GBE Planning and Reporting
A GBE has specific Commonwealth reporting and disclosure requirements set out in legislation that go beyond those of a private company. These include annual, periodic and ad hoc reporting mechanisms, as well as disclosure of information through Parliamentary mechanisms.
Each GBE must prepare a corporate plan and it is the responsibility of the Board to ensure this occurs.
Corporate plans must be given to the responsible Minister and the Finance Minister, and must be published on the GBE’s website by the last day of the second month of the reporting period for which the plan is prepared (subject to non-disclosure of sensitive or commercially confidential information, or information prejudicial to national security). Published corporate plans that have been redacted can take the form of a Corporate Plan or a Statement of Corporate Intent (SCI).
The Board must ensure that a corporate plan is prepared at least once each reporting period, covering at least four reporting periods. The plan must cover the GBE’s purposes and activities. The plan must also set out how the activities will contribute to achieving any relevant Government priorities and objectives, subject to the GBE’s enabling legislation (if any).
Directors of Commonwealth Companies have the same obligations as set out above, except in respect of references to enabling legislation.
Directors should look at the policy intent and not just technical compliance in responding to the requirement for a corporate plan.
A GBE’s Corporate Plan should:
- provide an appropriate level of transparency e.g. expansion of services should clearly set out what the new services are; where they are to be provided and how they align with the ‘purpose’ of the GBE
- provide an appropriate level of quantification e.g. capital to be invested in acquisitions – how much and when; what are hurdle requirements and approval processes
- provide an appropriate consideration of risk and key mitigations
- clearly outline key assumptions, and new initiatives
- provide an appropriate outline of future reporting against key plan elements and
- highlight key sensitivities and considerations from a Government perspective.
Additional guidance in relation to the preparation of corporate plans is provided in:
- RMG-126 Commonwealth GBE Governance and Oversight Guidelines
- RMG-132 Corporate Plan for Commonwealth Entities and
- RMG-133 Corporate Plan for Commonwealth Companies
Other Reporting Requirements
The Board must ensure that budget estimates are prepared each reporting period and for any other periods as directed by the Finance Minister.
The estimates must cover the GBE’s activities and must fairly present the estimated financial impacts of the activities for the period.
A financial statement must be prepared as soon as practicable after the end of each reporting period and, generally, must be audited by the Auditor-General.
For GBEs that are Commonwealth Companies, if the auditor’s report is prepared by an auditor other than the Auditor-General, the GBE must also give a report by the Auditor-General on the financial statements of the GBE, in which case the Auditor-General will use the same Corporations Act rules as applied to the report by the other auditor.
Audited financial statements must also be prepared in respect of any subsidiaries.
Applicable Accounting Standards
For GBEs that are Corporate Commonwealth Entities, financial statements are required to be prepared in accordance with the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) standards as interpreted by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Financial Reporting) Rule 2015.
Corporate Commonwealth Entities must include an annual performance statement on the GBE’s performance for the relevant year, having regard to the planned performance measures set out in the GBE’s corporate plan. The performance statement must describe the significant factors that influence the achievement of the intended results. Performance statements will need to be audited by the Auditor-General if requested by the responsible Minister or the Finance Minister.
Progress reporting - The Chair of a GBE is obliged to provide a confidential report to the Shareholder Ministers as to the performance of the GBE against the requirements of the corporate plan.
Annual Strategic Meeting - A GBE is obliged to conduct an annual strategic meeting at which Shareholder Ministers, or their delegates, are invited to attend in order to review the performance of the GBE over the last year and to engage in discussion on future strategy.
Annual Report -The Board must prepare an annual report on its performance during the relevant period and issue it to the Shareholder Ministers for presentation to the Parliament.
The content of the annual report will vary depending upon whether the GBE is a Commonwealth Company or a Corporate Commonwealth Entity, however, in general terms it will include:
- performance statement which provides information regarding the Board’s assessment of GBE’s performance in achieving its purpose, including the objectives, functions or role of the GBE and
- financial statements that will be audited by the Australian National Audit Office.
Obligations to keep Shareholder Ministers informed - Directors have an over-arching obligation to keep the Shareholder Ministers informed of the operations of a GBE in order that Shareholder Ministers may comply with their own obligations. Quantitative and qualitative thresholds for significance are determined by the Board, or set out in a ministerial order or in the company constitution. The definition of ‘significant’ will vary between GBEs.
Questions Raised in Houses
GBEs have a role in supporting Shareholder Departments preparing Question Time Briefings for Shareholder Ministers during parliamentary question time.
Attendance at Parliamentary Committee Hearings
Where requested, attendance at Parliamentary Committees and Senate Estimates is compulsory. Typically, the Executive rather than Directors will represent the GBE at Senate Estimates hearings.
The Australian National Audit Office
The ANAO publishes best practice guides aimed to “improve public sector administration by assisting entities to perform at their most efficient level, through the adoption of better practice to transform and improve business processes”.
The ANAO has published guides in relation to public sector financial statements and public sector governance, which are available through the ANAO website.