Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dodgy costings. It'll be hunt and destroy

After the election, that is

Treasurer Wayne Swan will introduce tougher than expected legislation to crack down on dodgy costings by political parties, extending its reach to the accountants who work for them.

The draft bill to be unveiled Thursday will require the Parliamentary Budget Office to seek information from “third parties” employed by political parties in its examination of their costings and will force the parties to furnish the Office with clear lists of their election commitments.

The Office will not be given the power to subpoena documents.

Flagged by the Treasurer in February the legislation will compel the Office to publish a post-election report on the election commitments of all the political parties 30 days after the vote, including their full impact on the budget bottom line.

In cases where political parties contract private accountants to prepare their costings, as the Coalition did in 2010, the Office will be required to seek information from those accounts.

The two Perth accountants who signed off on the Coalition’s 2010 policies provided no information other than a one page note saying it was satisfied they were accurately prepared and could be funded.

They were later fined and found to have breached professional standards by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for allowing their work to be presented as an audit...

A subsequent examination by the Treasury found errors including double-counting, purporting to spend money from funds already allocated and counting as a benefit interest saved from a privatisation without counting as a cost the dividends that would be forgone.

“Currently the public relies on the goodwill and honesty of political parties to submit their policies for costing in good time,” said Mr Swan Wednesday. “Unfortunately history shows that cheap politics can often win out. This legislation means there will be nowhere to hide. Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.”

In today's Sydney Morning Herald 

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