Annual Report
2012–13

External scrutiny

External Audit

During 2012–13 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) undertook two audits involving the activities of PM&C:

Control of Credit Card Use – This was a cross portfolio audit of the Australian Trade Commission, PM&C and Geoscience Australia. The audit objective was to assess whether Australian Government agencies were effectively controlling the use of credit cards for official purposes. The report found that all agencies had generally satisfactory arrangements in place to control the use of credit cards for official purposes. The incidence of misuse in the sample of credit card transactions examined by the ANAO was very low, and the audited agencies’ controls were effective in identifying such misuse, with evidence of follow-up action where necessary.

In relation to the Department specifically, the report referenced the nearly 30 per cent of transactions that were acquitted outside the Department’s required timeframe. The Department’s credit card acquittal timeframe is the result of a management decision that enables the expenses to be recorded against the relevant areas of the Department for month end reporting. In setting a tight timeframe that in the majority of cases, the cardholder, their supervisor and the card acquitting officer can meet, there was the expectation that it would not be met in all cases. The Chief Financial Officer is actively managing late acquittal which has resulted in an improvement in timely acquittals. The Department has also enhanced its controls in the areas highlighted by the ANAO, including through the addition of an explicit reference to reporting obligations on disputed or fraudulent transactions on the acknowledgement form signed by new cardholders.

Administration of Government Advertising Arrangements: August 2011 to March 2013 – This was a cross portfolio audit of PM&C, the former Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy; the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; and the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The audit objectives were to assess the effectiveness of the agencies’ administration in developing advertising campaigns and implementing key processes against the requirements of the Australian Government’s campaign advertising framework, and other key legal and administrative requirements; as well as the ongoing administration of the campaign advertising framework. There were no findings specific to the Department.

Other external scrutiny

We have not been the subject of any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals during the reporting period that have had, or may have, a significant impact on our operations.

However, we responded to a challenge by the applicant in Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor (ACD24/2007) to discovery given by the Commonwealth in those proceedings (see page 36).

The Australian Information Commissioner (AIC) and the Freedom of Information Commissioner (FOIC) may undertake an external review of Freedom of Information (FOI) decisions made by the Department. In 2012–13 16 external review requests were made to the AIC and there were no complaints. Four external review requests were finalised during 2012–13 as follows (case citations included where a decision was published by the Office of the AIC):

  • One decision of the Department was set aside and the AIC substituted a new decision. The Department’s decision had refused access to two documents. The AIC’s substituted decision gave access to those two documents, with redactions to one of the documents. The redactions were of material not within the scope of the applicant’s request (Parnell and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet [2012] AICmr 31 (22 November 2012)).
  • One decision was affirmed to refuse access to documents under section 24(1) of the FOI Act. The AIC was satisfied that a practical refusal reason existed, specifically that the work involved in processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the Department from its other operations (Davies and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet [2013] AICmr 10 (22 February 2013)).
  • Two review requests were withdrawn by the applicant under section 54R of the FOI Act.

One complaint (lodged in 2011–12) was finalised during 2012–13 relating to a delay in responding to an FOI request. The FOI Commissioner was not inclined to make any particular findings in relation to the handling of the request other than to note that the Department’s handling of the request was deficient and to monitor the Department’s performance regarding timeliness in any future complaints to the Office of the AIC.