External scrutiny

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The department’s operations are subject to scrutiny from a number of external bodies, including the Australian National Audit Office, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Information Commissioner, various parliamentary committees and the courts. This section reports on audits, reviews, inquiries and legal actions relevant to Finance in 2015–16.

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

In 2015–16, the Australian National Audit Office tabled four reports in parliament on audits involving the department:

  • Report No. 1, 2015–16: Procurement initiatives to support outcomes for Indigenous Australians, tabled 8 July 2015
  • Report No. 4, 2015–16: Confidentiality in government contracts: Senate order for departmental and entity contracts (calendar year 2014), tabled 30 September 2015
  • Report No. 14, 2015–16: Approval and administration of Commonwealth funding for the East West Link Project, tabled 14 December 2015
  • Report No. 15, 2015–16: Audits of the financial statements of Australian Government entities for the period ending 30 June 2015, tabled 17 December 2015

The following performance audit involving the department was also completed during 2015–16:

  • Report No. 6, 2016–17: Corporate planning in the Australian public sector: across entities.

However, due to the timing of the federal election, tabling of the report in parliament was delayed until 31 August 2016.
Details of the Auditor-General’s reports, including the department’s response to any audits it was directly involved in, can be found on the Australian National Audit Office website (www.anao.gov.au).

Reports by the Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman did not release any reports during 2015–16 that involved the department or that had, or may have, a significant impact on the department’s operations.

Decisions by the Australian Information Commissioner

There were no decisions by the Australian Information Commissioner during 2015–16 that involved the department or that had, or may have, a significant impact on the department’s operations.

Parliamentary committees

Senate Standing Committees on Finance and Public Administration

The Senate Standing Committees on Finance and Public Administration oversee the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Finance portfolios. Their work is divided between two committees—the Legislation Committee and the References Committee.
During 2015–16, Finance appeared before the Legislation Committee at its Senate Estimates hearings on 20 October 2015, 9 February 2016 and 5 May 2016.

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit holds Commonwealth entities to account for their lawfulness and efficiency and the effectiveness with which they use public resources. During 2015–16, Finance attended hearings and made submissions to the committee on the inquiry into the development of the Commonwealth performance framework (submissions were made in October, November and December 2015 and February 2016 and Finance attended hearings in September, November and December 2015 and February 2016).

Other committees

Finance attended or provided submissions to the following other committees during 2015–16.

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

  • Inquiry into the operation of Defence Housing Australia (attended March 2016).

Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Legislation Committee

  • Inquiry into the Medical Research Future Fund Bill 2015 and Medical Research Future Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2015 (Finance contributed to a joint submission with the Department of Health and the Department of the Treasury, July 2015).

Senate Standing Committee on Publications

  • Finance attended the 4 February 2016 meeting of the committee (at the request of the committee) to provide information about the status of the Style manual for authors, editors and printers.

Senate Select Committee on Health

  • Inquiry into health policy, administration and expenditure (attended July 2015).

Senate Select Committee on School Funding Investment

  • Inquiry into school funding investment (attended April 2015).

Finance’s submissions and the transcripts of committee hearings are available on the Parliament of Australia website (www.aph.gov.au).

Substantial legal actions

Commonwealth of Australia v Davis Samuel Pty Ltd & Ors

This matter was first reported in Finance’s 2001–02 annual report and has been reported in every annual report since then. The department continues to pursue the funds defrauded by Mr David Muir, which he distributed to a number of parties. All criminal proceedings were completed in 2006.

The civil proceedings, to recover the $8.725 million fraudulently transferred, were commenced in 1999 in the ACT Supreme Court and were heard over nine weeks in 2008. They were complex and involved multiple parties. Final written submissions were provided to the court in March 2009.

On 1 August 2013, Justice Refshauge delivered his decision on liability (Commonwealth of Australia v Davis Samuel Pty Ltd & Ors (No. 7) [2013] ACTSC 146).

The Commonwealth was successful in its claims against 13 defendants. The $4.3 billion counterclaim by certain of those defendants against the Commonwealth was dismissed.

On 21 November 2014, Justice Refshauge delivered his decision on final orders in the civil proceedings. Those orders included judgement against the 13 defendants for amounts between $121,087.92 and $18.63 million, the transfer of certain property to the Commonwealth, and costs orders against the 13 defendants.

Two appeals were made against the final orders. One appeal was settled in November 2015. The remaining appeal was struck out by the ACT Court of Appeal on 30 June 2016 for want of prosecution. That decision may be subject to a further appeal.

Karen Doane v Peter Slipper v Another

On 4 February 2014, Ms Karen Doane commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court, listing Peter Slipper, former Member and Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Commonwealth as respondents. Ms Doane is a former member of Mr Slipper’s staff, engaged by Mr Slipper on behalf of the Commonwealth under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984.

Ms Doane brought a human rights application alleging unlawful discrimination under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 following termination of her complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission in respect of the same allegations. Ms Doane alleged that Mr Slipper engaged in various conduct that amounted to unlawful discrimination contrary to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Ms Doane alleged that the Commonwealth was vicariously liable for Mr Slipper’s conduct.

This matter was finalised by consent on 15 February 2016.

Cunningham & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor

On 21 July 2015, four former parliamentarians filed a writ of summons in the High Court to test the constitutional validity of allowing the Remuneration Tribunal to determine the base salary and office allowances of parliamentarians for the purposes of superannuation. The writ also sought to test the validity of closing the Life Gold Pass Scheme to new members and reducing the number of flights for existing members.

The High Court heard the matter on 16 June 2016. The court reserved its decision and will deliver its judgement at a later date.

Information Publication Scheme

Entities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. This requirement is in Part II of the Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the scheme’s requirements. Finance’s plan is available at www.finance.gov.au/foi/information_publication_scheme.html.

Members of the public can provide comments on Finance’s information publication plan through the freedom of information coordinator.

 

Last updated: 24 October 2016