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 accountable authority of a corporate Commonwealth entity must:

prepare and give the annual report to the entity's responsible Minister, for the presentation to the Parliament, on the entity's activities during the period. Include the entity's annual performance statements and annual financial statements.

The annual report must be given to the responsible Minister by:

the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the reporting period for the entity; or, the end of the further period granted.

The annual report must also comply with any requirements prescribed by the rules, which are detailed in this guidance. For entities that report on a financial year basis, annual reports must be prepared and provided to the responsible Minister by 15 October for each reporting period.

This provision is not meant to contravene any timing set out by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in relation to tabling of annual reports in the Parliament. Entities must ensure they provide their responsible Minister with sufficient time to consider the annual report prior to the report being presented to the Parliament, in accordance with PM&C’s guidelines (see the Parliamentary presentation timing and standards section below).

Where an accountable authority cannot meet the requirements for presenting the annual report to the Parliament an extension can be applied for. The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 allows for an application (this is found under subsections 34C(4) to (7) of that Act). An extension should only be sought if it would not be reasonably possible for the report to be prepared within the specified timeframes. 

Approval requirements

The annual report of a corporate Commonwealth entity must: be approved by accountable authority, be signed by the accountable authority, or a member of the accountable authority; include details of how and when approval of the annual report was given, and state that the accountable authority is responsible for preparing and giving the annual report to the responsible Minister.

Presentation timing and production standards

The tabling of the annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity must comply with guidelines for presenting documents to the Parliament which are published by 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 and it is expected 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 entities 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

The annual report for a corporate Commonwealth entity must be prepared having regard to the interests of the Parliament and any other persons who are interested in the annual report. 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 entity for the reporting period.

The annual report must, as required by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule), 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, limiting the use of colour and illustrations to where it enhances the reader's understanding of the material.

Tables, graphs, diagrams and charts should be used where appropriate to provide additional context to the information. Consistent with the Printing standards, entities 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 corporate Commonwealth entity has been presented to the Parliament.

The Tool enables entities 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 (using the Word export feature). 

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 entity’s annual report. These templates reflect mandatory data requirements as set out by the PGPA Rule and are designed to assist entities to meet the reporting requirements. A copy of the required data templates are provided in Appendix B under Tools and templates

The Tool is designed to assist entities 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 entity’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 entities in relation to online publishing. This includes a range of mandatory requirements, including compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which the Tool assists entities in meeting by producing the HTML format.


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