The Senate Economics Legislation Committee (the committee) is responsible for examining the annual reports of the Treasury Portfolio and the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Portfolio (Industry Portfolio) excluding matters relating to energy and small business.
On 1 February 2020, Machinery of Government changes announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 5 December 2019 took effect with peripheral impact on the committee. Energy and small business matters were allocated to the renamed Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Following this, the Senate updated its allocation of departments and agencies to retain those matters with the committees they were previously allocated to, with energy matters allocated to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications and small business matters to the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Employment.
This report on annual reports (No. 1 of 2021) provides an overview of the committee’s examination of selected annual reports and, on this occasion, the committee has chosen to also include reports tabled after 31 October 2020 that were available at the time of preparing this report. The committee is required to report to the Senate by 24 February 2021, being the tenth sitting day in the following year.
Terms of reference
Senate Standing Order 25(20) refers annual reports of departments and agencies—in accordance with a resolution of the Senate—to committees and sets out the committee’s requirements. The committee’s requirements—(a) to (h)—are outlined and reported against below. The full text of Senate Standing Order 25(20) can be found in Appendix 1.
Role of annual reports
The tabling of annual reports is an important element of executive accountability to the legislature. According to the Department of Finance, annual reports ‘inform the Parliament and the public about the achievements, performance and financial position of Commonwealth entities and companies at the end of each reporting year’. Together with Portfolio Budget Statements, Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements and the estimates process, annual reports are a primary mechanism by which the Senate is able scrutinise the operations of executive government.
Annual reporting requirements
Section 38 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) requires all Commonwealth entities to measure and assess their performance against its purpose and according to the requirements prescribed by the rules.
The PGPA Act establishes a performance reporting framework for all Commonwealth entities and companies and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) contains the minimum requirements that must be included. The performance framework includes the requirement for Commonwealth entities and companies to prepare a corporate plan and annual performance statements.
The following outlines the legislative authority and requirements for the different types of bodies that prepare annual reports:
Non-corporate Commonwealth entities: section 46 PGPA Act, division 3A(A) PGPA Rule and relevant enabling legislation.
Corporate Commonwealth entities: section 46 PGPA Act, division 3A(B) PGPA Rule and relevant enabling legislation.
Commonwealth companies: section 97 PGPA Act, which also refers to requirements under the Corporations Act 2001 and Part 3-3 PGPA Rule and relevant enabling legislation.
Non-statutory bodies: the annual reporting requirements are contained in the government response to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration's Report on non-statutory bodies.
Changes to Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule
In February 2020, the Minister for Finance amended the PGPA Rule which affected the annual reporting obligations for Commonwealth entities and companies.
The annual reports of Commonwealth entities and companies are now required to include new enhanced audit committee disclosure requirements:
a direct electronic address of the charter determining the functions of the audit committee for the entity;
the name of each member of the audit committee during the period;
the qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience of those members;
information about each of those members’ attendance at meetings of the audit committee during the period; [and]
the remuneration of each of those members.
In addition, Commonwealth companies are now required to report on their performance:
The results of a measurement and assessment of the company’s performance during the reporting period, including the results of a measurement and assessment of the company’s performance against any performance measures and any targets included in the company’s corporate plan for the reporting period.
Reports referred to and examined by the committee
All 2019–20 annual reports of Commonwealth entities and companies in the Treasury Portfolio and the Industry Portfolio have been presented to Parliament and referred to the committee.
The reports examined by the committee are listed in Appendix 2.
It should be noted that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is required by section 243 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 to report on select annual reports for agencies within the Treasury Portfolio. These reports are distinguished in Appendix 2.
The committee notes that the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal ceased operations on 31 December 2020, making this the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal’s last annual report for a full reporting period.
Additional reports referred to the committee
The committee is not obliged to report on acts, statements of corporate intent, surveys, policy papers, budget documents, corporate plans or errata. The committee notes the following documents were referred for information:
Advances to the Finance Minister—Report on advances provided under the annual Appropriation Acts for the year ended 30 June 2020, tabled 9 November 2020;
Department of Finance—Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 30 June 2020, tabled 11 December 2020;
Department of the Treasury—2020 Tax Benchmarks and Variations Statement, tabled 29 January 2021;
Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2020–21—Statement by the Treasurer (Mr Frydenberg) and the Minister for Finance (Senator Birmingham), tabled 2 February 2021; and
Reserve Bank of Australia—Payment System Board Annual Report 2020, tabled 15 October 2020.
Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to report to the Senate on the late presentation of annual reports. To assess the timeliness of the presentation of annual reports, the committee considers the presentation against the requirements of the PGPA Act, the PGPA Rule and other legislative requirements:
Presentation to ministers—on the 15th day of October, the annual report is to be given to the responsible Minister.
Tabling in Parliament—the Department of Finance’s Resource Management Guides for non-corporate and corporate Commonwealth entities advise that ‘[n]ormally annual reports are tabled on or before 31 October and it is expected annual reports are tabled prior to the October Estimates Hearings’.
Agencies reporting in accordance with their own legislation are often required to prepare their annual report for the relevant Minister 'as soon as is practicable' after the end of the particular period to which the report relates. The committee draws attention to subsections 34C(2) and 34C(3) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which stipulate that, where no date for providing a report to a Minister is specified, the report should be presented no more than six months after the reporting period, and the report must be provided to the Parliament within 15 days after receipt by the Minister.
Timeliness of reports examined
The committee considers the timely presentation of annual reports to be an important element of accountability to the Parliament and continues to encourage departments and agencies to endeavour to meet the relevant reporting timeframes.
As outlined at paragraph 1.3 above, this report will be reporting on all reports of the Treasury Portfolio and Industry Portfolio, including those presented after 31 October 2020.
The committee notes that the majority of annual reports for 2019–20, were presented in a timely manner. In addition, 22 of the 24 annual reports in the Treasury portfolio and four of the seven in the Industry portfolio, were presented prior to the committee’s Budget estimates hearings on 26 to 29 October 2020. There was one exception, with the Department of the Treasury requesting an extension of time for presenting its annual report and then tabling its report on 30 November 2020, one month after the due date. Appendix 2 also notes the tabling dates for each annual report.
The committee is required to ‘take into account any relevant remarks about the report[s] made in debate in the Senate’. The committee notes that none of the annual reports examined in this report have been the subject of comment or debate in the Senate.
The committee is required to ‘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’.
The committee makes no recommendations for any bodies not presenting an annual report to do so.
Standing Order 25(20)(a) requires that the committee report to the Senate on whether the annual reports of departments and agencies in its portfolios are ‘apparently satisfactory’. In making this assessment, the committee considers such aspects as timeliness of presentation and compliance with relevant reporting requirements.
The committee has examined all annual reports referred during the reporting period and considers that overall they are ‘apparently satisfactory’.
This report is structured as follows:
Chapter 1—provides background to the committee’s examination of annual reports;
Chapter 2—reports topical requirements and compliance with reporting requirements;
Chapter 3—reports on a select few annual reports;
Appendix 1—Standing Order 25(20); and
Appendix 2—table of departments’ and agencies’ presentation dates for annual reports.