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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Entitlements rebranded Work Expenses and more transparency, maybe

I haven't been through the report of the review An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System but these seem to be the recommendations relevant to transparency and accountability.

This is territory traversed in the past to some degree by the Auditor General and the Belcher committee. In those instances quite a few recommendations were ignored or conveniently disappeared through the cracks, but we live in hope.... 
(Update: From Minister Cormann's Media Release:
The Government supports all the recommendations in principle and will now commence work on implementation. Implementation of a number of recommendations will involve further work by the Remuneration Tribunal, which the Government will ask the Tribunal to commence forthwith.
Recommendation 24
 Improving transparency – publish all key documents online
The Government should ensure that all rules and practices relating to interpretation and operation of the work expenses framework are published together online, along with
guidance material.

Recommendation 25
Improving transparency – more frequent reporting
The Government should publish:
a.details of work expenses of parliamentarians and their staff ; and
b.a parliamentary expenses dataset on
The Government should do so quarterly, pending implementation by the Department of Finance of an integrated digital system proposed in recommendation 30, and from then on monthly.

Recommendation 26
Improving transparency – more detailed travel reporting

The Government should:
a.require parliamentarians to identify in their claims for flights (including air charter) and travelling allowance that the purpose of travel falls within at least one of the work streams covered by the inclusive definition of ‘parliamentary business’ recommended in chapter 4; and
b.ensure this identification is included in published expenditure reports

Recommendation 28
Improving transparency – office costs

The Government should:
a.amend the reporting regime so that required expenditure on the establishment, relocation and refurbishment of off ices appears as Commonwealth expenditure administered by the Department of Finance, not in the expenditure reports of individual parliamentarians; and

b.initiate a motion to refer the issue of the high cost of outfitting electorate off ices under existing arrangements to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit for examination and possible inclusion in the Parliament’s audit priorities advised to the Auditor-General.

Recommendation 30
Information technology – integrated digital system

The Department of Finance should urgently develop for Government consideration a business case for a fit-for-purpose, integrated online work expenses system.

Recommendation 32
Oversight and accountability – certification

The Government and the Department of Finance should undertake the following improvements to certification arrangements:
a. the Government should introduce legislation creating a requirement that parliamentarians certify that their o icial expenditure accords with the eligibility
b. the Government should introduce legislation creating a requirement that parliamentarians certify the purpose of travel provided pursuant to recommendation 26;
c. the Department of Finance should publish certification reports quarterly pending implementation of the integrated digital information technology system proposed in recommendation 30, and then monthly;
d. the Department of Finance should include in its certification reports any reasons provided by parliamentarians for not complying with certification requests, instances of failure to provide reasons, and details of any qualified certifications;
e. the Department of Finance should apply the improved information technology arrangements in recommendations 30 and 31 to its administration and reporting of certifications.

Recommendation 33
Oversight and accountability – assurance and audi
The Department of Finance should ensure that appropriate resources are allocated to
conducting contemporary assurance and audit activities related to parliamentary work
expenses claims, and taking action on the findings of these activities.

Recommendation 34
Oversight and accountability – the Protocol

The Government should:
a. amend the Protocol followed when an Allegation is Received of Alleged Misuse of Entitlement by a Member or Senator (the Protocol) to:
i. reflect current practices in relation to allegations of misuse;
ii. incorporate the arrangements announced on 9 November 2013 for the Special Minister of State to table in Parliament the names of parliamentarians who do not comply with requests to provide information;
iii. replace the term ‘entitlement’ consistent with recommendation 2; and
iv. expand the membership of the high-level committee responsible for considering ‘more serious’ matters to include two independent members, one of whom should be a retired judicial o ff icer of an Australian Court (Federal, State or Territory); and
b. table the amended Protocol in Parliament.

Recommendation 35
Oversight and accountability – penalty loadings

The Government should move amendments to the Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 to apply a penalty loading of 25 per cent to adjustment of parliamentarians’ claims for all work expenses (other than those made following Department of Finance error), not just those relating to travel.

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