What the report is about
The Auditor-General's review analyses claims made by members of the NSW Parliament during the 2021–22 financial year by testing a sample of transactions. Our sample consisted of 63 claims submitted by 59 of the 142 members.
What we found
While we did not identify any instances of material non-compliance with the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal's Determination, we did identify 38 departures from the determination, which were of an administrative nature.
What we recommended
The Department of Parliamentary Services (the department) should continue to work with the presiding officers, members, the clerk of the Parliaments and the clerk of the Legislative Assembly to enhance reporting of members' expenditure.
1. Members' additional entitlements 2022
The Auditor-General has reviewed the compliance of the members of the NSW Parliament (members) with certain requirements outlined in the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal's Determination (the determination) for the year ended 30 June 2022.
The Auditor-General's review analyses claims made by members during the 2021–22 financial year. We use data analytics to select a sample of members' claims, and focus on claims that data analysis identifies as being at higher risk. We do not test every claim made by members. Our sample consisted of 63 claims submitted by 59 of the 142 members.
Although our review did not identify any instances of material non-compliance with the determination for the year ended 30 June 2022, we did identify 38 departures from the determination, which were of administrative nature. Such departures may help identify areas in the current processes where greater clarity is needed or where training or education for members is warranted. These departures were as follows:
- 12 claims were not submitted for payment within 60 days of receipt or occurrence of the expense
- 16 annual loyalty scheme declarations were submitted by members after the due date specified in the guidelines
- 6 reconciliations for the Sydney Allowance were submitted after the due date
- 4 publications claimed under the Communications Allowance had not made the required authorisations and attributions on the publication.
The Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal (the tribunal) determines the salary and additional entitlements of the members, details of which are set out in the tribunal's annual determination. The NSW Parliament, through the Department of Parliamentary Services (the department), administers payments of additional entitlements to members. An overview is presented below:
In 2021–22, members claimed additional entitlements of $22.5 million, which is consistent with 2020–21.
Although there was a 2.1% increase in the base and additional allocation component of the Electoral Allowance, Sydney Allowance, Communications Allowance, General Travel Allowance and Skills Development Allowance, this was offset by a decrease in the number of claims made by members for the Sydney Allowance, Electorate to Sydney Travel Allowance, General Travel Allowance and Skill Development Allowance. In 2020–21 there were 13,045 claims in these categories compared with 10,430 in 2021–22.
We did not test members' compliance with the determination for the following additional entitlements:
- Travelling Allowance for Recognised Office Holders. Members did not claim for reimbursement allowed under this allowance in 2021–22 or 2020–21.
- Equipment, Services and Facilities Fixed Allocation, Electoral Allowances and Committee Allowances. The determination excludes these allowances from the scope of this review.
The following table shows the amounts claimed by members for additional entitlements in the scope of our review.
|General Travel Allowance
|Electorate to Sydney Travel Allowance
|Skills Development Allowance
Under the determination, the Sydney Allowance is provided for the purpose of 'compensating members who reside in non-metropolitan electorates for the additional costs including commercial accommodation, meals and incidental costs associated with staying in Sydney to perform parliamentary duties'. Compensation is paid at a rate of $315 per night or actual costs incurred once the entitled number of overnight stays is exceeded.
2. Detailed findings
Twelve claims were not submitted for payment within 60 days of receipt or occurrence of the expense
The determination requires members' expense claims to be submitted to the department within 60 days of when the expense is incurred or receipted. Our audit procedures identified 12 instances where members submitted their claims between 15 and 280 days late.
Sixteen annual loyalty/incentive scheme declarations were submitted by members after the due date specified in the guidelines
At the end of each financial year, members must declare they have not used loyalty/incentive scheme benefits accrued from their parliamentary duties for private purposes. The determination requires current members to complete the declarations at the end of each year (by 31 July 2022 per the department's administrative process). Former members must complete the declarations within 30 days of leaving Parliament.
We found 16 current members submitted their declarations between one and nine days late. The declaration is important as it affirms that loyalty benefits accrued using the members' parliamentary allowances and entitlements were not used for private purposes. Additionally, we found two members who did not submit their declaration form.
Six reconciliations for the Sydney Allowance reconciliations were submitted after the due date
At the start of each financial year, a member can choose to receive the Sydney Allowance as either an annual fixed amount, or at a daily rate for each required overnight stay. Members who choose to receive an annual fixed amount must submit reconciliations twice a year to the department and return any excess of the allowance over actual expenses incurred by 30 September each year. Of the five members who submitted their Sydney Allowance reconciliations late, one member was late with their mid-year and year-end reconciliations.
Of the three members who submitted their year-end reconciliations late, all three needed to repay unspent allowances. One of these members repaid $6,099 one month after the required date of 30 September 2022.
Four publications claimed under the Communications Allowance had not made the required authorisations and attributions on a publication
The Parliament's Communications Allowance Guidelines require that claims for the Communications Allowance, such as for radio and television advertisements and electronic publications are eligible only where the communication includes an acknowledgement that the communication has been 'authorised by' (the member) and that it has been 'funded using parliamentary entitlements’. Four members claimed the Communications Allowance for a magazine advertisement, e-newsletter update, in-app advertisement and sending Christmas cards to constituents that did not make the required statements.
Members are responsible for ensuring that their final published communications remain compliant with Parliament's Communications Allowance guidelines.
Open prior period recommendations
Enhanced public reporting
In 2016, the Auditor-General's Report to Parliament recommended the tribunal consider requiring the department to regularly publish full details of members' expenditure claims on its website in an accessible and searchable format. The tribunal had developed a plan requiring greater public reporting of members' additional expenditure from 1 July 2019 but does not have the power to require the department to facilitate this. This matter has been raised every year since 2016 and it continues to remain an open recommendation in 2022.
The Annual Reports of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, published on the Parliament's website, currently list the total amount claimed during the year by each member for each allowance. However, transparency around members’ claims would be enhanced if information was more extensively and regularly published on the Parliament’s website. The department should continue to work with the presiding officers, members, the clerk of the Parliaments and the clerk of the Legislative Assembly to enhance reporting of members' expenditure.
Resolved prior period recommendations
Clarifying key parameters of the annual determination
In 2020, the Auditor-General's Report to Parliament recommended the department work with the tribunal to provide additional guidance to members to clarify the:
- definition of 'parliamentary duties'
- activities that meet the definition
- requirements for retaining documents.
To address this recommendation, the department performed a review of the definitions and activities used by other jurisdictions in their administration of members' entitlements. The department has clarified these items as part of their submission with respect to the 2022 determination. The department will continue to monitor for changes in the administration of members' entitlements occurring at the federal level.
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