Management and Accountability

Corporate governance

Governance framework

The Department's governance framework is designed to ensure that the principles of good governance are applied in all aspects of the Department's work, and high standards of performance, conformance and accountability are maintained. The governance framework promotes ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability to maintain high standards of governance and instil confidence in all those who deal with the Department.

In 2009–10 the Secretary commissioned a strategic audit of the Department's functions, with a view to improving oversight, efficiency and effectiveness in direction setting, decision making, risk management and accountability. As a result of the strategic audit:

  • the Policy and Research Division was established, to develop high-quality, relevant research and policy that demonstrably support the work of other divisions, the Minister and the Australian Government more broadly
  • the Community Engagement Branch was established, within the Corporate Services Division, to provide advice and support for all the Department's stakeholder engagement needs, and
  • the Major Infrastructure Projects Office was established, within the Nation Building-Infrastructure Investment Division, to manage a number of key infrastructure projects and become a department-wide centre of excellence on project management.

During 2009–10, senior management committees led and coordinated the maintenance of sound governance standards in the Department. Supporting the Secretary in his role as agency head and decision maker, senior management committees focused on:

  • efficiently and effectively managing the Department in accordance with APS legislative requirements
  • delivering programs that were timely and of a high quality, and contributed to the achievement of the Australian Government's desired outcomes, and
  • being open and accountable to stakeholders in meeting the Department's obligations.

Three high-level departmental groups meet regularly and assist the Secretary and senior management in the Department's decision-making process. They are the:

  • Secretary's Business Meeting
  • Executive Management Team, and
  • Senior Executive Service Management Team.

As Figure 7.1 illustrates, five committees were in place to support the high-level groups. They are the:

  • Audit Committee
  • Strategic Information Technology and Security Committee
  • Finance and Reporting Committee
  • People and Capability Committee (which includes the OH&S Committee), and
  • Departmental Consultative Committee.
Figure 7.1 Governance committee framework in 2009–10

Governance committee framework in 200910

High-level groups

The most senior of the Department's committees is the Secretary's Business Meeting, composed of the Secretary, the three Deputy Secretaries and the Chief Operating Officer. The meeting is held weekly to consider high-level policy and departmental resourcing and operational matters.

The Executive Management Team, which also meets weekly, is the key information-sharing forum. The team consists of the Secretary, the Deputy Secretaries, the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Directors (heads of the Department's business divisions). Other employees, including the Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, Chief Information Officer, General Manager People and Performance, General Manager Community Engagement, and General Manager Governance and Reporting, attend meetings in an advisory capacity.

The Executive Management Team meets to:

  • receive briefings from executive directors on key issues for each business division
  • consider proposals and receive updates on issues such as financial and human resource management
  • receive advice from the Secretary's Business Meeting, and
  • provide the Secretary with an opportunity to communicate key messages.

All Senior Executive Service (SES) employees are required to demonstrate leadership in departmental governance and management through their participation in monthly Senior Executive Service Management Team meetings.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee provides assurance and assistance to the Secretary on the Department's risk, control and compliance frameworks and external accountability responsibilities. The Audit Committee has a sub-committee whose primary role is to oversee financial statements reporting and processes on behalf of the Audit Committee.

In accordance with its charter, the Audit Committee:

  • monitors the Department's risk management framework
  • endorses the internal audit work program and monitors its implementation
  • provides a forum for the Department and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to exchange views on external audit findings and associated recommendations, and
  • oversees the preparation of the Department's financial statements, in conjunction with the Financial Statements Sub-committee.

In 2009–10 the Audit Committee met five times. The committee had a membership of nine, including three independent members; the Chair of the Audit Committee was Deputy Secretary Stephanie Foster. Meetings were also attended by observers, including representatives from other areas of the Department and from the ANAO, as required.

Other committees

The following is a brief description of the roles of the other committees that underpin good governance in the Department.

  • The Strategic Information Technology and Security Committee develops a common vision for the Department's information technology (IT) data collection, funding and security requirements and priorities.
  • The Finance and Reporting Committee oversees the Department's Budget process and considers monthly reports, budget priorities and non-IT capital investment proposals.
  • The People and Capability Committee considers strategic capability-building issues and funding priorities, and fosters relationships between divisions to achieve a cohesive, shared approach to enhancing people management. An occupational health and safety sub-committee reports to the People and Capability Committee.
  • The Departmental Consultative Committee is the main forum for ensuring the views of employees are taken into account in the operation and implementation of the Department's Enterprise Agreement 2009–2011.

