Page 4771 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 1 November 2017
Currently, the territory publishes information on around 12,000 invoice payments a year. During the 2016-17 financial year, invoices were processed for a further 11,000 payments valued between $12,500 and $24,999. This means that in simple terms lowering the threshold would double the amount of invoices processed, double the amount of resources needed, and it would require significant reworking of government and private sector capabilities, potentially hitting small businesses in the territory the hardest.
The government supports in principle the closer linking of an invoice to a contract number and name or title, but this would require either significant additional resourcing or significant changes to the territory’s invoice capture and processing systems. Automating the linking of invoices to contracts would be complex but could ultimately be feasible, although at an unknown cost and over a significant time frame.
It would also be potentially inconvenient and expensive for many suppliers, with new requirements leading to a change in systems to generate invoices with specific contract reference details. This would, again, likely potentially disadvantage small businesses.
Despite all of the challenges associated with this requirement, the government will undertake to assess the feasibility of improving systems and processes needed to implement this change and will report back to the Assembly on the outcomes of the assessment. I have given notice this morning that I will move an executive motion tomorrow committing to this assessment.
Act of grace payments are currently reported through directorates’ annual financial statements and the Treasury-compiled consolidated annual financial statements. This bill seeks to establish an electronic register with reports of payments to be notified within 21 days of the end of the quarter in which the payment was made. Current reporting arrangements do not disclose the identity of the recipient unless they agree to the disclosure.
There are significant privacy concerns for individuals potentially affected through the increased amount of information this bill proposes to be published, particularly given that the authorisation and payment date will be closer to the publication date in many cases. The government has been advised that this bill presents a significant risk in publicly exposing the recipients’ identities without their consent and therefore could impact on a person’s right to privacy under the Human Rights Act 2004.
Any inferred public benefit afforded by the new provisions of this bill would be at the cost of an individual recipient’s right to privacy, which is not something the government is willing to jeopardise to satisfy others’ curiosity.
Madam Speaker, the government is committed to transparency and accountability, but we are not going to strip front-line services or the right to privacy of Canberrans to achieve it. We will also not be looking to impose onerous new requirements on businesses contracting with government when the problem that we are seeking to solve is unclear and the benefits of the proposed change so uncertain. In the detail