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Parliamentary Budget Officer's review

The year in review

This year has seen the Parliamentary Budget Office deliver a significant volume of work due to the 2019 general election – a peak period of demand for the PBO. We responded to a record number of requests from parliamentarians for policy costings and budget analysis, released a number of research publications and published our 2019 report on the fiscal impact of election commitments.

We continued to build our reputation as respected and trusted experts across a wide range of fiscal and budgetary issues. Our performance this year has been enabled by careful planning and capability building, and particularly the ability of our dedicated team to respond flexibly to changes in demand over the course of the year.

Very high demand for our services to estimate the fiscal impact of policy proposals was driven by parliamentary parties refining and announcing their election platforms in the lead-up to the 2019 general election. We worked closely with parliamentarians and parliamentary parties to ensure that our resources were focused on the policy proposals that were of the highest priority to them. We delivered accurate, high-quality and timely advice to parliamentarians, benefitting from strong engagement with, and responsiveness from, Commonwealth agencies.

Following the election, the PBO put significant resources into the preparation of the election commitment report that summarises the financial implications of the election commitments of all major parties. This year was the first time we published medium-term impacts for all significant costings and budget aggregates as part of this report. Costings were made more accessible by the inclusion of a search function for individual costings on our website. We also completed an after-action review of the production of the report which highlighted areas working well, including the effective use of resourcing to manage the surge in workload and high levels of stakeholder satisfaction. The review identified that further improvements to our workflow management system and ICT capability would improve our operational effectiveness.

We published our regular reports on the medium-term budget outlook, the national fiscal outlook, and the budget impact of unlegislated measures. These were supplemented with mid-year and budget snapshots, which provided a more accessible graphical summary
of budget developments.

We also published research on specific topics that are relevant for understanding fiscal developments, particularly over the medium term. Our research and reports have been widely cited in the media, in parliamentary debates, and in ongoing public policy discussions.

We continued to receive support from our panel of expert advisors to help shape our work program, review our publications and provide technical input into costings. To deliver the additional costing services and produce the election commitment report, we expanded our operations by temporarily seconding additional staff from other Commonwealth agencies and parliamentary departments.

Finally, in the 2019–20 Budget, the PBO received funding supplementation of $5.303 million over four years, providing an increase to the PBO’s ongoing base funding of around
$2 million per year. This additional funding is for staffing, consultancies and data purchases and will enable the PBO to continue to provide a similar level of services to parliamentarians as has been provided in the past several years.

The year ahead

Our plans for the coming year are available in our corporate plan that we published on 20 September 2019.

We anticipate costing demand being similar to other years that immediately follow
an election period, enabling a focus on model development and evaluations, reviews
of our costings frameworks and capability building. The year ahead also provides an opportunity to further advance our research program and continue to make it more relevant and accessible.
The high regard in which the PBO is held is due to the commitment and professionalism of my staff and senior leadership team. I wish to thank all PBO staff and those who worked with us for their skills, knowledge and dedication, and for the strong support given to me this year, particularly during the general election period.

Jenny Wilkinson
Parliamentary Budget Officer