Opinion Number. 178

Subject

APPROPRIATION WHETHER MONEY VOTED FOR SERVICE OF YEAR MAY BE APPLIED TO SATISFY OUTSTANDING LIABILITIES

Key Legislation

AUDIT ACT 1901, s. 36 : APPROPRIATION ACT 1903-4 : APPROPRIATION (WORKS AND BUILDINGS) ACT 1903-4 : APPROPRIATION ACT 1901 (IMP.)

Date
Client
The Auditor-General

The Auditor-General:

The Auditor-General asks to be advised on the following questions:

  1. Is the provision for ordinary votes under section 2 of Act No. 14 of 1903(1), and also that under section 2 of Act No. 16 of 1903(2) 'for the service of the year' 1903-4 available for the payment of accounts for services rendered prior to the year 1903-4?
  2. If not chargeable to ordinary votes should not such outstanding accounts be debited to the vote under Division 30-'Advance to the Treasurer'-under Act No. 14 of 1903?
  3. Do the words 'for the service of any financial year' used in section 36 of the Audit Act 1901 restrict the appropriations to the services rendered during a financial year, or may outstanding accounts of a previous year be charged to such appropriations?

Mr Israel points out that in the Appropriation Act 1902-3 (No. 17 of 1902) a section was inserted (section 4) providing that the appropriation thereby made should be available for payment of services rendered during the preceding year; and that in the Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act 1901-2 and 1902-3 (No. 17 of 1903) a section was inserted (section 6) providing that appropriations under the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act 1902-3 (No. 18 of 1902) should be considered to have been granted and appropriated for the service of the financial year 1901 -2 as well as for the service of the financial year 1902-3.

The Secretary to the Treasury explains that in Act No. 17 of 1902 the special provision was made with respect to Part I of the Schedule because the special provision for arrears in Part II might have been held to negative the application towards arrears of moneys included in Part I.

He also points out that the special provision in Act No. 17 of 1903 was inserted for quite a different purpose-namely to legalise expenditure actually made in 1901-2-not to authorize payments in 1902-3 for services rendered in 1901-2.

He contends that the words 'the service of the year' refer to the year in which the moneys are issued, irrespective of the date on which the services for which the payment is made were rendered; and cites section 36 of the Audit Act 1901, and section 1 of the Act No. 15 of 1902(3)-where the words 'for the service of the year' 1902-3 cover a Schedule which expressly includes both current expenditure and arrears.

In my opinion the contention of the Secretary to the Treasury is right. Money appropriated for the service of a particular financial year is appropriated for the financial service, or for the requirements, of that year, and is-in the absence of express words or necessary implication to the contrary-applicable to the payment in that year of arrears.

See May, Parliamentary Practice, 10th edn, pp. 557-8; and see also (by way of illustration) the Imperial Appropriation Act 1901, where it is clear from the schedules that the service of the year includes arrears paid in that year.

The categorical answers to the questions asked by the Auditor-General are therefore as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. No answer necessary.
  3. The words of section 36 of the Audit Act do not restrict the appropriations to payments for services rendered in the financial year in which the payments are made.(4)

[Vol. 4, p. 220]

(1) Appropriation Act 1903-4.

(2) Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act 1903-4.

(3) Consolidated Revenue Act 1902-3.

(4) This opinion was published in Commonwealth of Australia,Pari. Papers 1904, Vol. II, p. 1337.