Approval, publication & presentation requirements

This page provides details of the requirements for the presentation of annual reports to the Parliament, including:

Overarching requirements; Approval requirements; Presentation timing and production standards; Plain English and clear design; Requirement to publish annual reports using the Digital Annual Reporting Tool (the Tool).

Overarching Requirements

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 acknowledges the reporting requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act). In particular, the need for companies to produce a financial report, directors’ report and auditor's report. Collectively, these reports constitute the annual report. A copy of these reports must be provided to the responsible Minister and be tabled in Parliament.

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) prescribes reporting requirements, in addition to those prescribed under the Corporations Act, for companies. It is expected that this additional information be integrated in the directors’ report.

Commonwealth company directors must give the annual report to the responsible Minister the earlier of the following:

21 days before the next annual general meeting after the end of the reporting period for the company; or, 4 months after the end of the reporting period for the company.

There is scope for a company to apply in writing to their responsible Minister for an extension where it is not reasonably possible to meet the above timeframes. The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 allows a Minister to grant an extension where he or she considers it reasonable in the circumstances.

Companies are required to provide a report by the Auditor-General on their financial statements. The report must be prepared in accordance with auditor’s report rules under the Corporations Act.

The company’s responsible Minister is required to table the annual report in each House of Parliament.

  • If the company is a wholly-owned Commonwealth company, or is not required to hold an annual general meeting, tabling must occur as soon as practicable after the Minister has received the documents.
  • In all other cases, the responsible Minister must table the documents as soon as practicable after the annual general meeting of the company.

Approval requirements

The annual report for a Commonwealth entity must: be approved by the directors of the company; be signed by a director of the company; include details of how and when approval of the annual report was given.

 

The annual report must be approved by the directors of the Commonwealth company. The annual report must also be signed by a director of the company and include details of how and when approval was given.

Presentation timing and production standards

The tabling of the annual report for a Commonwealth company must comply with guidelines for presenting documents to the Parliament which are published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and titled Tabling Guidelines

Towards the end of a reporting period, PM&C may issue a Tabling Circular containing the tabling timetable, which will reflect the Parliament’s expectations for the timing of the presentation of annual reports.

Normally annual reports are tabled on or before 31 October, however it is preferable that annual reports are tabled prior to the October Estimates Hearings. This ensures annual reports are available for scrutiny by the relevant Senate standing committee.

Where companies are unable to meet the timing set out in PM&C’s circular, they should contact tabling@pmc.gov.au for further advice.

The Tabling Circular may also provide delivery instructions, and key tasks for tabling annual reports when the Parliament is not sitting. 

Guidance on the production standards for annual reports tabled in the Parliament are set out in the Printing Standards on the Parliament of Australia website.

Plain English and clear design

Annual reports are key documents of accountability and transparency to the Parliament and the public. Annual reports should be prepared to best provide readers with a clear account of the operations and performance of the company for the reporting period.

The annual report must be relevant, reliable, concise, understandable and balanced, this can be achieved by:

Using clear design (e.g. headings and adequate spacing); defining acronyms and technical terms (e.g. in a glossary); Using tables, graphs, diagrams and charts; Including any additional matters as appropriate.

 

Tables, graphs, diagrams and charts should be used where appropriate to provide additional context to the information. Consistent with the Printing standards, companies must have regard to limiting the use of colour and illustrations to where it enhances the reader’s understanding of the material. Excessive use of colour, illustrations and photography is not required for the purposes of accountability and reporting to the Parliament. 

Requirement to publish annual reports using the Digital Annual Reporting Tool

The annual report must be published using the Tool as soon as practicable after the annual report for a Commonwealth company has been presented to the Parliament.

The Tool enables companies to draft content and publish annual reports to the Transparency Portal at transparency.gov.au in a fully accessible HTML format, and generate a printed report for Tabling. 

Once the annual report is tabled it is expected by Parliament that the annual report is also published on the Transparency Portal before the October Estimates Hearings. Publishing the annual report to Transparency Portal at the time the report is tabled will also meet the tabling guidelines requirement to publish an online version.

The Tool contains a collection of templates for standard data sets that must be completed for the company's annual report. These templates reflect mandatory data requirements as set out by the PGPA Rule and are designed to assist companies to meet the reporting requirements. To assist companies in the preparation of their annual report, a copy of the required data templates are provided in Appendix B under Tools and templates

The Tool is designed to assist companies to undertake a streamlined and more efficient annual reporting and publication process. Annual report coordinators should consider developing the annual report content directly in the Tool and using the mandatory reporting templates provided within the relevant section of the company's annual report itself.

This approach helps to focus the content of the report on the reporting requirements of the Parliament, rather than some of the broader publication elements that are not core to the accountability or reporting requirements. The digital content can be exported from the Tool, to be printed for tabling purposes. Adding further graphic design elements at this point in the publication process is possible but is not necessary to meet the tabling requirements. 

The Australian Government Digital Service Standard, provides information about the legal and policy obligations of companies in relation to online publishing, including a range of mandatory requirements, including compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which the Tool assists companies in meeting by producing the HTML format.


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