Regulators’ financial resources are usually allocated through the
national budget, whose preparation and execution provide another tool that parliaments have to hold regulators accountable. The ACCC, AER and the ORR report on appropriations and spending in the respective annual reports. In Australia, the Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) is the government public document which explains government’s decisions and provides the basis for the hearings where members of parliament can question expenditures according to the deliverables of the government departments and regulatory agencies, including the ACCC and the AER. The PBS links resources to the strategic direction of the relevant agency and to a set of key programme deliverables.5 This outcomes and outputs framework was introduced for all government departments and agencies with the 1999-2000 budget (Blondal et al., 2008). This approach developed further in 2014 with the introduction of the Commonwealth Performance Framework that puts strong emphasis on linking together resourcing, planning, results and reporting activities of all government departments and agencies, including regulators.6
Regulators also inform and brief oversight institutions on their activities and, beyond their statutory requirements, they can provide advice on issues related to their activities. Reporting on advice provided can be a useful way to enhance mutual accountability. For example, the ORR provides expertise and inputs to parliamentary committees and publishes on its website written statements provided to parliamentary committees.7 Information on inputs provided to parliamentary committees is also presented in the ORR annual report (Box 2.5). Similarly, ERSAR is periodically requested to participate in public hearings with members of parliament. The ACCC Chairman meets regularly with the ACCC’s responsible Minister and/or the Minister’s office to provide updates on ACCC activities and matters of significance to the government. In addition, the AER reports biannually to relevant ministers on work activities, key market outcomes and reform proposals. The AER Chair and CEO also attend the meetings of the COAG EC to discuss energy market and network regulation issues.8 ERSAR’s Board of Directors also meet with the Minister of Environment to assess topics of common interest and analyse sector-related policies.
Box 2.5. ORR advice and expertise to parliament
Over the period 2014-15, ORR contributions to the parliamentary process included senior ORR officials giving oral and written evidence to the Transport Select Committee inquiries, including, ‘Investing in the Railway’ and ‘Rail Network Disruption over Christmas 2014’ as well as to the Parliamentary
Advisory Council for Transport Safety on safety in the railways. The ORR also provided support to Parliament in reaching its decision to confer new duties on it through the Infrastructure Act 2015. This included submitting evidence to the “Better Road’ inquiries and providing various briefings to parliamentarians. ORR also contributed expertise to parliamentary debate through a programme of engagement to promote better understanding and greater transparency of the railways amongst members and Parliament and their staff. This included an open briefing session held jointly with the Royal Statistical Society and the House of Commons Library and participation in All Party Parliamentary Group discussions on occupational health and rail.
Source ORR (2015), “Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15”,
http://orr.gov.uk/ data/assets/pdf file/0019/18154/annual-report-2014-15-web.pdf (accessed 24 July 2015).