1.1Under Senate Standing Order 25(20), the annual reports of departments and agencies under the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee's (the committee) allocated portfolios are referred to the committee for examination and report. The committee is responsible for the following portfolios:
Prime Minister and Cabinet.
1.2Standing Order 25(20)(f) requires the committee to 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. This report (No. 2 of 2023) provides an overview of the committee's examination of annual reports tabled in the Senate between 1November 2022 and 30 June 2023.
Terms of reference
1.3Under Standing Order 25(20) the committee is required to:
(a)Examine each annual report referred to it and report to the Senate whether the report is apparently satisfactory.
(b)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.
(c)Investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation of annual reports.
(d)In considering an annual report, take into account any relevant remarks about the report made in debate in the Senate.
(e)If the committee so determines, consider annual reports of departments and budget-related agencies in conjunction with examination of estimates.
(f)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.
(g)Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant matters relating to the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the annual reports.
(h)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.
Role of annual reports
1.4The tabling and scrutiny of annual reports by Senate committees under Standing Order 25(20) is an important element in the process of government accountability to the Parliament. The information provided in annual reports is placed on the public record and assists the Parliament in its examination of the performance of departments and agencies and the administration of government programs.
Requirements for annual reports
1.5The 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.
1.6The 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.
1.7Section 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 outlined by the relevant corporate plan and the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) at the beginning of the reporting period.
1.8Annual reporting requirements differ between Commonwealth entities. Below is a summary of the legislative authority and requirements under which annual reports are prepared for different types of bodies:
Non-corporate Commonwealth entities: section 46 of the PGPA Act and Division 3A(A) of the PGPA Rule; and for parliamentary departments, the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, section 65.
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. There may be reporting requirements in the relevant enabling legislation for statutory bodies, which may also be Commonwealth entities.
Non-statutory bodies: annual reporting requirements are contained in the government response to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration Report on Non-Statutory bodies.
1.9In 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 several Resource Management Guides which may apply to the annual reports being examined.
1.10In accordance with Senate Standing Order 25(20)(f), this report examines annual reports submitted to the Minister in the period 1 November 2022 to 30April2023. As noted above, this report also includes reports that were tabled up to 30 June 2023. In this period, four reports of Commonwealth entities were tabled in the Parliament and referred to the committee. The presentation and tabling dates of the annual reports examined in this report are listed in Appendix 1. The agencies whose annual reports were examined in this report are:
Anindilyakwa Land Council—Corporate Commonwealth entity; and
Tiwi Land Council—Corporate Commonwealth entity; and
Workplace Gender Equality Agency—Non-corporate Commonwealth entity; and
Wreck Bay Community Council—Corporate Commonwealth entity.
1.11The committee is not obliged to examine reports on the operation of acts, policy papers, budget documents or corporate plans. Accordingly, one document was also referred to the committee but was not examined for the purposes of this report. This document is also listed in Appendix 1.
Assessment of annual reports
1.12Standing Order 25(20)(a) requires the committee to report to the Senate on whether the annual reports of departments and agencies in its portfolio presented to it during the relevant period are 'apparently satisfactory'.
1.13In 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.
1.14The committee notes amendments to the PGPA Rule which required non-corporate Commonwealth entities to disclose in annual reports the number of, and expenditure on, consultancy and non-consultancy contracts and additional information about those organisations receiving that expenditure. The amendments took effect on 4 June 2020 and applied to annual reports presented in the assessable reporting period.
Timeliness of annual reports
1.15Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation of annual reports.
1.16Section 46 of the PGPA Act requires both corporate and non-corporate Commonwealth entities 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. Subsection 34C(3) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 further specifies that the responsible minister is obliged to present it to Parliament within 15 sitting days of receiving the report.
1.17Some entities, however, may have a specific date for presentation stipulated by their enabling legislation. In the absence of specific provisions, subsection 34C(2) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 may apply, which requires bodies to present annual reports to ministers within six months after the end of the period reported upon.
1.18Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness in the presentation of annual reports. The committee considers the timely presentation of annual reports to be an important element of accountability. Appendix 1 includes information for the date each examined annual report was:
submitted to its responsible minister;
first sighted by the responsible minister; and
tabled (or presented) in the House of Representatives; and
tabled (or presented) in the Senate.
1.19The majority of annual reports for 2021–22 were presented in a timely manner. The following annual reports of 2021–22 were submitted to the relevant minister after 31 October 2022:
Anindilyakwa Land Council—Annual Report 2021–22
Tiwi Land Council—Annual Report 2021–22
Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council—Annual Report 2021–22
The above agencies did not provide a reason for the delay in presentation of their annual reports.
1.20The committee encourages Commonwealth entities and companies to prepare annual reports in accordance with the timeframe outlined by the relevant legislation.
1.21In addition, the Finance Resource Management Guides specify that both corporate Commonwealth entities and non-corporate Commonwealth 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.
1.22Standing Order 25(20)(d) requires the committee to take into account any relevant remarks about the reports made in debate in the Senate. The committee notes that none of the annual reports examined in this report have been the subject of comments or debate in the Senate at the time of preparing this report.
Bodies not presenting annual reports to the Senate
1.23According to Standing Order 25(20)(h) the committee is required to report to the Senate on whether there are any bodies which should have presented an annual report to the Senate but did not. The committee is satisfied that there are no such bodies at this time.
1.24The 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.