The Federal Government has missed by more than a week Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s stated deadline for the “independent review” to report on the “missing” Iraq War cabinet papers.
Fronting media on January 3, as the nation reeled from the scandal, which is tied to former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Albanese said the investigation would “report within the next two weeks”.
That was Wednesday last week.
The “delay” of the review — being conducted by a man who was a party to the dozens of secret meetings to which the “missing” cabinet papers pertain — comes as the scandal has taken yet another turn.
On January 15 The Klaxon revealed the National Archives’ 2022-23 annual report was “missing” from public records despite Coalition-appointed Archives boss Simon Froude having been required to file it by October 15.
The National Archives has said it was granted an “extension” and that it filed its annual report to its responsible minister, Arts Minister Tony Burke, on November 30.
“Delays” in “finalising” financial statements with the ANAO. Source: National Archives
The ANAO must sign off on the annual financial statements of Federal agencies — and declare whether they are “free from material misstatement” whether “due to fraud or error”.
If financial statements do not meet legal requirements, it can cause delays, sometimes of several weeks, as negotiations between the agency and the ANAO play out.
In their annual reports, agencies are required by law to include “performance statements” regarding their operations and the details of “significant” events that impacted them during the reporting period.
During the reporting period — which includes the date up until the report is completed and filed — National Archives was embroiled in the unprecedented scandal of “missing” cabinet documents.
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Morrison’s Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet had, it emerged on January 1, failed to hand over to National Archives certain cabinet papers from 2003.
On January 1 each year National Archives releases certain cabinet papers from 20 years earlier, having obtained them from PM&C around three years earlier.
In 2003 Australia joined the US-led invasion of Iraq and many of the “missing” documents relate to deliberations of the top-secret National Security Committee, which dealt with the decision.
The reasons for joining the war have never been properly explained to the Australian public.
Shelving inside the National Archives Preservation Facility. Source: National Archives/John Gollings
Official correspondence obtained by The Klaxon shows the reason National Archives gave for failing to file its annual report by October 15 was due to issues “finalising” its “annual financial statements” with the ANAO.
The disclosure is made in an October 3 letter from Froude to Arts Minister Tony Burke, who is responsible for National Archives.
In the letter, Froude writes the agency is “unable” to meet the October 15 legal deadline, and seeks an extension from Burke.
“National Archives is unable to meet this timing because of delays in finalising the Annual Financial Statements with the Australian National Audit Office,” writes Froude.
“These matters are not within the control of National Archives”.
“These matters are not within the control of National Archives”
“National Archives expects to provide you its annual report by the end of November,” Froude writes.
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