Annual Report
2013–14

Corporate governance

Governance is the framework of relationships (people), structures (committees), systems, processes and culture that supports the operations of an organisation. Good governance ensures the achievement of the Department’s overall outcomes in an open and transparent way. It encompasses authority, accountability, stewardship, leadership, direction and control exercised in the Department.

As part of our commitment to good governance, the Department promotes a culture that encourages and supports all staff to be accountable for their actions; act with integrity, trust, honesty and respect; commit to excellence; focus on performance; and ensure the efficient and ethical management of people and resources. Elements of our corporate governance framework include business planning, audit and assurance activities, risk management, fraud prevention and control, committees, the Chief Executive’s Instructions, policies and guidelines and staff performance agreements and assessments.

Committees

To support the Secretary in the achievement of our objectives, we have a number of committees. These are outlined in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1 Departmental committees

Committee Purpose
Executive Leadership Group (ELG) Deals with management decisions and issues across PM&C. It considers strategic issues impacting on the Department, including any ongoing or emerging risks, and monitors performance in delivering outcomes.
Corporate Management Meeting Discusses key issues and priorities affecting corporate services.
Senior Management Group Discusses key business issues, including business priorities, key commitments and any ongoing or emerging risks.
Audit Committee Provides independent assurance and assistance to the Secretary on PM&C’s risk, control and compliance framework, and its external accountability responsibilities.
Security Committee Provides advice to the Secretary on actions to counter or manage security threats and considers issues including ICT security policy, password policy changes, email security classification, website blocking, security breaches, security incidents and investigations.
Finance and Investment Committee Oversights and monitors the delivery of the Department’s Finance Strategy and provides advice and assurance to the Secretary on all financial issues, including recommending annual and forward budgets, and capital investment decisions for endorsement.
Integration Committee Provides oversight and leadership of strategies that aim to integrate the Department’s culture, systems and processes.
People and Leadership Committee (PLC) Provides strategic advice to the Secretary on integrating the Department’s people planning, including leadership priorities and development within the Department’s strategic direction and business priorities.
Health and Safety Committee A sub-committee of the PLC. Facilitates discussion and cooperation regarding work health and safety (WH&S) issues and assists in the developing Health and Safety Management Arrangements through consultation with all staff.
Consultative Committee A sub-committee of the PLC that provides a forum for management and employees to discuss matters affecting the workplace. Employee representatives are elected from each division to provide employees with an opportunity to contribute ideas and raise concerns about our workplace.
Graduate Support Group A sub-committee of the PLC that ensures that the Graduate Development Programme and graduate recruitment strategy meet the Department’s needs, and facilitate communication, consultation, cooperation and input from divisions and graduates on matters that affect the graduate program.
Capability Review Implementation Committee Monitors progress of implementation of the Department’s Capability Action Plan.

Risk Management

Strong risk management is a central element of our operations and key to our success in achieving outcomes. Risk management is an essential element of good corporate governance and is integrated with the Department’s approach to all aspects of our business.

The Department’s risk management framework is consistent with the international standard ISO 31000:2009, and outlines the Department’s approach to effective risk management providing the basis for integrating risk management into PM&C business activities. Risk is considered in key decision-making activities and, in particular, when undertaking policy development and giving policy advice; in planning for and undertaking significant projects and procurements such as major events and taskforces; when outsourcing services, managing contracts and delivering programmes; and when providing secretariat and support services.

Senior management committees routinely consider ongoing or emerging risks that may impact on the achievement of objectives. Monitoring and reporting on risk through these committees ensures ongoing oversight of developments in this area.

The Department’s risk management plan is updated annually. The 2013–14 update was informed by feedback from senior managers, outcomes from the Department’s annual internal audit program, as well as the views of the Secretary, Audit Committee members and the ELG.

The Audit Committee recommends the plan for approval by the ELG, monitors the implementation of treatment strategies and tracks risks. The 2013–14 plan was approved on 23 July 2013.

