Accountability arrangements in grants administration relate to:
- grants allocation processes
- ongoing grants management and
- the achievement of Government policy outcomes.
Ministers, accountable authorities, officials and grantees all have their respective roles to play in achieving specific government policy outcomes and should be held accountable for the manner in which they fulfil these roles.
My Minister approved a grant in their own electorate last year, which was not reported to the Finance Minister. Do they still need to write to the Finance Minister?
Yes. Ministers who are members of the House of Representatives are required to report all grants they have awarded in their own electorate to the Finance Minister as soon as practicable.
My Minister approved a grant without a specific recommendation from officials. Do they need to report this to the Finance Minister?
No. Your Minister may approve a grant without a specific recommendation by officials. However, they must not approve a grant without first receiving written advice from officials on the merits of the proposed grant or group of grants (CGRGs paragraphs 4.4(d) and 4.6).
However, if officials recommended that a grant be rejected, then your Minister is required to report the instance to the Finance Minister in their annual report to the Finance Minister (CGRGs paragraph 4.12).
My Minister approved a grant that a relevant official recommended be rejected. However, the grant did not proceed. Do they still need to report this to the Finance Minister?
Yes. The requirement to report a decision to approve a grant against officials’ advice applies to the decision, and is not dependent on whether the grant ultimately proceeds, or whether a grant agreement is entered into.
Similarly, if your Minister approves a grant within their own electorate, but the grant did not proceed, your Minister must still report their decision to approve the grant to the Finance Minister.
My Minister approved a grant that will benefit their electorate, and also the neighbouring electorate. Do they need to report the whole grant to the Finance Minister?
Yes. Your Minister should report to the Finance Minister the whole grant, noting the amount of the grant that will benefit their electorate. If it is difficult to determine the exact amount that will benefit their electorate, then your Minister should note that the exact amount benefiting their electorate cannot be quantified.
Ministers’ grants reporting obligations
When briefing Ministers in their role as an approver, officials must provide information on the applicable requirements of the PGPA Act and Rule and the CGRGs, including the legal authority for the grant (see paragraph 4.6.b, of the CGRGs).
Officials must advise their Minister on whether a grant will provide for activities in the Minister’s own electorate. This must be identified in the brief to the Minister when advising on grants approval options, in line with the minimum briefing requirements.
Paragraphs 4.11 and 4.12 of the CGRGs contain specific requirements for Ministers where they approve grants in their own electorate and where they approve grants that are not recommended by the relevant officials.
Paragraph 4.11(a) provides that where a Minister (including an Assistant Minister) approves a proposed grant in his/her own electorate, the Minister must write to the Finance Minister advising of the details. To assist with this requirement, a letter template is available.
Paragraph 4.12(a) provides that Ministers (including Senators) must report annually to the Finance Minister on all instances where they have decided to approve a particular grant which the relevant official has recommended be rejected. The report must include a brief statement of reasons (i.e. the basis of the approval for each grant). The report must be provided to the Finance Minister by 31 March each year for the preceding calendar year.
The information that should be included in the annual report in the Annual Ministerial Reporting template on the Ministerial Reporting template page.
‘Report once, use often’
Officials should apply the ‘report once, use often’ and proportionality principles when designing grants application and reporting requirements. Officials should not seek information from grant applicants and grantees that has already been provided to an Australian Government entity and is available to officials. Officials should only seek information where it is necessary to assist them to properly administer or evaluate the grant.
If an organisation is registered with an Australian Government regulator, then a financial acquittal should not be required, unless the activity is high risk. Box 1 provides an example of an Australian Government regulator. Officials can still seek a declaration or certification from the grantee that the grant was spent for the purposes specified in the grant agreement, as well as requiring them to identify any underspends. This does not affect the need for grantees to maintain financial and other records that would enable a review of financial information if required.
Box 1: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is the independent national regulator of charities. The ACNC is working with state and territory governments (as well as individual federal, state and territory government agencies) to develop a ‘report once, use often’ reporting framework for charities.
The ACNC Charity Passport enables authorised government agencies to access ACNC charity data via a file transfer protocol (FTP) process for the purpose of reducing red tape for charities. By allowing agencies to access charity data directly from the ACNC, the Charity Passport reduces the amount of information that charities have to provide to different government agencies, in line with a ‘report once, use often’ reporting framework.
Charities registered with the ACNC have an ongoing obligation to report each reporting period. Charities report by submitting an Annual Information Statement and an Annual Financial Report (if medium or large in size).
Ministerial reporting templates are available from the tools and templates page.