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Accountability and transparency

Accountability: penalty scheme – loadings for contraventions and repayments

Division 3 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) sets out loadings that apply to:

  • claims for public resources you make in contravention of your obligations
  • voluntary repayments you make in respect of claims for public resources where it has not been found that you contravened your obligations.

Public resources

‘Public resources’ is defined under the PBR Act as: any expenses or allowances paid under Part 3 of the Act; or any goods, services, premises, equipment or any other facility provided or paid under Part 3 (see s Sections 5 of the PBR Act).

‘Public resources’ does not include payments in the nature of remuneration, such as salary and electorate allowance, as remuneration is covered under Part 2 of the Act.

Public resources provided under Part 3 of the PBR Act include:

Penalty loading in respect of contraventions

Sections 38 of the PBR Act sets out the penalty loading that applies to claims for public resources that you make in contravention of your obligations. If you contravene any of the requirements of the:

  1. dominant purpose test
  2. value for money test or
  3. conditions for the provision of the public resource

your claim may be rejected in accordance with s 29 of the PBR Act or have to be repaid.

If the full amount of the claim is repaid within 28 calendar days of the claim, a loading will not be levied.

Any amount not repaid within 28 calendar days after the day of the claim attracts a 25% penalty loading and is a debt due to the Commonwealth (note that 'claim' has a defined meaning under s 5 of the PBR Act, see Claims). This debt may be recovered from you in the relevant court (s 57 PBR Act) or the Commonwealth may reduce the amount of public resources payable to you in the future to recover your debt relating to an incorrect claim (s 57 PBR Act). In this circumstance a determination is made by the Department of Finance (Finance) or the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) (whichever is the relevant administrator) following consultation with the member.

No loading is payable where there was an overpayment made due to an administrative error within the Commonwealth, as in this case there would be no contravention by the member of the relevant obligations.

In addition, no debt or loading applies where a member relies on incorrect personal travel advice given by IPEA that they would not contravene their obligations. No such safeharbour exists in respect of advice provided by any other administrator, including Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Division (MaPS) in Finance.

Loading in respect of voluntary repayments

Section 39 of the PBR Act sets out the loading that applies to voluntary repayments that you make in respect of claims for public resources where s 38 of the PBR Act does not apply – that is, where it has not been found that you contravened your obligations.

For example, a member may seek to voluntarily repay a claim in circumstances where, despite a claim being made for the dominant purpose of the member’s parliamentary business, representing value for money and complying with all conditions, the member subsequently considers the claim to be out of step with community expectations.

In such circumstances, subject to a determination by the Department of Finance or IPEA (whichever is the relevant administrator), a loading equivalent to up to 25% of the voluntary repayment is imposed if the repayment is made more than 28 calendar days after the day of the claim. A determination can only be made following consultation with the member.

The loading is offset against future claims for public resources you make – that is, future payments relating to public resources you claim will be reduced by the amount of the loading. Alternatively, you may choose to pay the amount of the loading voluntarily instead of the loading applying to future claims.

No loading is payable where there was an overpayment made due to an administrative error within the Commonwealth.

Where it has been found that the member contravened their obligations under sections 26, 27 or 28 of the PBR Act, the relevant claim is subject to the penalty loading under s 38 of the Act, regardless of whether the member has voluntarily repaid the claim. This is because s 39 of the PBR Act, in respect of voluntary repayments, only applies where s 38 of the PBR Act, in respect of contraventions, does not apply.

'Day of the claim' for repayment and loading

For the calculation of the 28 days, the ‘day of the claim’ is the day on which you make the claim. 'Claim' is defined in s 5 of the PBR Act, and means:

  • a claim or request for public resources made to the Commonwealth or
  • the incurring of expenses that are payable by the Commonwealth.

The day of claim will therefore depend on the type of public resource and arrangement under which the resource is provided. If you submit a claim to MaPS or IPEA either by the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS) or a claim form, the day of claim is the date you submit the claim. If the expense is incurred by the Commonwealth by virtue of its contractual arrangements with preferred providers (for example, via the Commonwealth’s contracted office stationery and supplies provider), the day of claim is the date you receive the goods or services. Broadly speaking, the date of claim is intended to connect to the point in time that the Commonwealth becomes liable to pay for, or provide, the particular resource.

Accountability: dealing with potentially incorrect claims or misuse of non-travel related work expenses

IPEA is responsible for the audit functions relating to your work expenses, and the travel expenditure of your staff. These functions include reviewing the use of work expenses and potential misuse by parliamentarians.

