Part 3: Management and Accountability (page 2)

External Scrutiny

The department is subject to external scrutiny from the ANAO, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and parliamentary committees. The department also consults widely with stakeholders through a range of forums. Together, these external mechanisms help to ensure effective, accountable and transparent delivery of the department's outcomes.

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

The ANAO completed three performance audits in 2012–13 relating to the department's activities. The full reports on these audits can be found at www.anao.gov.au/Publications/Audit.

Report No. 3 2012–13: The design and conduct of the first application round for the Regional Development Australia Fund (tabled in parliament on 19 September 2012)

The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of the department's management of the design and implementation of the first application round of the Regional Development Australia Fund.

The report made three recommendations for the department to improve the assessment and documentation process for future funding rounds. The department agreed with the report and made changes to its assessment arrangements to address the audit's recommendations.

Report No. 23 2012–13: The Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate's conduct of value for money reviews of flood reconstruction projects in Victoria (tabled in parliament on 26 February 2013)

The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate, supported by the National Disaster Recovery Taskforce, in providing assurance that value for money is being achieved in recovery and reconstruction expenditure in Victoria.

The report made one recommendation to which the department agreed in principle. The department will continue to work with Victorian partners to improve reporting on project-level information to enable value-for-money reviews to occur.

Report No. 24 2012–13: The preparation and delivery of the natural disaster recovery work plans for Queensland and Victoria (tabled in parliament on 26 February 2013)

The objective of this audit was to assess the extent to which the disaster recovery work plans for Queensland and Victoria were prepared, and appropriate monitoring reports were provided, in accordance with the relevant national partnership agreements.

The report made two recommendations relating to obtaining project-level information on reconstruction programs required by the national partnership agreements and improving monitoring of the delivery of the work plans for Queensland and Victoria.

The department accepted the recommendations and is working to implement them.

Other ANAO audit reports

The department routinely reviews recommendations made in ANAO performance audits to improve internal corporate governance practices.

Reports reviewed in 2012–13 included:

  • Audit Report No. 4 2012–13: Confidentiality in government contracts: Senate Order for Departmental and Agency Contracts (calendar year 2011 compliance)
  • Audit Report No. 16 2012–13: Audits of the financial statements of Australian Government entities for the period ended 30 June 2012
  • Audit Report No. 21: Individual management services provided to people in immigration detention
  • Audit Report No. 25 2012–13: Defence's implementation of audit recommendations
  • Audit Report No. 28 2012–13: The Australian Government Performance Measurement and Reporting Framework—pilot project to audit key performance indicators
  • Audit Report No. 34 2012–13: Control of credit card use.

ANAO performance audits in progress at 30 June 2013

The department is assisting the ANAO to complete the following performance audits:

  • design and conduct of the third application round for the Regional Development Australia Fund
  • design and conduct of the fourth application round for the Regional Development Australia Fund
  • Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate
  • managing conflicts of interest in Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 agencies (cross-portfolio audit).

Once tabled in parliament, the audit reports will be available on the ANAO's website.

Judicial decisions

The matter of BC Galleries (VIC) Pty Ltd v Commonwealth of Australia involved a challenge to the seizure of 43 objects from BC Galleries under section 14(1) of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 and Australian quarantine laws. The objects were seized on the basis that they were foreign cultural objects illegally exported from their country of origin.

On 27 October 2010, BC Galleries commenced proceedings in the Federal Magistrates Court over the seizure of nine of these items. The remaining 34 objects were returned to Cambodia, their country of origin.

On 23 August 2012, the Federal Magistrates Court found in favour of BC Galleries. The decision was based on the court's finding that the Commonwealth had (and failed to discharge) the onus of proving that the seized objects were liable to forfeiture under the Act. The Commonwealth was ordered to return the nine seized objects to BC Galleries, which was also awarded costs.

Administrative tribunal decisions

There were no administrative tribunal decisions relating to the department in 2012–13.

Reports by the Commonwealth Ombudsman

The department advises members of the public that they are able to file a complaint about the department to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission. One complaint was received by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012–13. The Commission did not investigate the complaint on the basis that it considered that the matter had already been resolved. No complaints about the department were investigated by any of the other offices mentioned above in 2012–13. The Commonwealth Ombudsman did not complete any own-motion investigations relating to the department during the year.

Reports and inquiries by parliamentary committees

In 2012–13, committees of the Australian Parliament carried out the following inquiries that involved or made reference to the department:

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia

On 13 February 2013, the House Standing Committee on Regional Australia tabled its report on the inquiry into the use of fly-in, fly-out workforce practices in regional Australia.

Officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 21 September 2011 and 29 February 2012, and the department made a submission to the committee on 30 November 2011.

The committee's report made 21 recommendations, focusing on research and data collection, service and infrastructure provision in regional mining communities and taxation arrangements. At 30 June 2013 the government had not responded to the report.

Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories

On 28 June 2013, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories tabled its report on its review of the department's 2010–11 annual report. The committee's review involved visiting the Indian Ocean Territories, and its report, titled Report on the visit to the Indian Ocean Territories 21–25 October 2012 (Review of the Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Annual Report 2010-11), made 25 recommendations which focused on improvements to infrastructure and service delivery, economic development and governance in the Indian Ocean Territories.

Specific recommendations included:

  • committing sufficient funds to give effect to the recommendations in the final report of the Expert Working Group on Christmas Island
  • formulating a vision or strategic plan in direct consultation with the island communities for the future of the Indian Ocean Territories
  • developing and committing to an economic strategy for the Indian Ocean Territories to transition the economy from its current situation to one based on sustainable private sector activity.

