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Friday, March 25, 2011

Belcher report makes it onto the table

The Belcher Report on Parliamentarians entitlements was tabled in Parliament yesterday, close to a year after it was completed, when Special Minister of State introduced legislation to address some recommendations, with a fair bit of flourish about the importance of greater transparency. I haven't had a chance to look at the detail but this is what the report says under this heading. More in due course.

"The committee’s terms of reference require it to address issues such as “improving transparency in the use of taxpayer-funded entitlements”. The committee noted the announcement by the Special Minister of State (the minister) at his press conference of 8 September 2009 that as soon as practical, a complete reporting regime for all Finance expenditure on entitlements for or connected with senators and members or former parliamentarians would be developed. The committee considered that there should be a legislative basis for the reporting regime.
The committee considered that broadening the range of information disclosed on entitlements and expenditure and improving public access were significant steps towards making the parliamentary entitlements framework more transparent.  The committee recommends an additional measure requiring all senators and members to provide a link on their official parliamentary websites to their own expenditure reports on the Finance website.  This measure would give constituents easy access to information about a particular parliamentarian’s expenditure.
The committee also considered that the Remuneration Tribunal should publish reasons for its decisions when publishing determinations of parliamentary remuneration.
The committee noted the financial information provided by the chamber departments in their annual reports about the services provided to senators and members.  The reports offer high level information that does not attribute expenditure to individual senators and members.  In the interests of greater transparency, the committee recommends that the presiding officers be encouraged to provide regular public reporting of expenditure on services provided to individual senators and members wherever possible.

Recommendation 11

  1. That the government’s decision to publish details of all expenditure on parliamentary entitlements administered by the Department of Finance and Deregulation be underpinned with a legislative basis.
  2. That all senators and members be required to provide a link on their official parliamentary websites (at www.aph.gov.au) to their individual expenditure reports on the Finance website.
  3. That the presiding officers be encouraged to publish on a regular basis details of expenditure on services and facilities provided to individual senators and members by the chamber departments.

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