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Thursday, June 04, 2009

No names of recalcitrant parliamentarians with signature block

On another aspect of accountability, Finance officials told the Senate Finance and Public Administration Estimates hearing last Thursday (28/5/2009) that most senators and members of parliament have been certifying that Department of Finance expenditure for payments made on their behalf were properly incurred. The monthly figures for sign-off for the year to date were July 2008, 89 per cent; August 88 per cent; September 90 per cent; October 87 per cent; November 86 per cent; December 84 percent; January 2009 78 per cent; February 71 per cent; March 57 per cent and April, which only went out recently, 26 per cent.

Maybe recalcitrants will be named .....sometime
(Page 26):

Senator MOORE—There seems to be a recalcitrant group. Are they the same group that have not responded? Is it presumptuous to say that if you have 89 per cent and then down to about 70 per cent the same people are not returning? Ms Hughes—In general, that is correct, yes.

Senator MOORE—Minister, I have asked you before at these inquiries about what can be done in terms of the process. It seems to me that the return rate is higher than we have had in previous times, but there still seems to be a lump of senators and members who, for whatever reason, are not returning the management reports. Do you have a view about what can be done on the process?

Senator Faulkner—I accept the importance of it. This has been a longstanding concern of members of the committee. On the upside, obviously there have been improvements... On the downside, there clearly could be greater improvement. I think that is a fair way of summing it up. I am obviously keen to look at any further suggestions that the department or the committee might have about how things can be improved, but I think it is fair to say that the focus this has received has had a positive impact. As I said, the balancing factor, I suppose, is that it has not been as positive as we would have liked. I am open to any further suggestions on this. Otherwise, we will keep ploughing on and will keep encouraging and ensuring an improved response.

Senator MOORE—One of the things that we have talked about generally has been the idea of naming the senators and members who have not responded. We table documents annually regarding what senators and members are responsible for in terms of their travel. If it continues that members of parliament and senators do not respond to the request and the direction that is made to them, that could be an option. I know that is for other areas to talk about. Thank you, Ms Hughes. I am sure that Senator Murray will be pleased to hear the latest figures. They are significantly higher, which is very good.

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