Cabinet paper

Cabinet Paper GOV-20-SUB-0016: Legislative Amendments to Reporting Timeframes due to COVID-19

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Cabinet Paper GOV-20-SUB-0016: Legislative Amendments to Reporting Timeframes due to COVID-19#


  1. This paper seeks agreement to make legislative amendments to extend statutory reporting and audit timeframes that apply to public sector agencies to recognise the impacts of COVID-19 on those agencies’ and auditors’ ability to provide high quality reporting and robust audit opinions (where applicable).

Executive Summary

  1. I am concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on public sector agencies’ financial and non-financial 2019/20 end-of-year reporting and on auditors being able to provide robust audit assurance over that reporting. This reporting is important to the fundamental principles of government accountability and transparency. Retaining the current reporting timeframes will create risks to the quality of reporting, cause significant stress to staff and auditors, and may result in agencies and/or the Auditor- General breaching legislative requirements. These issues have been raised by the Auditor-General.
  2. In response to these issues, I am seeking your agreement to urgent legislation to extend the annual report timeframes in the Public Finance Act 1989 (PFA) and Crown Entities Act 2004 (CEA). These provisions apply to departments, organisations listed on schedule 4 of the PFA, companies listed on schedule 4A of the PFA, and Crown entities. I propose these amendments provide a two-month extension to these timeframes, but limiting it to ensure all work is completed prior to Christmas 2020 (as going beyond that date would cause further issues). I propose that this change would apply only for annual reports covering the 2019/20 financial year.
  3. In addition to the amendments sought to the PFA and CEA, I am also aware of the need for extensions to similar timeframes for annual reporting covering the 2019/20 financial year contained in the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, and potentially similar timeframes contained in other legislation. I therefore recommend that Ministers responsible for legislation including these timeframes be given delegated authority from Cabinet to approve policy requests for including extensions for reporting covering the 2019/20 financial year in the Bill that this paper seeks. There is currently no need to amend timeframes for annual reporting for local authorities, or council-controlled organisations, but there is a mechanism in the Local Government Act 2002 which can be used should this be necessary. Authority is also being sought for the Minister of Local Government to use this mechanism.
  4. The impact of COVID-19 also means the legislative timeframe in section 26N of the Public Finance Act 1989 for the statement of long-term fiscal position is no longer achievable. I am also seeking your agreement to extend the deadline for the statement on the long-term fiscal position, so that it would be published no later than September 2021.

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