The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (the PWC) was established in 1913 and is one of the oldest investigative committees of the Parliament. It is constituted by the Public Works Committee Act 1969. The Act empowers the Committee to enquire into and report to the Parliament on each public work referred to it.
Public works undertaken for the Commonwealth that are estimated to cost more than $15 million must be referred to the Committee by one of the two Houses of the Parliament or the Governor-General. There are some exceptions to this rule, but generally all public works sponsored by Commonwealth departments and major statutory authorities with large building programs fall within the scope of the PWC's investigatory powers.
The Committee is bipartisan and consists of six Members of the House of Representatives and three Senators.
The objectives of the Public Works Committee Act are:
- Better decisions on major projects;
- Objective external scrutiny of options;
- Examination of the entire project, irrespective of stages/phases; and
- Scrutiny by Parliament and thus the public before a proposal is commenced.
Essentially, the Committee is required to report as expeditiously as practicable on:
- The stated purpose of the proposed work and its suitability of the purpose;
- The need for the work;
- The cost effectiveness of the proposal;
- The amount of revenue it will produce if the work is revenue producing; and
- The current and prospective value of the work.