Chapter 1


1.1        The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee (the committee) is responsible for examining the annual reports of the parliamentary departments,[1] and the departments and agencies of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio and the Finance Portfolio.

1.2        This report on annual reports (No. 1 of 2020) provides an overview of the committee's examination of annual reports presented to the Parliament between 1 May 2019 and 31 October 2019.[2] Copies of this and other committee reports can be obtained from the Senate Table Office, the committee secretariat, or online at the committee's web page.

Terms of reference

1.3        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:

  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 the 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; and
  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.[3]

Allocated portfolios

1.4        The Senate allocated departments and agencies to committees on 4 July 2019.[4] In accordance with that resolution, the committee has responsibility for the oversight of the following:

Performance Reporting Framework

1.5        The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) established a performance reporting framework for all Commonwealth entities and companies. Section 38 of the PGPA Act requires all Commonwealth entities to measure and assess their performance.

1.6        Section 39 of the PGPA Act requires all Commonwealth entities to prepare an annual performance statement and include those statements in their annual reports. Entities use annual performance statements to report on the results achieved against the targets, goals and measures established at the beginning of a reporting year in the relevant corporate plan and Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS).

1.7        These documents are an essential part of the accountability system that provides the Minister, the Parliament and the public with detailed information about the actual financial and non‑financial performance of entities through the cycle of reporting periods, and facilitate the examination of how the use of public resources achieve the intended results for a Commonwealth body.[5]

1.8        The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) supports the implementation of the PGPA Act and outlines the requirements of annual reports for Commonwealth entities.

Requirements for Annual Reports

1.9        Annual reports place a great deal of information about government departments and agencies on the public record. Accordingly, the tabling of annual reports is an important element of accountability to the Parliament, as the information provided in annual reports assists in the effective examination of the performance of departments and agencies, and the administration of government programs.

1.10      Different types of Commonwealth bodies have separate provisions for annual reporting which affect content and preparation requirements. Legislative provisions for Commonwealth bodies include:

1.11      In addition to legislative requirements, the Department of Finance (Finance) provides guidance material for Commonwealth entities and companies which sets out further detail on the content requirements for annual reports under the Commonwealth performance framework in accordance with the PGPA Act and PGPA Rule.[11] The material available from this website includes the following guides which apply to the reports being examined:

1.12      The committee notes that Finance published updated versions of these guidance documents in May 2019 intended for 2018–19 annual reports, which include implementation steps resulting from the Independent review into the PGPA Act
(the review).[12]

1.13      Following the review, two amendments to the PGPA Rule were registered on 4 April 2019. These amendments—the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Annual Reporting) Rules 2019 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Reporting Executive Remuneration) Rules 2019—affect reporting obligations for entities' and Commonwealth companies' annual reports from the 2018–19 period.

1.14      The amendments expand the Commonwealth entity and company annual reporting requirements in the following ways:

Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Annual Reporting) Rules 2019
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Amendment (Reporting Executive Remuneration) Rules 2019

1.15      The committee assessed Commonwealth entities' and companies' annual reports for compliance with these new requirements. The committee's assessment is set out in this report.

Reports examined

1.16      In accordance with Standing Order 25(20)(f), this report examines annual reports tabled in the periods 1 May 2019 to 31 October 2019. In these periods, 21 annual reports of Commonwealth entities, companies and statutory office holders were tabled in the Senate and referred to the committee. The annual reports examined in this report are categorised as follows:

Non-corporate Commonwealth entities

Parliamentary Departments
Departments of State
Commonwealth Agencies

Corporate Commonwealth Entities

Commonwealth Companies

Statutory Office Holders[15]

Reports not examined

1.17      The committee is not obliged to examine reports on the operation of Acts, policy papers, budget documents or corporate plans. Where a report is referred to two standing committees, the committee has deferred examination of those reports to the committee which has primary oversight of the portfolio where the agency sits. Accordingly, the following documents were also referred to the committee but not examined for the purposes of this report:

