Auditor-General's response to Hon Trevor Mallard's request

25 June 2013

In response to a letter from Hon Trevor Mallard, the Controller and Auditor-General has confirmed that, for as long as the United Future party is recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes under Standing Orders, there is lawful authority for the party to receive party funding under the relevant legislation.

It follows that, if the Speaker ceases to recognise United Future as a party for parliamentary purposes, its funding entitlements will change accordingly.

Funding entitlements are administered by the Parliamentary Service under the Parliamentary Service Act 2000.

In considering Mr Mallard’s request, the Controller and Auditor-General took into account the relevant appropriation, the Parliamentary Service Act 2000, the ‘Directions by the Speaker of the House of Representatives 2011’, and Speaker’s ruling, on 6 June 2013, that the United Future party is for the time being recognised under the Standing Orders of the House.

A full copy of the Controller and Auditor-General’s letter to Mr Mallard has been published on our website.

Notes to editors: The Controller function

The Auditor-General considered this matter using her powers as Controller, which are set out in section 15(2) of the Public Audit Act 2001 and sections 65Y to 65ZA of the Public Finance Act 1989. The controller function is one of the constitutional checks and balances in our Parliamentary system.

The Controller provides independent assurance to Parliament that spending has been incurred for purposes that are both:

  • within the scope of the relevant appropriation (or other parliamentary authority); and
  • in accordance with the lawful authority provided by Parliament for the activity concerned.

Put plainly, before a public entity spends money it must have an appropriation (that is authority) from Parliament and the expenditure must be for a legal purpose. Both tests must be satisfied or the Controller can either require reporting to the House of Representatives or can stop funding. The controller function is a legal requirement and is not discretionary. Checks on the authority and purpose of government expenditure are carried out throughout the year but the sanctions are used rarely.