DANIEL WILLS | STATE POLITICAL EDITOR
FINANCIAL details of State Parliament’s in-house catering service have been withheld from SA’s budget watchdog, who says MPs fall short of the “accountability” standard they demand of the public sector.
The Joint Parliamentary Service Committee, which oversees exclusive operations including the members’ bar and dining rooms in addition to the library and Hansard, has refused Auditor-General Andrew Richardson access to minutes of meetings and other key documents.
In a report to Parliament, Mr Richardson says “certain income” from “dining and refreshment services” was omitted from financial reports, making it “impossible” to judge the accuracy of accounts.
“In my opinion, the financial accountability and auditability of the Joint Parliamentary Service falls short of that adopted and applied to the public accounts and to the financial operations
and accounts of public authorities,” Mr Richardson writes.
He notes that the secrecy has been a longstanding bugbear of past auditors and not changed since the election of a new government that promised greater transparency.
“The inability to perform a complete audit of the functions and financial activity of the Joint Parliamentary Service was again confirmed this year,” Mr Richardson writes.
“We were advised that there had been no change in the Joint Parliamentary Service Committee’s position of not providing audit access to its meeting minutes and to the records and accounts relating to the catering division trading account activities.”
The State Budget includes an allocation of $12.6 million for “joint parliamentary services” in the current financial year, plus another $2.8 million for “administered items”.
The JPSC is a bipartisan committee of Parliament’s upper and lower houses, and led by its presiding members.
Upper House President Andrew McLachlan said the JPSC catering accounts “do not concern public moneys and contain personal information”.
He said they were audited by an independent firm.
The JPSC’s annual report said the dining division reviewed many aspects of its operations last year, including trials of “numerous local food” options as well as “local wines, beers, spirits and soft drink”.