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House of Representatives in session. Source: Parliament TV.

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Date:
7 April 2009
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Financial review debate - Tuesday 7 April

Each year the financial review process in Parliament includes extensive review of public sector performance by select committees and a debate in the House.

The financial review debate is an opportunity to debate the Government’s performance in the previous financial year. This year’s financial review debate will occur on Tuesday 7, April, and it relates to the financial year from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.

Format of the financial review debate

The debate focuses on the performance for the previous financial year, and current operations, of government departments and Offices of Parliament*. This year, for the first time, the financial review debate may also cover non-departmental appropriations—that is, reports on publicly funded services provided by organisations that do not report directly to Parliament. (These include services provided by many community groups.)

Not all financial reviews and reports are mentioned during the debate—members select the ones that they would like to speak about. If the debate is to take place over more than one sitting day, the Government decides which financial reviews and reports can be debated on each of the days.

The financial review debate lasts for up to four hours, and happens in the committee of the whole House—which means speaking times are shortened to five minutes, but members can speak more than once. Technically, the debate is the committee stage of the Appropriation (Financial Review) Bill, which provides for the confirmation or validation of spending in the previous financial year that has not already been approved by Parliament. When the House completes the financial review debate, the Appropriation (Financial Review) Bill has its third reading immediately and without further debate.

Financial reviews by select committees

The financial review process follows from the presentation of annual reports of government departments and other public agencies. In its annual report, each department or agency sets out its financial statements and provides a summary of how it has performed against its targets for the year. These annual reports are scrutinised by select committees, with assistance from the Audit Office. Select committees often ask departments and agencies to answer questions in writing, and chief executives frequently attend to answer in person. Select committees then report to the House on each financial review, and may raise matters for the House’s attention.

The select committee reports on the financial reviews of departments and Offices of Parliament are then considered during the financial review debate. Select committees also report on the financial reviews of Crown entities, State enterprises and other organisations such as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Air New Zealand Limited and the Abortion Supervisory Committee. The financial reviews of these other public agencies are debated later in the year.

* Offices of Parliament are the offices of the Controller and Auditor-General, the Ombudsmen, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.