The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee (committee) is
responsible for examining the annual reports of departments and agencies of the
Health Portfolio, Social Services Portfolio and Human Services Portfolio.
The committee's first report on annual reports for 2018 presents an
overview of the examination of annual reports presented to the Parliament
between 1 May 2017 and 31 October 2017.
Commonwealth entities (corporate and non-corporate) and Commonwealth companies
are obligated to report to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the
Australian public, on their obligations and performance in support of executive
government. The committee views the annual reporting process as an important administrative
function to support the transparency and accountability of executive governments'
Terms of reference
Under Senate Standing Order 25(20) the annual reports of certain
departments and agencies stand referred to committees for examination and
assessment. Each committee is required to:
- 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 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;
- 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.
Allocated portfolios and functions
Pursuant to resolution of the Senate, the committee is allocated
portfolio oversight of the Health Portfolio, Social Services Portfolio and
Human Services Portfolio.
The Commonwealth departments within those portfolios are the Department
of Health (DOH), Department of Social Services (DSS) and Department of Human
Services (DHS). The Schedule of the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO)
details the policy functions of those departments.
On 20 December 2017, the AAO was amended in accordance with machinery of
government changes. This amendment included the transfer of matters regarding multicultural
affairs from DSS to the newly formed Department of Home Affairs.
Information on the range of Commonwealth entities and companies within
the committee's portfolio allocation is available on the Department of Finance's
Requirements and purpose of annual reports
Annual reports are key documents under the enhanced Commonwealth
performance framework established in accordance with paragraph 5(b) of the Public
Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). The presentation of information regarding the performance of Commonwealth entities
and companies, through annual reports prepared in accordance with the PGPA Act,
makes a significant contribution to Australia's system of accountability for public
The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA
Rule) specifies the annual reporting requirements of Commonwealth entities and
companies. Resource management guides produced by DOF provide context to the
annual reporting requirements for each of the reporting entity types: non-corporate
Commonwealth entities; corporate Commonwealth entities; and Commonwealth companies.
Commonwealth entities and companies were first required to present
annual reports in accordance with the provisions of the PGPA Act for the 2015–16
period. Prior to the PGPA Act, annual reporting provisions were specified in
the: Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997; Commonwealth
Authorities and Companies Act 1997; Commonwealth Authorities and
Companies Regulations 1997; and the Corporations Act 2001.
The committee's first report on annual reports for 2017 provided a
detailed overview of the annual reporting requirements of the PGPA Act, the
PGPA Rule and other key legislative requirements for annual reporting of
Commonwealth bodies. Since the committee tabled its previous report on annual reports, on 6
September 2017, there have been two minor administrative updates to the PGPA
In summary, annual reports of Commonwealth entities and companies should:
- meet the requirements of the PGPA Act and the PGPA Rules;
- be in accordance with the reporting requirements of primary legislation; and
- be compliant with guidelines relevant to the production of annual
Annual reports stand referred to the committee for examination with
respect to an 'apparently satisfactory' standard. Whilst Senate standing orders do not define apparently satisfactory, the
committee generally considers this to mean being substantively in accordance
with relevant legislation and guidelines.
Commonwealth entities and companies are required to present annual
reports to the relevant minister, in accordance with the timeframes provided in
applicable legislation. The minister is then required to table the annual
report in Parliament.
The committee supports DOF's guidance to Commonwealth entities that it
is best practice for ministers to table annual reports in Parliament no later
31 October 2017.
In considering the timeliness of presenting annual reports to
Parliament, the committee notes the first date that an annual report was tabled
in either house. If the Senate is out-of-session, the committee notes the date that
a report was presented to the President, as the effect of this is considered equivalent
to tabling the report.
Annual reports include significant information regarding the operation
and performance of Commonwealth entities and companies. The publication of
annual reports is a principal opportunity for Commonwealth entities, companies,
and executive governments to present information to Parliament and the broader
public. Through the publication of information, the probity of the operations
of executive governments is enhanced, and the management of the Commonwealth's extensive
public resources is made more transparent.
Senate committees have systematically examined annual reports since
1989, following a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and
Public Administration which envisaged that committees' examination of annual
reports would include consideration of substantive performance matters and not
an exercise limited to legislative compliance.
Annual reports are important documents that should be informative for
members of Parliament and other interested persons, of a rigorous standard, and
be presented in accordance with relevant legislation.
This report considers 28 annual reports of Commonwealth entities and
companies within the committee's portfolio oversight that were presented to
Parliament between 1 May 2017 to 31 October 2017.
The 2016–17 annual report of the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA)
was first presented to Parliament in the Senate on 13 November 2017. In accordance with Senate standing orders, ADHA's report will be examined in
the committee's second report on annual report for 2018.
A list of the annual reports of Commonwealth entities and companies referred
to the committee for examination can be found at Appendix 1.
Comments made in the Senate
Pursuant to Senate Standing Order 25(20)(d), the committee is obliged to
consider any relevant comments made about annual reports in the Senate.
The committee notes comments made by Senator Rachel Siewert, by leave of
the Senate in the consideration of documents on 18 October 2017, in relation to
the tabling of the 2016–17 annual report for Australian Hearing. Senator
Siewert stated the importance of Australian Hearing's work, particularly in
relation to addressing hearing conditions affecting Indigenous communities.
This report is structured in three chapters, as follows:
- Chapter 1—provides background information regarding the
committee's examination of annual reports;
- Chapter 2—presents an overview of the committee's examination of annual
reports of DOH, DSS and DHS; and
- Chapter 3—presents an overview of the committee's examination of certain
annual reports of Commonwealth entities and companies.
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