Chapter 6: Management and Accountability

The Department efficiently, effectively, economically and ethically manages the resources entrusted to it, consistent with the Australian Public Service (APS) Values, the Public Service Act 1999, the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and other relevant legislation.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with relevant appendices, including:

  • Appendix D—Report under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 on ecologically sustainable development principles, and
  • Appendix E—Report under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

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 its 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 who deal with the Department.

The Department is implementing a heightened, systematic and strategic approach to evaluation of program, policy and regulatory functions through an agency-wide Evaluation Plan. In 2011–12 the first two priority evaluations began. Four evaluation resource documents were published on the intranet and the first series of 20 Review Ready Workshops covering most areas of the Department was completed.

High-level groups

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

  • Secretary's Business Meeting (SBM)
  • Executive Management Team (EMT), and
  • Senior Executive Service Management Team (SESMT).

The most senior is the SBM, comprising the Secretary, the Deputy Secretaries and the Chief Operating Officer. It meets weekly to consider ministerial support, corporate policy, high-level policy, departmental resourcing and operational matters.

The EMT, which also meets weekly, is the main executive communication and coordination 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 Communications, and General Manager Governance and Reporting, attend meetings in an advisory capacity.

The EMT:

  • is briefed by Executive Directors on key issues for each business division
  • considers strategic policy proposals and updates on issues such as financial and human resource management
  • receives advice from the SBM, and
  • enables the Secretary to communicate key messages about Departmental performance, areas for improvement and emerging priorities.

The SESMT half-day meetings each quarter align with the department's business planning process. Each meeting is arranged by a small group of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees selected by the Executive. The Executive also sets the strategic-level theme for each meeting. Departmental staff and external speakers may be invited to give presentations on key departmental and broader government issues.

Apart from the quarterly meetings, the team may be called together from time to time to discuss special topics.

The SESMT meetings:

  • promote closer links and engagement among the SES
  • encourage participation by SES employees in organisational management discussions
  • provide feedback to the Executive on key management issues, and
  • update the SES group on important government, APS and departmental policy and operational matters.

Specific organisational management committees

Four committees focus on specific areas of organisational management and decision making.

The Audit Committee provides assurance and advice 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.

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 preparation of the Department's financial statements, in conjunction with the Financial Statements Sub-committee.

In 2011–12, the Audit Committee met five times under the Chairmanship of Deputy Secretary Andrew Wilson. The committee has six members, comprising two independent members and four departmental representatives. Meetings were attended by observers, including the Internal Audit Manager, representatives from other areas of the Department and from ANAO.

The Strategic Information Technology and Security Committee:

  • develops a common vision for the Department's information technology and security requirements
  • oversees data requirements and determines data-collection priorities
  • recommends IT and security-funding priorities
  • recommends information and protective security policies
  • is a forum for IT and security issues, and
  • makes decisions informed by the portfolio risk assessment.

The committee meets quarterly, is chaired by Deputy Secretary LynO'Connell, and is accountable to the Secretary.

The Finance, Reporting and Program Committee:

  • oversees the Department's Budget process
  • considers monthly financial reports
  • recommends Budget priorities
  • oversees development of the Department's Annual Report
  • oversees the strategic management and delivery of administered programs
  • considers and recommends non-IT capital investment proposals, and
  • is a forum for finance, reporting and program management issues.

This committee meets monthly and consists of the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and General Manager, People and Performance Branch.

Employee forum committees

Two other committees are the main forums for ensuring employees' views are taken into account in operation of the Department's Enterprise Agreement and in continuous improvement of the Department's health and safety environment.

The Departmental Consultative Committee represents all departmental employees and provides a forum to discuss issues relating to the implementation of the Enterprise Agreement.

This committee meets quarterly and consists of Deputy Secretary Andrew Wilson as Chair, elected employee representatives, union representatives and management representatives.

The Workplace Health and Safety Committee considers strategy, policy and performance matters to improve the Department's health and safety environment. The Committee is advisory and makes recommendations on draft policies and programs to the Secretary.

Planning and reporting framework

The Department published the 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) in May 2011, which:

  • described the departmental outcomes, programs and administered items for which the Department will receive funding in the coming Budget year
  • detailed objectives and components of each program, and the goods and services that each will deliver during the year
  • set financial and other performance targets for each program, and
  • presented 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 2011–12, PAES were published in February 2012, but no PSAES were required to be published.

The PBS informs 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 positioning, key deliverables, functional activities, risks, key stakeholders and available resources.

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

In April 2012, all departmental employees were invited to participate in a survey which focused on business planning. The survey was designed to inform the Secretary on the level of involvement by employees in business planning, their satisfaction with development of business plans, how the plans were used and communicated. The results showed that there was strong use of divisional business plans and that engagement was important at branch and section levels.

Enterprise-wide risk management

In 2011–12, the Department maintained an overarching risk management policy to manage and monitor identified risks.

This involved:

  • presenting the Department's risks to the EMT to confirm that they are updated in line with changing functions and directions
  • conducting risk assessment workshops with all business divisions, to ensure that divisional risks are identified and mitigated, and
  • updating the departmental risk profile which formed the basis of the Department's 2011–12 internal audit work plan.

The Department continued to revise and update the Enterprise Risk Framework in 2011–12, with fraud control planning and fraud risk assessment seamlessly integrated into the risk management process. The risk framework emphasises the importance of accountability, ownership and consistency in the Department's management of risk.

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 and contingent liabilities disclosed for 2011–12 were managed without significant impacts.