Concerns about potential misuse of non-travel related work expenses (which are administered by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (MaPS)) may arise in various ways. For example, queries or complaints may be directed to the Department of Finance (Finance), IPEA or the Minister; prompted by media coverage; or identified through the Finance’s or IPEA’s internal review procedures.

Where a concern arises in relation to non-travel related work expenses, the Protocol will be followed. Finance will initially review and deal with minor matters, but if misuse of a more serious matter is indicated the matter will be referred to IPEA.

Finance will not generally respond to the person/s who have raised concerns, nor provide information on the progress of a review or of any actions taken.

Threshold consideration

When an issue regarding the potential misuse of work expense is raised or identified, Finance will consider whether it relates to travel by a parliamentarian or travel by a Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 staff member.  Travel related matters will be transferred to IPEA.

If the issue does not relate to travel related expenses, it will be considered by Finance under the Protocol. The current version of the Protocol was tabled by the Special Minister of State on 24 October 2017.

Initial Assessment by Finance

Finance will conduct an initial assessment, which may include examining the relevant internal records, to determine if the matter is credible.

If the matter is found to be not credible, Finance will take no further action. If the matter is determined to be credible, Finance will take the further action outlined below.

Minor Matters

Where a matter is found to be credible but is considered minor, Finance may seek further information from the parliamentarian, within specified timeframes, or an explanation of the use of the expense.

What constitutes a minor matter is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Relevant factors may include the value of expenses involved; whether it appears that the misuse was unintentional or deliberate; and whether it appears that the misuse is an isolated incident or systematic.

Following consideration of any response by the relevant parliamentarian, Finance can:

  • determine that no further action is required
  • consider administrative action such as repayment
  • determine that further action is required as set out below.

Review Process

Finance may undertake a review of matters, including engaging a third party to assist with or to conduct the review.

  • Finance does not have statutory powers to obtain information and all information and documentation are provided on a voluntary basis.

Reviews will be conducted in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness. This will include providing the parliamentarian with an opportunity to comment on allegations which are the subject of the review or any adverse findings.

  • If a parliamentarian wishes to request a review of non-travel related work expenses matters within their office, it can be made to mpshelp@finance.gov.au.

Finance will decide whether it is appropriate to publish any outcomes in relation to any matter considered under the Protocol on a case-by-case basis having regard to public interest considerations and obligations under the Privacy Act 1988.

Referral to IPEA or the Australian Federal Police

Where a matter is of a more serious nature, Finance will refer the matter to IPEA for further consideration. Any further action would then be a matter for IPEA

Finance may also refer a potential criminal matter to the Australian Federal Police.

Reporting

Monthly management reports

IPEA is responsible for preparing and distributing monthly management reports (MMRs) to parliamentarians. Information relating to MMRs is available from IPEA.

Quarterly expenditure reports

IPEA is responsible for preparing and publicly reporting quarterly expenditure reports. Information relating to quarterly expenditure reports is available from IPEA.

Making a claim

Types of claim

Claims for payment of your non-travel related work expenses are administered by MaPS. Travel-related claims are administered by IPEA - see http://www.ipea.gov.au.

The information below relates to claims administered by MaPS.

Claims may be for:

  1. allowances, reimbursement of expenses already paid by you, or direct payment to a supplier for goods or services you have received; for example: payment of costs for printing or a privately leased satellite office
  2. expenses that have been incurred by you and paid directly under the Commonwealth’s contractual arrangements with the goods or services provider; for example: office stationery and supplies ordered from the preferred service provider.

Submitting claims

Claims must be submitted to MaPS:

See Forms for the types of claim form and supporting evidence required, and when and how these should be submitted.

Timing of claim

Claims should be made promptly.

It is essential that claims are submitted promptly to MaPS, to ensure:

  • the timely and accurate processing of payments and reporting
  • providers are paid promptly for their services
  • late fees and penalties are not incurred
  • your claim can be assessed as soon as possible for compliance with your obligations under the PBR Act
  • if any repayment is required, you provide yourself with the ability to repay the amount in full within 28 calendar days of the claim so you do not incur the 25% penalty loading
  • payments can be included in your Monthly Management Reports and allocated to the appropriate financial year and budget (if applicable).

Provision of further information

MaPS may require further information about your claim. In this case, you should provide the information to MaPS within a reasonable period. Claims will not be processed until MaPS has received all relevant information relating to a claim.

 

 

Last updated: 19 October 2020