I am pleased to introduce the 2019–20 annual report for the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA). This was a challenging year for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic which required all of us to learn new and varied ways to work. My role, along with the other Members is to support and provide guidance and oversight to the IPEA CEO and Executive.
Based on IPEA’s legislative framework, our key outcomes remain providing advice to parliamentarians and their staff on the expenses framework; and administration and reporting on claims for travel resources.
The high volume of work for the organisation continued until the fourth quarter of the year when the pandemic led to lower volumes and different types of travel by parliamentarians and their staff. The change in travel resulted in a change in the nature of enquiries and requests for specific advice to individuals. Despite the fact most staff were working remotely, IPEA continued to deliver all functions within IPEA’s published service level standards. This is a most commendable achievement and I would like to thank the staff who adjusted to the new reality so quickly and successfully to enable this to happen.
The performance data in this report demonstrates the level of output, not only in providing advice and the administration of travel expenses but in collating and publishing reports. All of this work continued during the period of the pandemic shutdown.
We are continuing to work with Department of Finance to develop the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS). When completed this will streamline processes for claiming and administering travel expenses, enable timely reporting of expenditure and improved audit and assurance capability based on purpose built technology. PEMS will provide the foundation platform for improving service to parliamentarians and their staff as we move away from manual processes.
I would like to congratulate IPEA on winning the IPAA 2019 Public Sector Innovation Award, for IPEA-ED; the mobile platform providing easy-access education for parliamentarians and their staff on their obligations when spending public funds. This education initiative is another building block for IPEA to achieve our outcomes and reflects our developing culture of innovation and service.
In 2019–20 IPEA undertook a range of important audit related activities including publishing two audits on the IPEA website as approved by the Members. As the function matures, IPEA’s other and less visible assurance work has grown and spread into non-travel related work expenses. The formal audits and range of assurance work are tools to help provide assurance to the broader Australian community that travel and work resources are actively monitored by IPEA and are accessed in accordance with the legislation.
The IPEA Members met regularly again in 2019–20 and I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Members of the Authority for their time and efforts and their willingness to share their diverse range of skills and experience.
I anticipate there will be challenges for IPEA in the year ahead as we reflect and adjust to the post-pandemic working environment. The coming year will also involve a review of the IPEA legislative framework (the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority Act 2017 and the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017). This will be another important milestone.
IPEA’s establishment was rapid and after three years of operation, it is appropriate and timely for the intended outcomes and legislative base to be reviewed. Out of necessity, the legislation concentrated on the high-level issues that had led to the establishment of IPEA. The legislative review provides the opportunity to consider some practical and consequential complexities raised by the legislation and identify the tools and frameworks IPEA requires to fulfil our mandate.
I would like to acknowledge the ongoing support provided to IPEA by the Department of Finance. As always, I express my thanks to our CEO, Ms Annwyn Godwin, and the executive team and staff of IPEA for their dedication and hard work and for IPEA’s results in what has been a difficult period.