Chapter 6: 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 its work, and high standards of performance, conformance and accountability are maintained. The governance framework promotes impartiality, commitment to service, accountability, respectfulness and ethical behavior to maintain high standards of governance and instill confidence in all who deal with the Department.

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
  • Executive Management Team, and
  • Senior Executive Service Management Team.

The most senior is the Secretary's Business Meeting, 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 Executive Management Team, 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 Executive Management Team:

  • 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 Secretary's Business Meeting, and
  • enables the Secretary to communicate key messages about departmental performance, areas for improvement and emerging priorities.

The Senior Executive Service Management Team meetings each quarter align with the Department's business planning process. Departmental employees 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 Senior Executive Service Management Team meetings:

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

Specific Organisational Management Committees

Three 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 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 2012–13, 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 the Australian National Audit Office.

The Finance, Reporting and Program Committee:

  • is a forum for finance, reporting and program management issues
  • oversees the Department's budget process and recommends budget priorities
  • oversees the strategic management and delivery of administered programs
  • considers monthly financial reports
  • considers workforce reports and initiatives
  • considers quarterly work health and safety reports, and
  • considers priority evaluations and related Department activities.

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

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 to the Secretary, IT and security-funding priorities
  • recommends information and protective security policies, and
  • provides a forum for the discussion of IT and security issues.

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

Planning and Reporting Framework

The Department published the 2012–13 Portfolio Budget Statements in May 2012, which:

  • described the departmental outcomes, programs and administered items for which the Department will receive funding in the forthcoming 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.

The Portfolio Budget Statements inform the development of strategic business plans for each division. These plans, 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 and to reassess operational risks.

Enterprise-Wide Risk Management

In 2012–13, the Department maintained an overarching risk management policy to manage and monitor identified risks.

This involved:

  • presenting the Department's risks to the Executive to confirm that they are aligned 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 contributed to the development of the Department's 2012–13 internal audit work plan.

The Department continued to revise and update the Enterprise Risk Framework in 2012–13, 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 2012–13 were managed without significant impacts.

They related to the following:

  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority incident costs including clean-up costs arising from ship-sourced marine pollution incidents that cannot be recovered
  • Maritime Industry Finance Company Limited—board members' indemnity including indemnities for Maritime Industry Finance Company Limited board members to protect them against civil claims relating to their employment and conduct as directors
  • Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited—board members' indemnity including indemnities for Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited board members to protect them against civil claims relating to their employment and conduct as directors, and
  • tripartite deeds relating to the sale of federal leased airports: tripartite deeds relate to applicable federal leased airports which provide for limited step-in rights for financiers when an airport (head) lease is terminated, to enable financiers to correct the circumstances that triggered the termination of the lease.

Protective Security and Fraud Control

The Department continued to monitor contemporary risk factors during 2012–13, 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 2013–14 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 2012–13, the internal audit work program was designed using a risk-based approach.

The following audits were undertaken:

  • Cyber Security Processes
  • Introduction of Work Health and Safety Legislation
  • High Speed Rail Study—Procurement and Contract Compliance, and
  • Airport Building Controller Alice Springs Airport.

Ethical Standards

The Department is committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity, good governance and ethics. All employees are required to uphold the Australian Public Service Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct. Guidance and training is provided to all employees for ethical decision-making and to assist in recognising and dealing with ethical issues.

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 www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/about/charter.aspx.

In 2012–13, two complaints were received and resolved under the provisions of the Client Service Charter. Both complaints were investigated and, where appropriate, internal procedures were amended to reduce the risk that such concerns reoccur.

Information Publication Scheme

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information as part of the Information Publication Scheme. 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's plan showing what information is published in accordance with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme is accessible at www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/ips/index.aspx.

External Scrutiny

Decisions of Courts and Tribunals

In 2012–13 the Department was involved in a small number of matters before Australian courts and tribunals. The matters related to issues such as motor vehicle imports, approval of airport master plans and licensing under the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012. Some matters were ongoing at 30 June 2013.

One review by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner was finalised during 2012–13. The decision can be found at www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/ips/index.aspx.

Legal Services Expenditure

For 2012–13 the Department's legal expenditure was:

  • $2,794,031.89 for total external legal services expenditure, and
  • $807,220.00 for total internal legal services expenditure.

Audit Office and Parliamentary Scrutiny

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

The Department formally responds to the Australian National Audit Office reports in writing, and it includes the Department's responses in its reports which are available online at www.anao.gov.au/Publications/Audit-Reports.

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

Table 6.1 lists the reports relating to the Department that were released in 2012–13 and dates tabled in the Parliament.

Table 6.1 External reports relating to the Department in 2012–13

Inquiry type Title Tabled
Australian National Audit Office
Cross-portfolio audits Audit of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period 30 June 2012 20 December 2012
Interim Phase of the Audits of the Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2013 20 June 2013
Agencies' Implementation of Performance Audit Recommendations 25 June 2013
Parliamentary committees
Senate Legislation Committee Maritime Powers Bill 2012 [Provisions]; Maritime Powers (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012 [Provisions]* 12 September 2012
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Annual Reports (No. 1 of 2013) 14 March 2013
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Additional Estimates 2012–13 19 March 2013
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Aviation Accident Investigations 23 May 2013
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Budget Estimates 2013–14 27 June 2013

Note: * The Attorney-General's Department was the lead agency for this inquiry. The Department provided a submission to the inquiry on 13 July 2012.

Senior Executive Service 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 2012–13

Source of questions Number
House of Representatives 8
Senate 14
Senate Estimates Committee hearings 416
Total 438

Australian Public Service Commission Capability Review

In 2012, the Australian Public Service Commission undertook a capability review of the Department as part of an APS-wide program responding to the APS Blueprint reforms proposal. The Commission assessed the capability of departments to meet their current and future challenges. The review focused on areas of leadership, strategy and delivery.

The review was published in November 2012 and highlighted the Department's strong reputation for delivery and that it was well positioned to achieve its future objectives. An action plan was developed to further improve some organisational strategies to support the Department's activities, including a greater emphasis on furthering our leadership and performance culture.

A status report on the implementation of the action plan (reporting period 8 November 2012 to 14 June 2013) was submitted to the Commission on 14 June 2013.

The report can be accessed on the Commission's website at www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/doit.

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Last Updated: 10 December, 2014