Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Overview

1.1        The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee's (the Committee) second report on annual reports for 2013. It provides an overview of the committee's examination of annual reports for the 2011–12 financial year.

Terms of Reference

1.2        Under Senate Standing Order 25(20), annual reports of departments and agencies shall stand referred to the legislation committees in accordance with an allocation of departments and agencies in a resolution of the Senate. Each committee shall:

  1. Examine each annual report referred to it and report to the Senate whether the report is apparently satisfactory.
  2. Consider in more detail, and report to the Senate on, each annual report which is not apparently satisfactory, and on other annual reports which it selects for more detailed consideration.
  3. Investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation of annual reports.
  4. In considering an annual report, take into account any relevant remarks about the report made in debate in the Senate.
  5. If the committee so determines, consider annual reports of departments and budget-related agencies in conjunction with examination of estimates.
  6. 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.
  7. Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant matters relating to the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the annual reports.
  8. 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.

Purpose of annual reports

1.3        The tabling and scrutiny of annual reports by Senate committees, under Standing Order 25(20), is an important element in the process of the government's accountability to Parliament. The information provided in annual reports is placed on the public record and assists Parliament in its examination of the performance of departments and agencies and the administration of government programs.

Reports referred to the committee

1.4        In accordance with Standing Order 25(20)(f) this report examines those annual reports tabled between 1 November 2012 and 30 April 2013. The committee examined the following reports:

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Portfolio

1.5        A complete list of reports referred to the committee during the period 1 November 2012 to 30 April 2013 (including those not examined) appears at Appendix 1.

Reports not examined

1.6        The committee is not obliged to report on Acts, statements of corporate intent, surveys, corporate plans or errata. The following seven documents were referred to the committee but have not been examined:

Method of assessment

1.7        Senate Standing Orders require the committee to examine the annual reports referred to it to determine whether they are timely and ‘apparently satisfactory’. In forming its assessment, the committee considers whether the reports comply with the relevant legislation and guidelines for the preparation of annual reports:

Timeliness in tabling annual reports

1.8        Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to report to the Senate on the late presentation of annual reports.

1.9        Annual reports must be tabled in Parliament by 31 October each year, except where an agency's own legislation specifies a timeframe for its annual report.[1] Those agencies reporting under the CAC Act are required to provide their annual reports to the Minister by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the financial year.[2] Where the financial year ends on 30 June, this deadline translates to 15 October.

1.10      Where an agency's own legislation provides a timeframe for its annual report, an alternative timeframe applies.  However, the committee reminds such bodies that it is the Government's policy that all annual reports should be tabled in Parliament by 31 October. [3]

1.11      The committee notes that all Commonwealth authorities' annual reports examined in this report were not sent to the Minister by the 15 October.

1.12      Although not subject to the timeframes in the CAC Act or Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act), the committee notes a significant delay in the tabling of the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (TSPZJA) Annual Report 200910, which was tabled in the Senate on 5 February 2013. The committee encourages the TSPZJA to produce its annual report in a more timely manner.

Comments on reports

1.13      The committee considers that the Cotton Research and Development Corporation's Annual Report 2011–12 and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Annual Report 2011–12 have fulfilled the reporting requirements to a high standard.

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