They related to:

  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority incident costs. Clean-up costs, arising from ship-sourced marine pollution incidents that cannot be recovered
  • Maritime Industry Finance Company Limited–board members' indemnities. Indemnities for Maritime Industry Finance Company Limited board members, and
  • tripartite deeds relating to the sale of federal leased airports. Tripartite deeds applying to federal leased airports—these provide financiers with limited step-in rights when an airport (head) lease is terminated, to enable them to correct the circumstances that triggered termination of the lease.

Protective security and fraud control

The Department continued to monitor contemporary risk factors during 2011–12, to maintain an appropriate level of assurance for the Executive and to meet the Australian Government's protective security expectations. This process will continue in 2012–13 to ensure compliance and alignment with the Australian Government's Protective Security Policy Framework and Information Security Manual. 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 comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, as certified by the Secretary in the letter of transmittal of this annual report.

Internal audit

In 2011–12, around 80 per cent of internal audit activity was for performance audits. The internal audit work program was designed to focus on core business activities, particularly program administration, and to mitigate risks identified through annual risk assessment.

The following audits were undertaken:

  • National Smart Managed Motorways Program
  • Identification Plate Revenue
  • Aviation and Airports Procedures Manuals
  • Last Ports of Call
  • Strengthening Aviation Security Initiative follow-up review
  • Review of Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act Section 83 Compliance
  • Establishment and Implementation of Single National Regulators
  • Fraud Control Review, and
  • Management of Credit Cards.

Ethical standards

The Department ensures that particular probity requirements and evidence of ethical behaviour are demonstrated when conducting particular processes. In 2011–12, the Department continued its 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 particularly sensitive. These probity plans use templates designed to ensure that the highest standard of ethical behaviour is evident in all covered processes.

In 2011–12, 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 received. The Client Service Charter is available on the Department's website at

In 2011–12, five complaints were received and resolved under the provisions of the Client Service Charter. All complaints were investigated and, where appropriate, internal procedures were amended to reduce the risk that such concerns reoccur.

Information Publication Scheme

From 1 May 2011, agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. The Department plan showing what information is published in accordance with the IPS requirements is accessible at

External Scrutiny

Decisions of courts and tribunals

In 2011–12 the Department was involved in a small number of matters before Australian courts and tribunals. They concerned issues such as motor vehicle imports, airport liquor licensing, and airport building approval. The Department was also involved in a small number of matters in Fair Work Australia. Some of these were ongoing at 30 June 2012.

Legal services expenditure

Under paragraph 11.1(ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2005, issued by the Attorney-General, the Department is required to make publicly available its legal services expenditure for the previous year. For 2011–12 the Department's legal expenditure was:

  • Total external legal services expenditure $3,300,786.61
  • Total internal legal services expenditure $588,247.00

Audit office and parliamentary scrutiny

Reports on matters relating to the Department are released by ANAO, parliamentary committees or other public bodies from time to time.

The Department formally responds to ANAO reports in writing, and ANAO includes the Department's responses in its reports. The ANAO makes its reports available online at

Details of the reports of parliamentary committee inquiries are available online at The Australian Government tables its responses to parliamentary inquiries and other reports in Parliament.

Table 6.1 lists the reports relating to the Department that were released in 2011–12 and dates tabled in Parliament.

Table 6.1 External reports relating to the Department in 2011–12

Inquiry type Title Tabled
Australian National Audit Office
Performance audits Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Infrastructure Employment Projects Stream of the Jobs Fund 22 September 2011
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme 22 November 2011
Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Bike Paths Component of the Local Jobs Stream of the Jobs Funda 20 March 2012
Cross-portfolio audits Confidentiality in Government Contracts: Senate Order for Departmental and Agency Contracts (Calendar Year 2010 Compliance) 25 August 2011
Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the Period Ended 30 June 2011 15 December 2011
Administration of Grant Reporting Obligations 24 January 2012
Interim Phase of the Audits of the Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2012 26 June 2012
Parliamentary committees
House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Advisory Report on the Navigation Amendment Bill 2011 25 August 2011
House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Finding the Right Balance: Cabin crew ratios on Australian aircraft 21 November 2011
House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Inquiry into bills referred on 24 November 2011; Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 and Road Safety Remuneration (Consequential Amendments and Related Provisions) Bill 2011 1 March 2012
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Air Navigation and Civil Aviation Amendment (Aircraft Crew) Bill 2011 22 March 2012
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Qantas Sale Amendment (Still Call Australia Home) Bill 2011 22 March 2012
House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Advisory report on the Aviation Transport Security (Screening) Bill 2012 9 May 2012
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Inquiry into the provisions of the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012 18 May 2012
House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications Inquiry into bills referred 22 March 2012 (Shipping Reforms) 24 May 2012
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012 [Provisions] 30 May 2012
Senate Economics Legislation Committee Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Bill 2012 [Provisions] and related bills 15 June 2012

a The responsibility for, and all resources associated with, the Bike Paths Component of the Local Jobs Stream of the Jobs Fund was transferred to the then Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government as a result of the Administrative Arrangements Order of 14 September 2010.

SES level employees of the Department, in addition to attending specific parliamentary inquiries, also attend Senate Estimates Committee hearings to respond to questions about the Department's activities.

Table 6.2 provides a summary of the number of parliamentary questions on notice received by the Department.

Table 6.2 Parliamentary questions in 2011–12

Source of questions Number
House of Representatives 30
Senate 21
Senate Estimates Committee hearings 428
Total 479

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Last Updated: 17 November, 2014