amount of money and should be published with increased regularity. The register proposed by the bill simply increases the frequency of reporting and consolidates the information in one place. The register would be kept electronically by the relevant director-general, and the director-general may correct any mistake, error or omission in the register.
The register would include substantially the same information as already provided for under section 130 of the Financial Management Act 1996, specifically the date the payment was authorised by the Treasurer, the date of the payment, the amount of the payment, the grounds for the payment, the directorate or territory authority that made the payment and anything else prescribed by regulation. The register may include anything else the director-general considers appropriate.
The responsible directorate or territory authority must, within 21 days after the end of the quarter in which the payment was made, either enter the information in the register or provide it to the director-general for entry in the register. The director-general must ensure, as far as practicable, that a copy of the information contained in the register is accessible on a website approved by the director-general at all times, for at least two years and without charge by the territory.
Importantly, the bill preserves the provision in section 130 in which the directorate or territory authority must not disclose the identity of the payee unless the payee agreed to the disclosure. Recipients of payments will not have any identifying information published in the register. The bill also makes minor consequential amendments to the Government Procurement Regulation 2007, the Taxation Administration Act 1999 and the University of Canberra Act 1989.
I wish to reiterate that the reduction of the notifiable invoices threshold will increase transparency and accountability in government spending. By publishing the payments made by government agencies, the community can scrutinise how their money is