The Australian Bureau of Statistics has amassed $117 million in deficits and has barely enough operating cash to “keep the lights on”, according to Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey.
He told The Australian Financial Reviewthe nation’s key statistical and economic data agency was one of up to a dozen government agencies pleading for an emergency cash top-up before the budget.
“We are uncovering a number of these critical agencies like the ABS and the ACCC [the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] that have been running out of money under the previous government,” he said.
“This is another spider in the closet within a budget that has $123 billion in projected deficits and debt forecast to rise to $667 billion if no action is taken.”
The revelation comes shortly after Small Business Minister Bruce Billson confirmed to SmartCompanythe government would put forward some money to make sure the ACCC doesn’t shut down in April, when it’s expected to run out of money without an urgent cash injection.
“We need to find a solution before the cash runs out,” Billson said, adding that any rescue plan would also have to include steps to rein in future operating budgets.
The ACCC has operated in deficit for several years and lost $25 million on an operating basis last financial year. It asked Treasurer Joe Hockey late last year for an extra $100 million to carry out its duties.
The predicament of the ABS was foreshadowed in its annual report, which revealed a $45.4 million deficit last financial year.
“The overall situation has been progressively impacting on the time and effort required to produce key official statistics on time and to the quality expected by our users, and now seriously compromises our longer-term sustainability,” the report stated.
According to The Australian Financial Review, five other government entities have recorded significant deficits over the past three years: the NBN, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Corporation, Comcare, and the Department of Agricultural, Fisheries and Forestry.