Reports referred in the period 1 May 2019 to 31 October 2019


1.18      Section 46 of the PGPA Act requires Commonwealth entities (corporate and non-corporate) to prepare annual reports and for such reports to be provided to the responsible Minister by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the reporting period for the entity. The PGPA Act does not provide a timeframe for presentation to the Parliament; however the Minister is obliged to present it within 15 sitting days upon receiving the report.[16]

1.19      Under section 97(2) of the PGPA Act, Commonwealth companies are required to prepare an annual report and provide it to the responsible Minister:

  1. if the company is required by the Corporations Act 2001 to hold an annual general meeting—the earlier of the following:
    1. 21 days before the next annual general meeting after the end of the reporting period for the company;
    2. 4 months after the end of the reporting period for the company; and
  2. in any other case—4 months after the end of the reporting period for the company; or the end of such further period granted under subsection 34C(5) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

1.20      In relation to the tabling of an annual report in the Parliament, subsection 97(5) of the PGPA Act states that:

(5) If the Commonwealth company is a wholly-owned Commonwealth company, or is not required to hold an annual general meeting, the responsible Minister must table the documents in each House of the Parliament as soon as practicable after receiving them. In all other cases, the responsible Minister must table the documents in each House of the Parliament as soon as practicable after the annual general meeting of the company.

1.21      The PGPA Rule states that annual reports for corporate Commonwealth entities, non-corporate Commonwealth entities and Commonwealth companies must comply with the guidelines for presenting documents to the Parliament.[17] The Guidelines for the Presentation of Documents to the Parliament (including Government Documents, Government Responses to Committee Reports and Other Instruments), prepared by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, were superseded by new Tabling Guidelines (Tabling Guidelines), which were published in June 2019.

1.22      The Tabling Guidelines direct Commonwealth entities and companies to consult the Finance Resource Management Guides (RMG) for information about the preparation, content and reporting timeframes for annual reports.[18]

Timeliness of reports examined

1.23      Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to report to the Senate on the late presentation of annual reports. The committee considers the timely presentation of annual reports to be an important element in accountability to the Parliament and reiterates its preference of having annual reports available to the Parliament before Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings.

1.24      Appendix 1 lists the reports referred to the committee over the reporting period (1 May 2019 to 31 October 2019). The table lists the date each report was:

1.25      The committee notes that all Commonwealth entities submitted their annual reports to the responsible Minister by the prescribed date of 15 October 2019 or by the date set by the entity's relevant enabling legislation. In addition, several of the reports examined did not adhere to best practice advice from the Tabling Guidelines by tabling before the commencement of the committee's Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings on 21 October 2019. These reports include:

1.26      The committee again encourages Commonwealth entities and companies to prepare annual reports in accordance with the timeframe outlined by the PGPA Rule, the PM&C guidelines and the RMG.

Bodies which have not presented annual reports to the Parliament

1.27      Standing order 25(20)(h) requires the committee to report to the Senate on whether there were any bodies that were required but failed to present an annual report to the Senate. The committee notes that all relevant bodies in the portfolios over which the committee has oversight presented annual reports to the Senate.

Annual reports referred to in the Senate

1.28      Under Standing Order 25(20)(d), the committee is required to take into consideration any remarks made in the Senate about each annual report. The committee notes that there were no relevant remarks about tabled annual reports in the Senate for the periods covered in this report.

Assessment of reports

1.29      Standing Order 25(20)(a) requires that the committee to report to the Senate on whether the annual reports referred to it in the relevant period were 'apparently satisfactory'.[19] In assessing these reports, the committee has taken into consideration the role and purpose of annual reports within the Commonwealth performance framework, the legislative requirements for the reports, and guidance for best practice in the Tabling Guidelines and the RMG. The committee considers all reports examined to be 'apparently satisfactory', however, as noted above, continues to encourage Commonwealth bodies to aim for standards of best practice in preparing annual reports.

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