Terms of reference
1. The committee is responsible for examining annual
reports of departments and agencies within two portfolios: Defence (including
the Department of Veterans' Affairs), and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
2. Under Standing Order 25(20), the committee is
required to report on annual reports tabled by 31 October each year by the
tenth sitting day of the following year, and on reports tabled by 30 April each
year by the tenth sitting day after 30 June of that year.
3. This report also examines annual reports that were
tabled after 30 April 2013. The standing order states:
Annual reports of departments and agencies shall stand
referred to the committees in accordance with an allocation of departments and
agencies in a resolution of the Senate. Each committee shall:
Examine each annual report referred to it and report to the Senate
whether the report is apparently satisfactory;
Consider in more detail, and report to the Senate on, each annual report
which is not apparently satisfactory, and on the other annual reports which it
selects for more detailed consideration;
Investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation
of annual reports;
In considering an annual report, take into account any relevant remarks
about the report made in debate in the Senate;
If the committee so determines, consider annual reports of departments
and budget-related agencies in conjunction with examination of estimates;
Report on annual reports tabled by 31 October each year by the tenth
sitting day of the following year, and on annual reports tabled by 30 April
each year by the tenth sitting day after 30 June of that year;
Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant matters relating to
the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the annual reports; and
Report to the Senate each year whether there are any bodies which do not
present annual reports to the Senate and which should present such reports.
Role of annual reports
4. Annual reports place a great deal of information
about government departments and agencies on the public record. Accordingly,
the tabling of annual reports continues to be an important element of
accountability to Parliament and more broadly to the Australian people. The
information provided in annual reports assists Parliament in the effective
examination of the performance of departments and agencies and the
administration of government programs. Indeed, as noted in the Requirements
for annual reports:
Annual reports serve to inform the Parliament (through the
responsible Minister), other stakeholders, educational and research
institutions, the media and the general public about the performance of
departments in relation to services provided. Annual reports are a key
reference document and a document for internal management. They form part of
the historical record.
Annual reports and Portfolio Budget
Statements (PB Statements) are the principal formal accountability mechanisms between
government and departments and from departments through (or on behalf of)
government to the Parliament.
Assessment of annual reports
5. The committee examines annual
reports to determine whether they are timely and 'apparently satisfactory' and whether
they comply with the relevant requirements for the preparation of annual
reports of departments and authorities.
The requirements are set down in the following instruments:
for portfolio departments: Public Service Act 1999,
subsections 63(2) and 70(2), and the Requirements for annual reports for
departments, executive agencies and FMA Act bodies, Department of Prime
Minister and Cabinet, 28 June 2012;
for Commonwealth authorities and companies: the Commonwealth
Authorities and Companies Act 1997(CAC Act); in particular, the
Commonwealth Authorities and Companies (Report of Operations) Orders 2002; and
- for non–statutory bodies: the guidelines are contained in the
government response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance
and Government Operations on Non–statutory Bodies, Senate Hansard,
8 December 1987, vol s124, pp. 2643–45 (requirements were
modified in 1987).
Annual reports considered
6. The annual reports of
the following organisations have been examined by the committee:
Judge Advocate General
General comments on the annual reports
Timeliness in tabling reports
7. Under Senate
Standing Order 25(20)(c), the committee must report to the Senate any lateness
in the presentation of annual reports.
8. In accordance with the Requirements for Annual
Reports published in June 2012, agencies are required to present:
A copy of the annual report...to each House of Parliament on
or before 31 October in the year in which the report is given. If Senate Supplementary
Budget Estimates hearings are scheduled to occur prior to 31 October, it is
best practice for annual reports to be tabled prior to those hearings.
9. The committee found that the reports were presented
within a reasonable timeframe. A table detailing the dates relating to the
timeliness of presentation is at Appendix 1.
Comments made in the Senate
10. The committee is obliged, under Senate Standing
Order 25(20)(d), to consider any remarks made about these reports in the
Senate. There were no comments in the Senate on any of these reports.
Matters of significance
11. In accordance with Senate Standing Order 25, the
committee is to note any significant matters relating to the operations and
performance of the bodies presenting their annual reports. The committee found
no matters of significance relating to the operations and performance of the
bodies presenting their reports.
Bodies not presenting annual reports to the Senate
12. The committee is required to report to the Senate
each year on whether there are any bodies that do not present annual reports to
the Senate and which should present such reports. The committee is satisfied
that there are no bodies within these portfolios that do not meet their
reporting requirements to the Senate.
Standard of reports
13. The committee found all reports to be generally of
a high standard. They effectively described the function, activities and
financial positions of the various departments and agencies. The committee
therefore found all of the annual reports to be 'apparently satisfactory'.
14. The committee found that
the reports submitted by the Director of Military Prosecutions and the Judge
Advocate General were of a high standard. The following chapter provides a
brief overview of some of the matters that arose during the reporting period
between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2012.
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