A number of project management boards oversee and report on program planning and implementation. The project boards are designed to support program governance in terms of strategy and direction, to manage risks associated with decision making, and to focus on ensuring that the programs achieve their goals.

Planning and reporting framework

The Department publishes detailed plans in May as part of the Budget papers. The Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS):

  • describe the departmental outcomes, programs and administered items for which the Department will receive funding in the coming budget year
  • detail the objectives and components of each program, and the goods and services that the program will deliver during the year
  • set the financial and other performance targets that will apply to each program, and
  • present the Department's budgeted financial statements for the budget year and three out-years.

These plans are updated, if required, in the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements (PAES) and Portfolio Supplementary Additional Estimates Statements (PSAES). For 2009–10, PAES were published in November 2010 and no PSAES were published.

The PBS are used to inform the development of strategic business plans for each division. These business plans, within the operating context for the year ahead, present an environmental scan, divisional position, key deliverables and functional activities, significant risks and available resources.

Each quarter, the Executive of the Department asks divisions to review their progress against their business plans. This review process informs the Executive of achievements and any emerging areas of concern in relation to the continued delivery of agreed outcomes. The quarterly reviews also allow for an exchange between the Executive and divisions to ensure that the Department is well placed to address planned and unplanned priorities.

Enterprise-wide risk management

In 2009–10, the Department maintained an overarching risk management policy which provided a formal framework for managing and monitoring identified risks. This involved:

  • facilitating strategic risk assessment workshops for the Department's executive directors, to ensure that the Department's risks are updated in line with changing functions and directions,
  • conducting risk assessment workshops with all business divisions in the Department, to ensure that divisional risks are identified and mitigated, and
  • updating the departmental risk profile which formed the basis of the Department's 2009–10 internal audit work plan.

Disclosure of major risks

As required, the Department continued to disclose in the Budget papers fiscal risks and contingent liabilities with a large potential impact. The enterprise-wide fiscal risks disclosed for 2009–10 were managed without significant impacts. They related to:

  • compensation for Airservices Australia in the event it experiences any financial detriment as a result of complying with government directions about airspace control services
  • indemnities for Maritime Industry Finance Company Limited board members
  • tripartite deeds applying to 12 leased federal airports-these provide financiers with limited step-in rights when an airport lease is terminated, to enable them to correct the circumstances that triggered termination of the lease, and
  • clean-up costs, arising from ship-sourced marine pollution incidents, that cannot be recovered.

Protective security and fraud control

The Department continued to monitor contemporary risk factors during 2009–10, to maintain an appropriate level of assurance for the Executive and to meet the Australian Government's protective security expectations. This process will move forward in 2010–11 to align with the Australian Government's Protective Security Policy Framework. The Department's risk profile remains at a ‘low’ status.

The Department's Fraud Control Plan and processes for controlling, investigating and reporting on fraud all comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, as certified by the Secretary in the letter of transmittal of this annual report.

Internal audit

In 2009–10, approximately 80 per cent of the internal audit budget was allocated to performance audits. The internal audit work program was designed to focus on core business activities, particularly program administration, and to mitigate risks identified through the annual risk assessment processes.

The following audits were undertaken:

  • Protective Security/Document Security
  • IT Disaster Recovery Review
  • Legislative Compliance
  • Review of Nation Building-Economic Stimulus Plan programs
  • IT Security and Access Controls
  • Review of SAP Interfaces
  • Management of Credit Cards
  • Post Implementation Review-Project Management Reporting
  • National Bike Paths Program, and
  • Collection of Public Monies on behalf of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Ethical standards

In May 2010, the Department introduced a new requirement for probity plans for all grant programs, open tender activities above $500,000 and any other procurement activity considered to be high risk or sensitive. These probity plans are to be developed using standard templates designed to ensure that the highest standard of ethical behaviour is evident in all covered processes.

In 2009–10, the Department continued to deliver the training program Working Ethically and Professionally in the APS, which is specifically aimed at building capability in ethical decision making and behaviour in accord with the APS Values and Code of Conduct.

Client service standards

The Department is committed to providing its clients with a high level of service, and welcomes feedback on its results. The Department's client service charter sets out its service standards and explains how clients can provide feedback or lodge a complaint if they are not satisfied with the service they have received. A version of the client service charter is available on the Department's website at

In 2009–10, six complaints were received and resolved under the provisions of the client service charter. The complaints related to delays in processing vehicle import applications or issues with the Department not responding to phone calls or emails. All complaints were investigated and, where appropriate, internal procedures were amended to reduce the risk that such concerns may arise again.

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Last Updated: 24 October, 2014