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Treasury - Government Financial Reporting

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: State Budget, Treasury

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, in 2019 as a result of financial management reforms initiated by the Financial Management Bill 2015, the Public Account Act 1986 was repealed. As a result, we haven't had a section 19 return since 2019. Instead we see transfers under section 20 of the Financial Management Act 2016, and expenditure from the Treasurer's Reserve under section 21 has been reported in the preliminary outcomes report.

Section 19 returns under the Public Account Act were debated and approved by parliament. They also contained a description of general purpose of transfers, so there was a line of sight to how agencies' extra funding was being spent. When you look at the preliminary outcomes report, it's very broad and general in its nature.

How do you feel about reviewing these arrangements with a view to restoring the same level of scrutiny, or the possibility for the same level of scrutiny, that existed under the section 19 process?

Mr GUTWEIN - You're the first person who has raised that, and it's interesting. My understanding is that for the system that was put in place, we consulted with a public accounts committee at the time in terms of what information would be provided, and in effect where we landed was where we landed.

I'd be prepared to pose that question to the Public Accounts Committee and ask them to review it and provide you with their thoughts.

Ms O'CONNOR - Sure. As you know, we're not on the Public Accounts Committee, and there was no consultation with the Greens about that change.

To my second question. The Preliminary Outcomes Report 2020 21 highlights a total expenditure from the Treasurer's Reserve of $42 million, and highlights the following expenditure by agency -

Communities Tasmania, $2.6 million

Education, $3.9 million

Health, $3.4 million

Justice, $21.9 million

Legislative Council, $119 000

MPS, $1.4 million

Police, Fire and Emergency Management, $400 000

Primary Industries, $2.8 million

State Growth, $5.3 million

This is a substantial sum of public money. Can you, or the secretary, outline what the expenditure for the Treasurer's Reserve was, by agency? Should I put this detailed question on notice?

Mr GUTWEIN - I think we'd need to take that on notice, but I'm happy to answer it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.

Mr FERRALL - One of the challenges with the section 19 statement, which PAC had raised, is the timeliness of it. Effectively, you were seeing things that had already happened some months ago. In some cases, they were potentially up to six or eight months ago, so there was little parliament could in reality do, apart from note it. Although it clearly creates transparency, nothing else could be done with that statement at the time that it was considered or reviewed.

Ms O'CONNOR - The Preliminary Outcomes Report doesn't come before parliament in the same way, does it?

Mr FERRALL - No, but it is put forward. It's published so that it is available for members of parliament and the public to scrutinise and review it.

Mr GUTWEIN - Under normal circumstances with the timing of the Budget, the preliminary outcomes would be stand alone?

Mr FERRALL - At the normal time of the Budget, we'd put in an estimated outcome when the Budget is published, and then we would have a preliminary outcome. I think we only publish the preliminary outcome if there's a variation to the estimated outcome that was published with the Budget, which normally would be in that same time period. So, it's only if there's a variation.

The reason we published a preliminary outcome is because we didn't have an estimated outcome as we didn't have the Budget published before 30 June.

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, you would have to agree there is now less scrutiny of aspects of the budget, outside the document and the bill itself, the appropriation bills.

Mr GUTWEIN - Even less with some. Noting what has been raised, I will write to PAC. That will provide a view across both Houses, and seek their views.

Mr FERRALL - Point of clarification, we still provide the Auditor-General with all RAFs as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - How often would that happen in a year, Mr Ferrall?

Mr FERRALL - They are all provided to him in the year they occur. Part of the Auditor General's broader audit process is that he has to look at agencies, so he looks at the agency prior to the approved additional funds that would have been approved from the Treasurer's Reserve. We provide the details to the Auditor-General to enable him to marry the two up.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is somewhat less transparent, though, but that is not an issue with you, Mr Ferrall.