Duties and Powers of the JCPAA
The JCPAA owes its existence and authority to the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 (the PAAC Act). The JCPAA is also one of the oldest committees in the Parliament, having first been established in 1913.
The purpose of the JCPAA is essentially to hold Commonwealth agencies to account for the lawfulness, efficiency and effectiveness with which they use public monies.
Section 8(1) of the PAAC Act describes the Committee's specific duties as being to:
(a) examine the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth including the financial statements given to the Auditor-General under paragraphs 42(1)(b) and 48(1)(b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013; and
(b) examine the financial affairs of authorities of the Commonwealth to which the Act applies and of intergovernmental bodies to which this Act applies;
(c) examine all reports of the Auditor-General (including reports of the results of performance audits) that are tabled in each House of the Parliament;
(d) report to both Houses of the Parliament, with such comment as it thinks fit, on any items or matters in those accounts, statements and reports, or any circumstances connected with them, that the Committee thinks should be drawn to the attention of the Parliament;
(e) report to both Houses of the Parliament any alteration which the Committee thinks desirable in:
(i) the form of the public accounts or in the method of keeping them; or
(ii) the mode of receipt, control, issue or payment of public moneys;
(f) inquire into any question connected with the public accounts which is referred to the Committee by either House of the Parliament, and to report to that House upon that question;
(i) the operations of the Audit Office;
(ii) the resources of the Audit Office, including funding, staff and information technology; and
(iii) reports of the Independence Auditor on operations of the Audit Office;
(h) report to both Houses of the Parliament on any matter arising out of the Committee's consideration of the matters listed in paragraph (g), or on any other matter relating to the Auditor-General's functions and powers, that the Committee considers should be drawn to the attention of the Parliament;
(i) report to both Houses of the Parliament on the performance of the Audit Office at any time;
(j) consider draft estimates for the Audit Office submitted under section 53 of the Auditor-General Act 1997;
(k) consider the level of fees determined by the Auditor-General under subsection 16(1) of the Auditor-General Act 1997;
(l) make recommendations to both Houses of Parliament, and to the Minister who administers the Auditor-General Act 1997, on draft estimates referred to in paragraph (j);
(m) determine the audit priorities of the Parliament and to advise the Auditor-General of those priorities;
(n) determine the audit priorities of the Parliament for audits of the Audit Office and to advise the Independent Auditor of those priorities; and
(o) any other duties given to the Committee by this Act, by any other law or by Joint Standing Orders approved by both Houses of the Parliament.
In addition, the Auditor-General Act 1997 and Section 8A of the PAAC Act jointly provide that the Committee must approve or reject any nomination to fill the positions of Auditor-General and Independent Auditor (a person appointed on a part-time basis from the private sector to serve as external auditor to the ANAO). This power, and the Auditor-General’s status under his/her Act as an Independent Officer of the Parliament, reflect the fact that the Auditor-General’s primary client is the Parliament rather than the executive.
In 2011, Parliament approved a range of amendments to the Auditor-General Act 1997. These included Section 18B of the Act, providing that where a Commonwealth partner is, is part of, or is controlled by the government of a state or territory, a performance audit may be conducted at the request of the responsible minister or the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. Media release (30KB)
The JCPAA has a similar oversight role in relation to the PBO as it does with the ANAO. As with the ANAO, the JCPAA cannot direct the activities of the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Section 64 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (see Appendix B) outlines the Committees role and duties in regard to the PBO as to:
- Consider nominations of appointment of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
- Consider the PBO’s annual work plan
- Consider the funding, operations and resources of the Parliamentary Budget Office, including their draft estimates
- To draw to the attention of Parliament any other significant matters
- Consider initiating reviews of the PBO following elections.
The Committee is also responsible for approving annual report guidelines for Commonwealth departments on behalf of the Parliament. This responsibility is conferred by sub-section 63(2) of the Public Service Act 1999.