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Monday, June 21, 2010

Some dark corners for Operation Sunlight.

Ross Gittins
Operation Sunlight-the Federal Government's "reform agenda to improve the openness and transparency of public sector budgetary and financial management" has been mentioned here a couple of times, including this good self report card from Minister Tanner and an earlier comment that there hasn't been much reporting on or analysis of the Government's claims. So interested in this in the column by Ross Gittins  in the Sydney Morning Herald today on the annual report on the  Defence budget by the acknowledged expert Dr Mark Thomson of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
When Lindsay Tanner was shadow finance minister before the 2007 election, he invited various worthies (including yours truly) to offer suggestions on ways the budget papers could be made more transparent and informative. These suggestions were developed into the Operation Sunlight policy Labor took to the election and has implemented now it is in government. But Thomson complains of newly darkened corners in the defence budget. He says the government ceased disclosing funding deferrals in its first budget. And this year, ''in a marked departure from previous years, the budget papers do not list the projects planned for approval in the coming 12 months''. I confess I had hoped for better from that nice Mr Rudd.
The paper version of the column has Thomson pointing to the only available list of projects that may be funded in the next two to three years, and  criticism by Gittins of selective and unexplained shifts by the Government from accrual ("French") to cash ("English") accounting in different areas when it suits, hardly designed to encourage full understanding of the figures, even by people like him.

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