Corporate governance

​​The department's corporate governance framework provides the mechanisms to ensure we set and pursue our objectives efficiently, effectively and ethically. The framework promotes and upholds the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct, enables us to monitor and improve our performance and ensures we comply with legislation.

Our executive committees provide oversight of the governance framework. The Executive Management Committee (EMC) oversees the implementation and improvement of the department's governance structures and business operations, is focused on ensuring the right organisational capabilities are in place and encourages collaboration within the department and with other agencies and our stakeholders. The EMC is supported by sub-committees:

  • Budget, Investment and Finance Committee
  • Change Management Committee
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee
  • Information Management Committee
  • Legislation and Regulatory Reform Committee
  • People Committee.

The Security Committee reports to the secretary on the department's compliance with the Australian Government's Protective Security Policy Framework. The Audit Committee provides assurance and advice to the secretary on risk management and business assurance. It also monitors our internal audit programme, developed through risk analysis and discussions with senior management.

The roles and membership of each committee are outlined in Appendix 3.

Achievements

Building our capability

Responding to the capability review

The findings of the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) capability review of the department were published in November 2013. We developed an action plan in response, with work to deliver the plan continuing throughout 2013–14, and are on track to address the findings of the review.

More information about the review is available on the APSC website.

Service delivery modernisation

The capability review identified the need for us to be more client-focused with a modern service delivery approach. While the review acknowledged the direction and progress of our work in this area, it concluded a greater, more focused effort was required to improve our service delivery operations.

As a result of the review's findings, we commenced the Service Delivery Modernisation (SDM) programme to streamline and improve our business processes and client service through better use of modern technology and work practices. Our aim is to make it easier for clients to access our services and meet their regulatory obligations. To date, our progress includes:

  • documenting and analysing our existing service delivery arrangements
  • defining a future state vision for our service delivery
  • commencing projects to enable online lodgement of documentation for imported cargo, improve call management and to pilot devices for our mobile workforce to enable on-the-spot service delivery.

We have developed an implementation plan for the SDM programme, outlining our approach to progressively modernise service delivery arrangements across the department over the next four years.

Improving our programme and project management

We continued to build our capability to deliver and manage change initiatives. Major activities included:

  • launching an administrative design framework and associated guides, tools and templates to support our staff in designing better outcomes for the department and our clients
  • embedding risk, issue and benefit management practices within existing processes
  • simplifying existing practices to better support change.

We delivered these activities under our Capability Improvement Plan, which aims to maintain our portfolio, programme and project management maturity model (P3M3) level.

Managing our information

We established an Information Management Committee in September 2013 as part of ongoing work to improve the way we manage our information. This involves raising awareness of the need for strong information management and ensuring we better manage our information assets efficiently and effectively to meet legislative and policy obligations.

The committee has established an information management framework for the department. It has focused on delivering specific improvements in forms, geospatial information and instructional material for staff.

Managing our legal advice

We established the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) in July 2013 to better coordinate the provision of advice to the department on legal matters and services including legislation, freedom of information, privacy and claims resolution advice. The OGC is responsible for identifying and mitigating legal risks, enabling more streamlined and accurate internal and external reporting and managing our relationship with external legal providers.

Managing our risk

The department regularly assesses its risk maturity level and compares its performance with other Australian Government agencies. We performed well in the 2014 Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey. The department's summary benchmarking survey score of 8.9 was significantly above the average summary score of 7.0 for other agencies and the average summary score of 7.9 obtained by our peers.

As a result of the benchmarking survey, the department obtained a discount of 9.32 per cent on its 2014–15 Comcover insurance premiums (equating to $115 808).

Managing our finances

Improving our financial controls

We continued to improve our financial control framework to ensure the department meets its responsibilities under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act). This included adopting the model Chief Executive Instructions issued by the Department of Finance.

We prepared for the implementation of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), which will replace the FMA Act from 1 July 2014. This included required changes to delegations and preparing Accountable Authority Instructions to replace the Chief Executive Instructions. These changes will not have material impacts on our financial management framework in the short term. In 2014–15, we will review and improve our processes to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the PGPA Act.

Improving our financial sustainability

Our budget comprises roughly equal amounts of revenue sourced from Government appropriation and cost-recovered revenue from industry for regulatory services. In addition, we receive funding for programmes we administer on behalf of the government, collect and distribute levies on behalf of industry and provide matching Government funding for research and development. Each element of the budget requires careful management to ensure transparency and accountability.

The department's operating deficit in 2013–14 of $13.4 million was a considerable improvement on the 2012–13 deficit of $48.8 million. This reflects substantial efforts to improve the efficiency of our services and to drive down costs. Achievements in 2013–14 included:

  • a reduction in full-time equivalent staff, including through the department's voluntary redundancy programme
  • an organisational re-design process to align the structure of the department with the Government's priorities
  • continuing improvements in the department's business practices and workforce productivity through the progressive replacement of largely manual and paper-based service delivery processes with modern business systems, including online lodgement, call centres and mobile technology for inspection staff.

We have made significant progress in our efforts to improve the department's financial sustainability. We plan to deliver a balanced budget in 2014–15, consistent with allowable deficits, and to maintain a balanced operating result in subsequent years, while improving services and maintaining acceptable levels of risk.

Reviewing cost-recovery

In 2013–14, we completed reviews of our cost-recovery arrangements for import clearance, seaports, post-entry animal quarantine for horses, and live animal exports. These reviews resulted in fee adjustments and new Cost-recovery Implementation Statements to commence on 1 July 2014, providing a balanced position for those arrangements in 2014–15.

