All Commonwealth entities are required to provide and present an annual report to the responsible Minister in accordance with the PGPA Act and associated rules, and any other applicable legislative requirements. Annual reports must include the entity’s audited financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report. Commonwealth entities’ and Commonwealth companies’ annual reports are to be published on and accessible from transparency.gov.au as soon as practicable after the presentation of these reports to the Parliament. The Digital Annual Reporting Tool enables companies to draft content and publish annual reports to the Transparency Portal at transparency.gov.au in a fully accessible web format, and generate a printed report for Tabling (using the export feature).
The integrity of the audited financial statements and the auditor’s report must be preserved at all times by protecting them from unauthorised access or accidental amendment.
11.1 Timely presentation of the entity’s annual reports
Section 46 of the PGPA Act requires that accountable authorities prepare and present annual reports for their entity to the responsible Minister by 15 October each year, for entities that report on a financial year basis.
It has been the practice for the responsible Minister to present the annual report to each house of the Parliament on or before 31 October. If Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings are scheduled to occur before 31 October, Ministers have sought to table annual reports prior to those hearings.
For Commonwealth companies, subsection 97(5) of the PGPA Act requires the responsible Minister to table a Commonwealth company’s annual report in the Parliament as soon as practicable after receiving it (wholly-owned companies) or after the annual general meeting.
The annual report is to be made available online as soon as practicable after the report has been tabled in Parliament. Entities are required to comply with web accessibility requirements as determined by Government from time to time.
11.1.1 Format for including the statements in the annual report
Using an unamended electronic copy of the financial statements and auditor’s report reduces the risk of errors occurring in the printed version of the annual report and ensure that the relevant signatures and dates of signing are preserved. The relevant electronic files should be provided to the entity’s annual report coordinator in accordance with the annual report timetable.
It is wise to check with the annual report coordinator on any specific requirements for the format required for print production processes, for example whether the financial statements and/or signature pages need to be provided in specific formats to meet accessibility requirements.
11.2 Ensuring the integrity of published financial statements
The signed copies of the financial statements and auditor’s report should be filed either electronically or in hard copy, in accordance with the entity’s records management policy. This should help to ensure that when the financial statements and auditor’s report are replicated, they are exactly the same as the originals.
Steps should be taken to prevent public disclosure prior to the tabling of the entity’s annual report in the Parliament.
11.2.1 Amending the audited financial statements
As a general principle, the financial statements must not be amended once they have been signed and the auditor’s report has been issued. However, where errors or omissions are detected in the audited financial statements, entities should consider, in consultation with the auditor, whether it would be appropriate to prepare amended statements.
Amended financial statements, and an updated auditor’s report must be prepared where an error or omission could potentially mislead or misinform users of the statements.
11.2.2 Chief Financial Officer responsibilities
Although the CFO may not be responsible for producing the annual report, he or she and the financial statements team have an important role to play in checking each version that includes the financial statements, auditor’s report, and related financial commentary.
In particular, they must ensure that the information to be published exactly replicates the audited financial statements and auditor’s report, and in the case of any financial commentary, the information is consistent with the financial statements.
Practices that will help in this process include the following:
- Prior to financial statements signing:
- financial statements being reviewed for style and format before being provided for audit
- financial statements being prepared for audit in the same format as they are to be published, both the hard copy and the electronic copy to meet web accessibility requirements.
- After certification:
- the accountable authority certification and auditor’s report being scanned from original documents
- printer’s proofs of hard copy reports being reviewed by an independent party or by more than one person
- responsible officers certifying that required checks of the published information have been conducted
- the auditors being provided with the opportunity to check the printer’s proofs
- regular communication with the annual report coordinator.
11.2.3 When and how to correct financial errors in annual reports
While the procedures outlined above should prevent errors, there is still a risk of error occurring in the printed and/or online annual report. As a result, copies of the financial statements and auditor’s report (and other contributions by the CFO or the financial statements team) should be checked as soon as practicable after the annual report is made publicly available online.
In rare circumstances, errors may remain undetected in the tabled, and publicly available, annual report.
In these situations, the entity should correct the errors as appropriate. Where an error results in a material misstatement, omission or non-disclosure of information or is considered by the entity to require correction for other reasons, the entity should discuss the issue with the auditor and arrange for a corrigendum to be tabled in the Parliament, if necessary.
The entity should also advise, to the extent practicable, any other persons or entities known to have been provided with a copy of the report.
11.2.4 Additional resources
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Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s guidelines which set out the procedures to follow when presenting documents to Parliament, including tabling of corrections/corrigenda.