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3.3 : Corporate Governance

3.3.1 : Management Committees

Executive Group

The Executive Group is the primary decision-making body of the Department. It supports the Secretary in discharging his statutory responsibility for promoting efficient, effective and ethical use of Departmental resources. Members of the Executive Group are responsible for advising the Secretary on matters of corporate governance, direction, priorities and policy. The Group comprises the Secretary (Chair), the Deputy Secretaries, the Division and Bureau Heads and the Chief Finance Officer.

Executive GroupMatters examined by the Executive Group include policy, management, finance and administrative issues that have corporate or strategic significance. They cover such issues as strategic planning, business re-engineering, corporate planning, corporate performance, Departmental support systems, human resources issues, financial management and resourcing decisions, and corporate infrastructure.

Executive Group met 19 times during 19992000. Notable achievements include the development and introduction of a new Certified Agreement, the development of a new Corporate Plan and the implementation of a timely business planning framework. The Corporate Plan, Divisional Business Plans and Divisional budgets were all in place at the commencement of the 200001 financial year.

Other important issues considered and managed by the Executive Group include the introduction of the New Tax System, ensuring systems were Y2K compliant, the introduction of a Workplace Diversity Strategy, work on the Electronic Delivery of Government Services, appropriate devolution or allocation of responsibility for costs to Divisions, improved resource management, and the implementation of Australian Public Service reforms generally.

The Executive Group is reviewing the effectiveness of its own activities and structures and may change its means of operation and scope in the new financial year.

Departmental Audit Committee

The Audit Committee was established as a high-level advisory panel to the Secretary on the governance of the Department. It is accountable to the Secretary and operates under a Charter amended by the Secretary on 29 May 2000 and prepared in line with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Better Practice Guide.

Membership of the Committee, which met four times during the year, comprised a Deputy Secretary (as Chair), the First Assistant Secretaries of Land (to March 2000), Territories and Regional Support (from March 2000), Aviation, Regional Services Development and Local Government, and Mr Paul McGrath AM (as an independent member). The First Assistant Secretary, Corporate, attended all meetings on a participating basis but is not a full member. The Chief Finance Officer, Director Internal Audit and representatives of the ANAO attended all meetings as observers. The Secretary attends for discussion of key agenda items.

The Committee considered issues such as audit implications of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other taxation changes, finalisation of the Departmental Continuity Management Plan (consistent with Emergency Management Australias guidelines) and steps to facilitate early preparation of 19992000 financial statements. (This involved closing the books for hard close at the end of April, with adjustments made for May and June transactions.) The Committee also agreed to new arrangements for the provision of internal audit services by one consultant rather than a panel.

A more rigorous process for the follow-up of both ANAO and internal audits was established. Revisions were made by the Secretary to both the Audit Committee and Internal Audit Charters, and a more rigorous approach to risk management commenced. The Committee was also charged by the Secretary with the introduction of a trust-based culture within the Department key elements include revised Chief Executive Instructions and a new Fraud Control Plan.

The Committee faces particular challenges in the year ahead to bring increased strategy and system to internal audit work, finalise a Risk Management Plan as part of a broader program, and foster the growth of the trust-based system throughout the Department.

Departmental Executive Meetings

Departmental Executive Meetings are held weekly and attended by the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries, all Division and Bureau heads, General Counsel, and Legal and Coordination Assistant Secretary. These meetings are not decision-making meetings, rather a means of communication for senior staff. The past week is reviewed and upcoming events foreshadowed, and senior staff have the opportunity to keep in regular contact and foster cross-divisional linkages.

Departmental Consultative Committee

The Departmental Consultative Committee oversees implementation of the Departments Certified Agreement and makes recommendations to the Secretary concerning workplace relations. In accordance with the new Certified Agreement the Committee comprises the Secretary (Chair), an elected representative of each division, a representative of each of the relevant unions, a Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary People and Organisation, and the Director Employee Services.

Health and Safety Committee

The Health and Safety Committee meets regularly to consider the Departments Occupational Health and Safety Strategy and policy and performance issues, with the aim of improving the Departments health and safety environment. It comprises the First Assistant Secretary Corporate, Assistant Secretary People and Organisation, Director Employee Services, one divisional Assistant Secretary, union representatives, and Departmental health and safety representatives.

Portfolio Chief Executives Forum

This new Forum was established by the Secretary and comprises the Chief Executives of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Airservices Australia, Australian Maritime Safety Authority and National Capital Authority. It will provide an opportunity for high level interaction across the transport and regional services portfolio on matters of common interest. The group will provide advice to the portfolio Ministers on collective issues. The first meeting was held on 31 July 2000.

