Report 10: 2017–18
Report type

Audit Objective

The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of public sector entities in finalising unpaid fines.

We assessed whether entities:

  • collect sufficient, relevant and accurate debtor data
  • are effectively managing their unpaid fines
  • work together to effectively finalise unpaid fines
  • use efficient practices and processes that prioritise timely finalisation.


Public sector entities issue fines to penalise people who have deliberately or inadvertently broken the law, and to deter them from committing similar offences.

The challenge for the issuing and collection entities is in efficiently and effectively finalising those fines that remain unpaid, particularly for those people who refuse to cooperate or pay. These people account for a significant amount of outstanding fines debt owed to the state, and enforcing this debt can be difficult and costly.


All entities

We recommend that all entities, led by the Penalty Debt Management Council:


develop a plan to improve the end-to-end fines collection process to:

  • reduce the time taken to record, refer and enforce fines. The Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) referring fines earlier will allow for more timely enforcement action (Chapters 2 and 3)
  • identify opportunities to further automate their processes and, in the interim, methods for reducing the time taken to record manual fines (Chapter 2)
  • provide a central (one-stop) point of reference for people fined to accurately track the location and status of their fines across the end-to-end fines process and to ensure ease of payment, nominations or finalisation of their fine (Chapter 2)
  • facilitate dispute management and debt recovery through further integration of entity systems. (Chapter 3)


analyse the payment and write-off rates of different fine types to identify opportunities to improve debt recovery and write-off rates. (Chapter 2)

This would also allow entities to consider trends and factors in offending and whether fines are an effective sanction for specific offences.


conduct further analysis and collaborate to develop options for managing problematic debtors who do not pay their debt, despite the use of all available enforcement actions (acknowledging imprisonment is the option of last resort). (Chapter 3)


develop processes and practices to provide magistrates with access to offender debt history to inform magistrates about a person's capacity to pay a fine, consistent with their obligations under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. (Chapter 3)

Department of Transport and Main Roads

We recommend that the Department of Transport and Main Roads:


reviews the tolling framework, in collaboration with Transurban Queensland and the State Penalties Enforcement Registry, to better manage tolling debts. (Chapter 2)

This should include

  • improving information sharing to enable Transurban Queensland to better communicate with customers to recover tolls and avoid referring them to DTMR to issue infringments

  • earlier referral by Transurban Queensland to DTMR of those alleged offenders that have failed to comply with their demand notice—in accordance with the agreed tolling arrangements.


establishes clear business rules, in accordance with legislation, to manage fines where it receives a driver nomination and ensure it is not unnecessarily withdrawing these fines. (Chapter 2)

This should include clarifying the legislation and assessing the need for legislative amendment.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry

We recommend that the State Penalties Enforcement Registry: 


develops processes and measures to assess the cost and effectiveness of its enforcement actions. (Chapter 3)


seeks from the minister revised and updated debt write off guidelines in accordance with Section 150B of the State Penalties Enforcement Act 1999.

The revision should include guidance to ensure regular and timely assessment of the suitability of aged and unrecoverable debt for write off. The assessment should  be based on the cost of pursuing the debt and likelihood of collecting it. (Chapter 3)


assesses and writes off aged and unrecoverable debt in accordance with the revised debt write off guidelines.

Records should be maintained to support the amount written off and a clear explanation of the reasons for the debt write off. (Chapter 3)