Lobbying aims to influence government decision-making (including the making or amendment of legislation, the development or amendment of government policy or programs, the awarding of government contracts or grants or the allocation of funding). Lobbyists’ efforts to influence government decision-making may be in their own interest or in the interests of their employer, their clients or a group of related entities.
This audit found that while the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (PM&C) arrangements to manage the Australian Government’s Register of Lobbyists are consistent with the framework agreed by Government, improvements could be made to communications, compliance management and evaluation for the Code and the Register. It would also be timely to review the appropriateness of the current arrangements and Code requirements in supporting the achievement of the objectives established for the Code.
PM&C has established appropriate administration arrangements to update and maintain the Register. Limitations of the current database used to support the operation of the Register make it difficult for the department to obtain an appropriate level of assurance over information quality. The planned replacement of the existing database provides an opportunity for the department to strengthen quality assurance processes and to improve the efficiency of administrative processes, for example by reducing existing duplicative and manual processes. Further, the development of a suitable strategy to raise awareness of Code and Register requirements would better support voluntary compliance by lobbyists.
PM&C’s delivery of a low level of compliance activity reflects the original decision of government. The effectiveness of the department’s compliance monitoring approach has been reduced by the lack of strategy around advice to Government representatives of their compliance monitoring responsibilities and PM&C’s reliance on reports of non-compliance to drive compliance activities. Further, the approach adopted to manage compliance has not been informed by an assessment of risks. While each allegation of non-compliance the ANAO identified had been assessed, departmental records of assessments were not well maintained or collated to inform future compliance activity. Given the regime has been in place for close to a decade, it is timely for the department to consider whether the compliance management arrangements for the Code and Register are appropriate.
The department has not established effective performance monitoring and reporting arrangements. Listing lobbyists and their clients on the Register for reference by Government representatives and other stakeholders contributes to the achievement of the Code’s objectives. The Register does not, on its own, provide transparency into the integrity of the contact between lobbyists and Government representatives or the matters discussed. Performance monitoring and reporting arrangements should be strengthened to inform internal and external stakeholders about the extent to which policy objectives are being met.