9 August 2012

 Accountability has many forms.  A current focus at Westminster is to establish a process by which civil servants fulfil their accountability obligations not only to Ministers but through Select Committees to Parliament. In Wellington accountability is to be measured by delivery on 10 results for Better Public Services. In Canberra the focus of a Commonwealth Accountability Review is to make financial information more available and useful to the public.

Open and Shut blog yesterday highlighted a submission to the review by the Australian Information Commissioner.  His proposal is to ensure greater openness through the disclosure on websites of spending by agencies on:

  • Educational expenses and study leave paid to staff
  • Expenditure on executive coaching, leadership training and media training
  • Paid parental leave
  • Employee expenses as a proportion of the agency budget
  • Expenditure on hospitality and entertainment
  • The value of consultancies awarded by the agency
  • Discretionary grants made by the agency
  • Expenditure on legal services
  • Expenditure on corporate cars
  • Expenditure on taxis
  • Expenditure on advertising
  • Expenditure on media monitoring
  • Expenditure on media subscriptions
  • Expenditure on staff travel
  • Measures taken to absorb the efficiency dividend
  • Staff numbers employed in ongoing, non-ongoing and contract positions, and at SES level
  • Expenditure on entitlements of current and former parliamentarians.

Where there is a commitment to open government, there can be little justification for keeping such spending beyond the knowledge of the public and the scrutiny of Parliament. It will be interesting not only to see what political willingness there is to give effect to the recommendation, but whether there is any urge in other jurisdictions for the provisions to be replicated.