Ethical standards

PM&C is strongly committed to promoting and maintaining the standard of behaviour outlined in the APS Values and APS Code of Conduct, as set out in the Public Service Act 1999. The APS Values and APS Code of Conduct are an integral part of the human resources framework and is part of the foundation of all HR policies and procedures. We are members of the Ethics Contact Officer Network. The network plays a key role in supporting the ongoing work of the Ethics Advisory Service and provides best practice advice on ethical matters.

Fraud prevention and control

The PM&C fraud control plan is designed to prevent, detect and deter fraud. It includes:

  • a statement of PM&C’s policy on, and approach to, fraud control
  • a description of PM&C’s fraud control responsibilities and strategies
  • direction for PM&C’s fraud control, response and education capabilities
  • a description of fraud reporting obligations in and external to PM&C.

We review the fraud control plan every two years and undertake ongoing risk assessments to support the plan. As part of the review process, we conduct extensive consultation with programme risk managers and subject matter experts on a six-monthly basis to evaluate existing risk trends and emerging risks and to put in place appropriate strategies to manage them.

The PM&C fraud awareness strategy provides for training and regular fraud-related messages to staff. The training uses delivery methods including face-to-face, video-conferencing and an e-Learning package to meet different staff training needs in national offices and across the network.

We investigate allegations of fraud and criminal behaviour involving PM&C and organisations and individuals who receive funding and services through our programmes. Risks identified and lessons learned through investigations are reported to relevant PM&C governance committees and programme and network areas.

External scrutiny

External Audit

During 2013–14 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conducted a cross portfolio performance audit of the Improving School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM), to assess the effectiveness of the administration of the programme by both PM&C and the Department of Human Services. The final report was tabled in Parliament in June 2014.

The ANAO also conducted an audit of aspects of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Development during 2013–14, as part of their proposed audit report on Indigenous Employment in Australian Government Entities. The former Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations was an auditee as it had certain responsibilities under this agreement. These responsibilities transferred to PM&C from December 2013. The report was tabled in Parliament on 29 May 2014.

Judicial decisions and other external scrutiny

In Gondarra v Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Minister’s decision to consent to a lease and approve an agreement under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 for the Gove bauxite mine and alumina refinery was upheld. The Department has not been the subject of any other judicial decisions of administrative tribunals during the reporting period that have had, or may have, a significant impact on our operations.

The Australian Information Commissioner (AIC) and the Freedom of Information Commissioner may undertake an external review of Freedom of Information (FOI) decisions made by the Department under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). In 2013–14 seven external review requests were made to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Thirteen external review requests were finalised during 2013–14 as follows (case citations are included below where a decision was published by the OAIC):

  • One decision of the Department was set aside and the Australian Information Commissioner substituted a new decision under section 55K of the FOI Act. The Department’s decision had refused access to parts of some documents. The AIC’s substituted decision gave access to those parts (He and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet [2013] AICmr 89 (17 December 2013)).
  • Eight review requests were withdrawn by the applicants under section 54W of the FOI Act.
  • Three review requests were closed under section 54W of the FOI Act.
  • One review request was closed as there was no reviewable decision under Section 54N of the FOI Act.

In 2013–14 four complaints were made to the OAIC and of these, two complaints were finalised as the OAIC exercised discretion not to investigate.

Following the machinery of government changes, in 2013–14 the Commonwealth Ombudsman approached the Department with 11 investigations. The Commonwealth Ombudsman did not release any new reports relevant to the Department during 2013–14.

Other external scrutiny included:

  • The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights which examined the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 and related legislation in accordance with the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011. Conclusions were reported in the Eleventh Report of 2013. The Government is considering the report.
  • The Department produced documents and information relevant to the developments and administration of the Home Insulation Program in response to summonses issued by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program. Current and former staff of the Department provided witness statements or gave evidence to the Royal Commission.
  • Continued involvement in the discovery process relating to the Commonwealth in Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia and Anor (ACD24/2007).

Agencies subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). IPS information for the Department is available at www.dpmc.gov.au.