Vague answers given by senior public servants to the Senate Committee inquiring into the COVID-19 response have drawn the anger of crossbenchers, who believe it is a sign of an erosion of accountability.
Hearings into the government's response to the pandemic have been testy at times, with committee members showing frustration at the lack of information coming from officials.
On Wednesday senators clashed with bureaucrats over whether the conflict of interest declarations of the national COVID-19 coordination commissioners would be released, and in a previous hearing Senator Rex Patrick clashed with Acting Health Secretary Caroline Edwards over answers around the COVIDSafe app.
Senator Patrick has again taken aim at officials over information given to questions on notice. In one case Labor Senator Katy Gallagher asked for all details of procurements of personal protective equipment to be provided, and was only told the government had procured equipment, but not how much and where from, or what was paid for it.
Acting Secretary Caroline Edwards was asked when she became aware the government was considering introducing legislation related to the COVIDSafe app, and only said she "was aware that legislation was an option being considered during development of the COVIDSafe app".
Senator Rex Patrick is unimpressed with the information that has been given to the committee so far.
"Oversight is a constitutional role of the Senate," he said.
"Public servants need to appreciate that they have an obligation to answer questions with care and in a truthful and complete manner. There can be consequences for not doing so."
Senator Gallagher, who is co-chair of the committee, said her original intention was for the committee to run without the usual political tussles, but so far the government hadn't shown it was willing to come to the table with providing information.
"I don't want to have to challenge everything," Senator Gallagher said, reluctant to use the many powers of the Senate to compel information to be released.
"It doesn't set up a good process for the Australian community to get the information they deserve to have."
Crossbencher Jacqui Lambie said public servants need life their game.
"This sort of bureaucratic stonewalling has got to stop," Senator Lambie tweeted.
"We're turning up and asking questions to get answers, not just words. Lift your game."
Senator Patrick said he was bringing the matter to the broader committee, which is co-chaired by Liberal Senator James Paterson and had made a freedom of information request for Ms Edwards' emails related to the app.
Issues within the COVID committee were a sign of a broader pattern of bureaucrats avoiding answering questions asked by senators through the committee process, Senator Patrick said.
"There has been a slow erosion of the quality of answers coming from public servants more broadly. Whilst there is no excuse for the conduct of officials, in some respects the fault lies in the Senate not insisting on proper answers," he said.
"There are a growing number of senators who are of the view that the Senate needs to correct the situation."