The department will undertake a comprehensive review of all cost-recovery arrangements in 2014–15 to provide a sustainable balanced position for cost-recovered activities over the long-term.

Managing our assets

A significant portion of the department's expenditure is related to property leases and property maintenance costs. We maintain around 117 sites across Australia ranging from office accommodation to post-entry quarantine facilities, laboratories, data facilities and residences in remote locations.

At 30 June 2014, our asset base was valued at $136.9 million. Our major investments are in land, buildings and ICT hardware and software.

The department invests in new assets to improve our systems and processes. We manage capital investment through an annual capital plan that reflects both Government priorities and ongoing business requirements. We continue to use a balanced scorecard framework to evaluate capital proposals and ensure investments are made effectively. In 2014–15, we are planning to enhance our financial management information system to better manage our capital projects.

Re-building our ICT capability

We have more than 2980 ICT-related assets in locations across Australia.

In 2013–14, we continued to reform and repair our ICT infrastructure. We replaced critical operational and communications services with a more robust and secure telecommunications capability. We moved our mission critical systems to a new and contemporary virtualised environment and finalised moving all production systems to a whole-of-government Data Centre as a service environment.

We changed the department's backup capability from a legacy tape-based operation to more contemporary and cost-effective backup devices, and moved from paper-based records storage and management to an all-electronic records system.

Moving to a new telecommunications network

In July 2013, we engaged Optus as the department's single telecommunications provider. This service underpins our ICT capability to respond to business change outcomes in a timely manner and supports the information and communication technology reform programme within the broader biosecurity reform agenda.

The rollout of the new Optus network delivered a substantially improved wide area telecommunications network, and a new Voice Over Internet Protocol telephony system supporting more than 4000 handsets. We implemented a new contact centre capability in Canberra and in regional offices in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. Switchboard functionality was also rolled out to the Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin regional offices.

Through Optus we moved to a new video conferencing capability that has significantly improved the quality and stability of video conferencing services.

These improvements were all delivered with minimal disruption to the department's operations.

Meeting service standards

On 1 July 2013, we implemented a whole-of-agency Client Service Charter that outlines our service responsibilities and standards and supports the department's service delivery modernisation programme. We continued to improve access, timeliness and consistency in the way we manage client feedback, by refining the process, categories and quality of the data we record, to assist in consistency and improving trend data analysis.

The service charter establishes benchmarks for service delivery to the community and other stakeholders. During the year, we met our benchmark of responding to official complaints within 10 business days in 91 per cent of cases.

In 2013–14, we received a total of 143 compliments and 266 complaints through the department's client feedback channels. We received other feedback through other channels and referred it to relevant divisions as appropriate. Client feedback is reported monthly to the Executive Management Committee, which considers trend data for planning and improving processes.

Maintaining ethical standards

We work closely with the APSC, through its Ethics Advisory Service and the Ethics Contact Officer Network, to ensure our processes mirror APS best practice methods to maintain and improve the ethical standards applied by our staff.

On 1 July 2013, part of the department came under the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity's (ACLEI) jurisdiction for prescribed staff. Regional managers, officers involved in undertaking assessment, control and clearance of vessels and cargo imported into Australia, and officers with access to the Integrated Cargo System are subject to the ACLEI's jurisdiction.We worked closely with the ACLEI on maintaining the integrity of agency staff, participated in the ACLEI's community of practice for corruption prevention forums and implemented a mandatory online training package to increase staff awareness of fraud and corruption matters.

The Integrity and Conduct team continued to promote awareness of misconduct issues and prevention measures. We updated our online induction programme to cover amendments to the Public Service Act 1999, APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct. The online induction training package ensures all new employees are aware of our governance, ethical, fraud and security standards.

The implementation of the public interest disclosure scheme in January 2014 provided an additional avenue for public officials to make a disclosure of suspected wrongdoing. The scheme supports and protects people who make a disclosure and ensures that disclosures are properly investigated and dealt with. The department established a network of authorised officers to receive disclosures and provided training to managers and supervisors to ensure they understood their responsibilities under the scheme.

Challenges

Cutting red tape

We put arrangements in place to ensure the department was well-positioned to progress the Government's deregulation agenda, including establishing a ministerial advisory council, the Agriculture Industry Advisory Council, to advise on broad agricultural matters, including regulation reduction opportunities.

Within the department, we established a new deregulation unit. The unit developed a work plan for deregulation opportunities. Its initial work focused on agriculture and veterinary chemical reforms, a review of cost-recovery arrangements, biosecurity legislation reforms and the modernisation of service delivery arrangements. We also completed an initial audit of portfolio regulations to identify further opportunities to minimise the regulatory burden on industry.

Achievements included:

  • reducing the regulatory burden for registrants of agricultural and veterinary chemicals
  • simplifying export arrangements for plants and plant products
  • merging the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation and the Wine Australia Corporation
  • not proceeding with the appointment of an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare
  • reducing the number of days cats and dogs spend in quarantine
  • reducing the regulatory burden for importers of new agricultural machinery.

Maintaining our technological capability

Outages in the Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON) communications environment severely tested the department's business continuity capability. Because of our ICT reform and repair work, we were able to restrict the impact to the Canberra offices. No regional operations were affected by the outages.

Following a review of these incidents, we have put in place mitigation measures to prevent any further ICON outages from impacting the department substantially.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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