A recent Public Accountability Committee inquiry has shone light on the funding of independent oversight bodies and departments of the Parliament of New South Wales
What was the inquiry about?
The Legislative Council’s Public Accountability Committee self-referred the inquiry in October 2019, to examine the budget process for a range of integrity institutions that support the functioning of democracy in New South Wales. These included:
- The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
- The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC)
- The NSW Electoral Commission
- The NSW Ombudsman
- The NSW Parliament (Departments of the Legislative Council and Parliamentary Services).
The inquiry also planned to look at the budget process for the Audit Office of New South Wales, though as things got underway the committee decided to defer this component, to avoid a potential conflict of interest with an inquiry by the Auditor-General, which was then underway.
What were the initial findings?
In March 2020, the committee released the first report from its inquiry. You can find this initial report here.
In this first phase of the inquiry, the committee received evidence from ICAC, LECC, the Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman, the Parliament and central government agencies. This evidence revealed concerns about historic and future underfunding, and a lack of transparency in the way funding amounts for independent bodies are determined.
To address these concerns, the committee made a series of recommendations in its report, including that:
- The parliamentary oversight committees for ICAC, LECC, the Ombudsman and the Electoral Commission should review the annual budget submissions of each agency and make recommendations as to the funding priorities. These bodies should also have access to contingency funding to address unforeseen financial demands.
- The Public Accountability Committee should review the annual budget submission of the Department of the Legislative Council and give directions as to the funding priorities of that Department, as well as any requests for supplementary funding.
- The Public Accountability Committee should also review the annual budget submission of the Department of Parliamentary Services, in collaboration with any committee appointed by the Legislative Assembly for the same purpose, and give directions as to the funding priorities of that Department, as well as any requests for supplementary funding.
What’s the latest news?
The inquiry’s second phase has just wrapped up, with the committee’s final report released on 4 February 2021. You can access the final report here.
In this most recent work, the committee revisited the budget process for the above-mentioned bodies, following a range of developments. These included the publication of the Auditor-General’s report concerning funding arrangements for ICAC, LECC, the Electoral Commission and the Ombudsman; the tabling of two special reports to Parliament by ICAC concerning ICAC’s funding; and receipt of a supplementary submission concerning the Parliament’s budget process from the Clerk.
The second phase of the inquiry also considered the budget process for the Audit Office.
In the final report, the committee:
- Reiterated the recommendations relating to the oversight bodies that were directed to the Government in the first report
- Called on the Government to implement the committee’s recommendations in relation to the Parliament from the first report
- Made separate recommendations to improve the budget process for the Audit Office.
Want to know more?
All information and documents relating to the budget process inquiry can be found on the inquiry page here. Use the tabs at the top to navigate through the information and resources.