The department provided evidence to the committee on 28 November 2012. Additional information and responses to questions on notice were provided to the committee on 30 January 2013.

On 28 March 2013, the committee tabled its report on the inquiry into the allocation of land to diplomatic missions in the Australian Capital Territory, An Estate for the future: the allocation of land to diplomatic missions in the ACT. The report made three recommendations:

  • that the government develop a policy on land allocation for diplomatic missions
  • that the National Capital Authority develop a strategy for land allocation to diplomatic missions
  • that the National Capital Authority withdraw the application for development of Stirling Ridge for diplomatic land.

The department is currently preparing a whole-of-government response to the recommendations. The National Capital Authority's response to the committee's report was tabled on 17 April 2013.

On 3 April and 12 September 2012, the department provided advice to the committee about the program of reform for Norfolk Island. The committee visited Norfolk Island on 29 and 30 April 2013 to monitor progress under the Norfolk Island Road Map and to examine the island's economy. The department assisted the committee by providing briefings before the visit. The committee's report on the visit was tabled on 5 June 2013.

Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services

On 20 March 2013, the Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services tabled its report on the inquiry into Australia's family business sector. Officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 13 November 2012. Additional information and responses to questions on notice taken at the hearing were provided to the committee on 14 December 2012.

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee

On 19 March 2013, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee tabled its report on its inquiry into the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2013. The department made a submission to the inquiry, and officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 1 March 2013. Answers to questions taken on notice were provided to the committee on 7 March 2013.

On 9 May 2013, the committee tabled its report on its inquiry into the Australia Council Bill 2013 and the Australia Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013. Officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 23 April 2013, and submissions were provided to the committee on 17 April 2013 and 3 May 2013.

On 16 May 2013, the committee was tasked by the Senate with inquiring into the practice of sports science in Australia. The department made a submission to the inquiry and officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 12 June 2013. Answers to questions taken on notice were provided to the committee on 25 June 2013.

Joint Select Committee on the Constitutional Recognition of Local Government

On 7 March 2013, the Joint Select Committee on the Constitutional Recognition of Local Government tabled its final report on its inquiry into the majority finding of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government including by amending section 96 of the Constitution.

Officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 20 February 2013, and submissions were provided to the committee on 13 and 16 February 2013. The committee recommended that the government proceed with a referendum at the 2013 federal election.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs

On 20 September 2012, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs was tasked by the government with inquiring into the contribution of sport to Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring. Officers from the department provided evidence to the committee on 14 February 2013. The committee's report was tabled on 24 June 2013.

Details of the reports of parliamentary committee inquiries are available at www.aph.gov.au.

Capability Review

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) carried out a review in 2012–13 of the department's capability in the areas of leadership, strategy and delivery. The review was positive about the department's strengths in many operational areas, and it identified a number of opportunities for organisational improvements.

The report will be released by the APSC in November 2013.

Stakeholder engagement

The department regularly consults with stakeholders as a core part of its work. Listed below are some of the forums used to facilitate this engagement. The department also participates in all portfolio agency board meetings.

Regional development and local government

  • Australian Council of Local Government
  • Council of Australian Governments Regional Australia Standing Council Senior Officials Group
  • North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy governance and steering committees
  • North Australia Beef Industry Roundtable
  • Regional Development Australia committee network
  • Regional Development Australia National Forum

Services to territories

  • Indian Ocean Territories Regional Development Organisation
  • Interdepartmental Committee on the Indian Ocean Territories
  • Intergovernmental Working Group on the Centenary of Canberra
  • Intergovernmental Working Group on Local Government
  • Jervis Bay Territory Emergency Management Committee

Arts and cultural development

  • Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation
  • Cross-agency arts reporting and measurement working group
  • Film Certification Advisory Board
  • National Arts and Disability Strategy Working Group
  • National Cultural Heritage Committee
  • National Cultural Policy Reference Group
  • Public Lending Rights Committee
  • Tax Incentives for Arts Committee

Sport and recreation

  • Australian Sports Integrity Network
  • Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials
  • Commonwealth Games Coordination Committee
  • Council of Europe Drafting Group on Match-Fixing
  • Major Events Officials Working Group
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
  • World Anti-Doping Authority Executive Committee

Freedom of information

Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), the department is required to publish a range of information on its website as part of the Information Publication Scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to assist the public in understanding the work, functions and structure of government agencies. The information the department publishes includes its organisational structure, operational information, functions, statutory appointments, annual reports, consultation arrangements, and how to access information under the FOI Act.

The department also publishes information routinely released under FOI requests and information provided to the parliament in accordance with Information Publication Scheme requirements.

The department takes a proactive approach to publishing the information it holds. The department's Information Publication Scheme homepage is at www.regional.gov.au/department/ips.

Tables 15 and 16 provide statistics on the volume of FOI requests handled and the timeliness of FOI requests resolved in 2012–13. The majority of FOI requests — 98 per cent — were processed within the applicable statutory time period in 2012–13.

Table 15: Volume of FOI requests handled and resolved

Table 15: Volume of FOI requests handled and resolved
Requests on hand at 1 July 2012 (A) 6
New requests received (B) 33
Requests withdrawn or transferred (C) 2
Requests on hand at 30 June 2013 (D) 8
Total FOI requests resolved (A + B – C – D) 29

Table 16: Timeliness of resolution of FOI requests

Table 16: Timeliness of resolution of FOI requests
Resolved in <30 days 12
Resolved in 31–60 days 10
Resolved in 61–90 days 6
Resolved in >90 days 1
Total FOI requests resolved 29

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