The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee (the committee) is responsible for examining the annual reports of Commonwealth entities allocated to it by the Senate.
This report on annual reports (No. 1 of 2021) provides an overview of the committee's examination of annual reports presented to the Parliament between 1 May 2020 and 31 October 2020.
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 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.
The Senate allocated departments and agencies to committees on 12 February 2020. In accordance with that resolution, the committee has responsibility for the oversight of the parliamentary departments and the departments and agencies of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio and the Finance Portfolio.
Requirements for annual reports
The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) establishes 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.
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.
Annual reports are an essential part of the accountability system that provides the responsible minister, the Parliament and the public with detailed information about the financial and non-financial performance of entities through the cycle of reporting periods. They also facilitate the examination of how the use of public resources achieves the intended results for a Commonwealth entity.
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.
Under subsection 97(2) of the PGPA Act, Commonwealth companies are required to prepare an annual report and provide it to the responsible minister:
If the company is required by the Corporations Act 2001 to hold an annual general meeting—the earlier of the following:
21 days before the next annual general meeting after the end of the reporting period for the company;
4 months after the end of the reporting period for the company; and
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.
Section 39 of the PGPA Act requires all Commonwealth entities to prepare an annual performance statement to be included in their annual report. Annual performance statements compare an entity's non-financial performance results against the targets, goals and measures established by the relevant corporate plan and the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) at the beginning of the reporting period.
Different types of Commonwealth bodies have separate provisions for annual reporting which affect content and preparation requirements. Legislative provisions for Commonwealth bodies include:
non-corporate Commonwealth entities—section 46 of the PGPA Act and Subdivision A of Division 3A of Part 2-3 of the PGPA Rule;
corporate Commonwealth entities—section 46 of the PGPA Act and Subdivision B of Division 3A of Part 2-3 of the PGPA Rule;
Commonwealth companies—section 97 of the PGPA Act, which refers to additional requirements under the Corporations Act 2001 and Part 3-3 of the PGPA Rule;
statutory office holders and statutory bodies—statutory office holders are engaged or employed under an Act, which may prescribe annual reporting requirements pursuant to the office. It should be noted that there may be reporting requirements in the enabling legislation for statutory bodies (which may also be a Commonwealth entity); and
non-statutory bodies—non-statutory bodies are established by a minister and not pursuant to a statute. Guidelines for the preparation of annual reports for non-statutory bodies are contained in the government response to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations report on non-statutory bodies.
In addition to legislative requirements, the Department of Finance (Finance) provides guidance material for Commonwealth entities 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. The material available from the Finance website includes the following guides which apply to the reports being examined:
Annual performance statements for Commonwealth entities: Resource Management Guide No. 134;
Annual reports for non-corporate Commonwealth entities: Resource Management Guide No. 135;
Annual reports for corporate Commonwealth entities: Resource Management Guide No. 136;
Annual reports for Commonwealth companies: Resource Management Guide No. 137;
Commonwealth entities executive remuneration reporting guide for annual reports: Resource Management Guide 138; and
Commonwealth companies executive remuneration reporting guide for annual reports: Resource Management Guide 139.
Assessment of annual reports
Senate Standing Order 25(20)(a) requires that the committee report to the Senate on whether the annual reports referred to it during the relevant period were 'apparently satisfactory'.
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, guidance for best practice in the Finance Resource Management Guides and other relevant materials.
The committee considers all reports examined to be 'apparently satisfactory' and encourages Commonwealth entities to continue to aim for standards of best practice in preparing annual reports.
Consideration of annual reports
Senate Standing Order 25(20)(b) requires the committee to report to the Senate on annual reports which it selects for more detailed consideration.
Chapter 2 of this report on annual reports (No. 1 of 2021) considers the following annual reports of Commonwealth entities in detail:
Australian Electoral Commission––Report for 2019–20;
National Indigenous Australians Agency––Report for 2019–20; and
Northern Land Council––Report for 2018–19.
Senate Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to report to the Senate on the late presentation of annual reports.
According to the Finance Resource Management Guides, entities are expected to table their annual reports prior to Senate estimates hearings held in October. The committee encourages Commonwealth entities to table their annual reports prior to those hearings in order to assist the committee's scrutiny of estimates.
Appendix 1 includes information for the date each annual report was:
submitted to its responsible minister;
first sighted by the responsible minister; and
tabled (or presented) in both Houses of Parliament.
The committee thanks the Commonwealth entities whom submitted their annual reports to the responsible minister by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the reporting period or by the date set by the entity's enabling legislation.
The following annual reports for the 2019–20 period were presented to the Senate after 31 October 2020:
Aboriginal Hostels Limited;
Anindilyakwa Land Council;
Indigenous Business Australia;
Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC);
National Australia Day Council Limited (NADC);
Workplace Gender Equality Agency; and the
Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council (WBACC).
The committee notes that pursuant to subsection 34C(7) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, Aboriginal Hostels Limited, the ILSC and the NADC wrote to the relevant minister to request an extension to present their annual reports to the Parliament; and the Anindilyakwa Land Council, Tiwi Land Council and the WBACC wrote to the relevant minister to advise of the delay in the presentation of their annual reports.
These annual reports will be considered by the committee in its report on annual reports (No. 2 of 2021), which will examine annual reports tabled between 1 November 2020 and 30 April 2021.
Annual reports referred to in the Senate
Under Senate Standing Order 25(20)(d), the committee is required to take into account any relevant remarks about each annual report made during debate in the Senate.
The committee notes that there were no relevant remarks made in the Senate about the annual reports examined in this report.
In accordance with Senate Standing Order 25(20)(f), this report examines annual reports tabled in the period 1 May 2020 to 31 October 2020. In this period, 22 annual reports of Commonwealth entities, companies and statutory office holders were tabled in the Parliament and referred to the committee. The annual reports examined in this report are listed in Appendix 1.
The committee is not obliged to examine reports on the operation of Acts, policy papers, budget documents or corporate plans. Accordingly, two documents were also referred to the committee, but were not examined for the purposes of this report. These documents are also listed in Appendix 1.
Bodies which have not presented annual reports to the Parliament
Senate 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.
At the time of tabling this report on annual reports (No. 1 of 2021) the Northern Land Council (NLC) had not presented an annual report for 2019–20 to the Senate.
The committee notes that pursuant to subsection 34C(7) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, the NLC wrote to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to request an extension to present its annual report to the Parliament by 31 January 2021.