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New Zealand Parliament

Committee of the whole House.

Committee of the whole House. Source: Parliament TV.

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Date:
24 March 2011
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Financial review debate on Tuesday 22 March

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. The debate must be held no later than 31 March. This year’s financial review debate occurred on Tuesday 22 March, and it related to the financial year from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010.

Format of the financial review debate

At the start of the financial review debate, members are given the opportunity to speak about the overall annual financial statements of the Government. The debate then focuses on the performance in the previous financial year, and current operations, of government departments and Offices of Parliament [1]   . 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 debate lasts for up to 4 hours, and happens in the committee of the whole House. That means speaking times are shortened to 5 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 and Air New Zealand Limited. The financial reviews of these other public agencies are debated later in the year.

  1. Offices of Parliament are the offices of the Controller and Auditor-General, the Ombudsmen, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.   [back]