Results through People Taskforce

The Results through People (RtP) Taskforce was established in July 1999 to develop an assessable framework for incorporating new and existing initiatives designed to improve the Departments business performance while continuing to work within its RTP ethos. The taskforce developed as a successor to the Investors in People teams, and is broadly representative of divisions and levels across the Department. The taskforce also acts as a bottom-up feedback mechanism for Executive Group on corporate initiatives and business performance.

During 19992000 the taskforce concentrated on developing the RtP strategy (summarised at Table 3). The strategy identifies 10 Key Performance Areas seen as critical in achieving improved performance by the Department for its Ministers and stakeholders through people-based initiatives. A key component is maintaining and capitalising on the Departments Investors in People accreditation.

The Departments Executive Group approved the strategy in June 2000, and will oversee implementation throughout 200001. The taskforce is currently developing performance measures and indicators for Key Result Areas identified in the strategy, and they will be used to measure the Departments success in achieving its core business goals.

Download the Results through People Strategy [PDFPDF: 23 KB] as Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

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3.3.2 : Corporate and Operational Planning

New Departmental Corporate Plan

A new Departmental Corporate Plan for the period 200001 to 200203 commenced on 1 July 2000.

As the highest-level document in the Department's planning hierarchy, the new Corporate Plan guides Departmental operations. It describes the Department's purpose and role, and expresses Departmental values. It also considers changes that may affect Departmental work over the period, and identifies what will be done differently.

The plan will be reviewed and revised each year so that it continues to look three years ahead.

3.3.3 INTERNAL AUDIT, RISK MANAGEMENT AND ETHICS

Internal audit

The Audit Committee agreed to new arrangements for the provision of internal audit services by one consultant rather than a panel, as had been the case for several years. The new arrangement commenced in May 2000 and is expected to provide more consistent audit quality. Matters selected for internal audit are based on risk analysis which includes the size and nature of the functional area, the inherent risk in the operations, the period since the last audit, and the results of prior reviews.

The Internal Audit Charter was reviewed during the year and is available to staff via the Departments Intranet.

Risk management

The Audit Committee addressed the need to update the Fraud Risk Assessment and Control Plans. A copy of the draft plans was forwarded to the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board for its comment and approval. Other risk management issues addressed included promoting a risk management culture and the finalisation of a Risk Management Plan.

It is proposed that once the Department has in place an established general risk-management plan and culture, all areas of risk management, including fraud risk and continuity planning, will be integrated in an overarching departmental risk management plan.

Ethics

Australian Public Service (APS) Values

The Departments Corporate Plan, operative throughout 19992000, articulated the values that characterise the Department and the way they reflect APS values.

Departmental values were expressed as follows:

We achieve our results in ways that reflect APS values and principles. In particular, we expect our people to be:
  • honest and professional;
  • accountable for their actions; and
  • responsive to the needs of Government, business partners and our people.
We believe that a safe, fair, diverse and flexible workplace, where people are trusted, is the best work environment. This trust is fostered by:
  • communicating openly and regularly;
  • recognising peoples contributions and investing in their potential; and
  • leading by example and with clarity.

We embrace the Australian Public Service Values and the Code of Conduct, taking particular pride in achieving results through people by being:

  • results-oriented;
  • honest, professional and accountable;
  • responsive to our stakeholders and clients;
  • committed to providing development opportunities for our people; and
  • a trusting workplace that is safe and diverse, where we lead by example and with integrity and treat each other decently.

New employees are handed a copy of the values and the code of conduct as part of their induction package, and the Departments agreement to comply forms also incorporate them.

Conduct

On 7 December 1999 the Secretary issued simplified and streamlined Departmental procedures for determining whether a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred. The procedures are consistent with Chapter 5 of the Public Service Commissioners Directions.

Whistleblowing

The Department has a comprehensive policy on whistleblowing available to all staff via the intranet. To date no cases have been dealt with.

Clients and contractors

As the Departments principal role is providing policy advice, it does not systematically collect data on clients. Data on contractors is limited to details provided by them in the course of the tender process. Evaluation of tenders is undertaken by Divisions and guidance is provided on their confidentiality aspects on each occasion. All hard-copy contracts and purchasing files that may contain confidential data are classified Commercial-In-Confidence and are stored, archived and disposed of in a secure manner.

Download the Planning Tables [PDFPDF: 8 KB] as Adobe Acrobat PDF file.