The financial disclosure scheme was introduced in 1983 to increase overall transparency and inform the public about the financial dealings of political parties, candidates, senate groups and others involved in the electoral process. Regulation of the receipt and public disclosure of campaign funding and expenditure was seen as complementary and a necessary corollary to the introduction of public funding of political parties and candidates.

The financial disclosure scheme requires specified participants (entities) in the electoral process that receive funding, provide funding, or incur political, now electoral expenditure to lodge financial disclosure returns with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Such information assists voters to make judgements knowing who funds political representatives and to what extent.

The administration of the financial disclosure requirements by the AEC was selected for audit because the purpose of the financial disclosure scheme is to preserve the integrity of the electoral system, maintain public confidence in the electoral process and reduce the potential for undue influence and corruption. The financial disclosure scheme is also a central pillar of the Australian arrangements to provide electors with sufficient information on which to base selection of their political representatives.

The objective of this audit was to examine the effectiveness of the Australian Electoral Commission’s management of financial disclosures required under Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, including the extent to which the AEC is achieving accurate and complete financial disclosures.

Main findings:

  • The AEC‘s management of the financial disclosures required under Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 is partially effective.
  • Compliance monitoring and enforcement activities are partially effective with the result that the AEC is not well placed to provide assurance that disclosure returns are accurate and complete.
  • The effectiveness of the analysis undertaken by the AEC is limited. Annual returns submitted by third parties and donors are not analysed.
  • The AEC does not appropriately act upon identified non-compliance. It is not making effective use of its enforcement powers and as such has not implemented a graduated approach to managing and acting on identified non-compliance.
Publication Details
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Auditor-General Report No.8 2020–21