The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
1. Can the Treasurer provide all details of departments and programs where the practice of ‘administrative convenience’ has occurred in place of following the statutes enacted by this parliament as highlighted on page 8 of the overview section of the Auditor-General’s report, 2002-03?
2. What steps has the government taken to ensure compliance with legislative requirements?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: The Deputy Premier has provided the following information:
Administrative convenience” refers to the practice of accepting a small over or underpayment in relation to a prescribed fee, on the grounds that it is not economically viable to refund or pursue the over or under payment.
1. In March 2004 I wrote to all Ministers asking them to identify, for their departments, any instances of where this practice has occurred.
In addition to the cases identified in the Auditor-General’s report, I have been advised of the following cases:
Office of Liquor and Gambling—At the start of each financial year a new fee structure is introduced. There will often be some old application forms still in circulation. Applicants using these old forms frequently submit the fee by post based on the previous year’s fee structure. This could amount to a number of applications being underpaid by between $1 and $13 each. Past practice has been to accept the underpayment in the early stages of the financial year.
There have been isolated examples of the practice occurring in relation to poisons and pesticides licenses in the former Department of Human Services.
SA Metropolitan Fire Service and Country Fire Service—Some small underpayments have been written off in relation to fire alarm attendance and registration licensing.
Environment Protection Authority—amounts of less than $10 due under the Water Resources Act have not been pursued due to the relative cost of pursuing debts.
Transport and Urban Planning—instances of administrative convenience have been occurring in relation to fees paid under the Development Act 1993 and fees payable under the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (registration of motor vehicle, driver’s licence, learner’s permit, sundry registration and licensing transactions).
2. The Under Treasurer has written to all Chief Executives advising that the practice of ‘administrative convenience’, where this is not strictly permitted under legislation, should be addressed.
In his 2002-03 report, the Auditor-General noted that ‘Clearly, where the amount of money involved is "small" administrative convenience would suggest that where there was an overpayment that the cost of arranging a refund would outweigh the fact of a refund being made’.
Because the application of ‘administrative convenience’ is, in certain cases, a sensible arrangement, the Government is considering legislative amendments to allow it to occur where appropriate.