Corporate governance

​​​Our 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 Services (APS) Values and Code of Conduct, enables us to monitor and improve our performance and ensures we comply with legislation.

Our framework is based on an executive committee structure and a set of assurance arrangements to provide:

  • clear leadership, direction and oversight
  • sound planning
  • robust performance management
  • strong financial management
  • appropriate systems and controls
  • integrated risk management
  • effective workforce planning
  • business improvement
  • accountability, transparency and integrity.

The Executive Management Committee (EMC) oversees the implementation and improvement of the department’s governance structures and business operations, shares responsibility for increasing the department’s capability and encourages collaboration between business areas, other agencies and our stakeholders. The EMC is supported by several sub-committees to address business priorities, namely the:

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

The Security Committee reports to the secretary on security issues affecting the department including fraud, corruption and business continuity, along with controls to manage these risks. The Audit Committee comprises both independent and departmental members. It reports to the secretary on risk management and business assurance.

Committee roles and membership are outlined in Appendix 3​.


Strategic planning

We participated in Department of Finance consultation on a new Commonwealth performance framework as part of the government’s Public Management Reform Agenda. We began developing a new performance framework to meet the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) requirements for a new corporate plan and annual performance statement.

The new framework re-aligns the department’s 15 existing programmes into five themes reflecting the department’s strategic objectives. It also sets some new high-level performance measures that were released in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16 in May 2015.

The full performance framework will form the basis of the department’s reporting in its first annual performance statement to be published in the 2015–16 annual report.

Building our capability

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) published its Department of Agriculture capability review in November 2013. We volunteered to have a ‘health check’ of the department’s response to the review findings. The APSC’s review of our action plan was completed in early 2015. We were found to have exceeded expectations in some areas and to be on track to address the remaining actions.

Improving our programme and project management

We continued to build the department’s capability to deliver and manage change initiatives. We developed a holistic view of all changes—including whole-of–government changes, internal reform and process improvement measures—to help the executive committees prioritise and manage the change agenda and associated funding.

We completed a desktop review of our maturity against the portfolio, programme and project management maturity model (P3M3) and are continuing to deliver and improve activities under our capability improvement plan.

Service delivery modernisation

We commenced the Service Delivery Modernisation (SDM) programme in 2013–14 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 to meet their regulatory obligations.

To date, we have:

  • documented and analysed existing service delivery arrangements
  • defined a future state for our service delivery
  • implemented priority projects to enable the online lodgement of documentation for imported cargo, to improve call management and to conduct a pilot of mobile devices for our workforce to enable on-the-spot service delivery.

We will continue to implement the SDM programme by progressively modernising service delivery arrangements over the coming years.

Managing our workflows

In October 2014, we implemented the Parliamentary Document Management System (PDMS) as part of a whole-of-government parliamentary workflow solution.

This included collaborating with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, and training ministerial and agency staff to ensure the PDMS met the needs of the portfolio’s minister and parliamentary secretary, and the department executive.

The PDMS is improving the way we work across the portfolio and with other agencies in fostering a coordinated approach to portfolio priorities.

Managing our finances

In 2014–15, we launched the Finance Strategy 2014–19, to ensure the department is financially efficient, sustainable and compliant over the long term. The objective was to deliver a balanced budget in 2014–15 (consistent with allowable losses) and to maintain that position in subsequent years while improving services and maintaining acceptable levels of risk.

We implemented a number of internal financial policies to assist in reallocating resources to meet the department’s changing business needs. Our internal budget processes now include forecasting over the forward estimates to align with the external budget.

Ensuring the department manages within its resources

The 2014–15 full-year result is in surplus and division’s baseline budgets over the forward estimates have been aligned to balanced budgets (consistent with allowable losses).

The department’s budget comprises of revenue sourced from government appropriation and cost-recovered revenue from clients for regulatory services. New fee rates were implemented in early 2014–15 to better reflect the cost of delivering services. We have also been consulting industry on the redesign of the department’s export certification and biosecurity cost-recovery arrangements. (see Programme 2.1).

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 2015, our asset base was valued at $140.2 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 which reflects both government priorities and ongoing business and ICT needs. We use a balanced scorecard framework to evaluate capital proposals and ensure investments are made effectively.

Embedding strong financial governance

The Budget, Investment and Finance Committee has a well-functioning secretariat and a work programme to provide advice to the executive on the department’s investment, cash management and strategic plans.

The committee is managing a comprehensive investment strategy requiring detailed business cases to ensure investment decisions are consistent with government priorities.

Managing our risk

We updated our risk management policy and framework to align with the PGPA Act and the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy. The department’s strategic risks are reviewed regularly and a report provided to the EMC.

The department performed well in the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey 2015, which measures the appropriateness of an entity’s risk management framework, processes and systems. The survey aligns with the nine elements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and in 2014–15 included a new requirement for entities to set target maturity levels.

The department achieved an overall maturity level of Advanced, the second-highest of the six maturity levels. This rating exceeded the department’s target of Integrated, which is the fourth level. The department’s rating also exceeded the average maturity level of Integrated for all survey participants and for the department’s peer group.

The department received an honourable mention at the 2014 Comcover Awards for Excellence in the enterprise-wide risk management category. It also received an honourable mention in the risk initiative category for its work on the Australian Fumigation Accreditation Scheme (see Programme 2.1).

Business continuity

We maintain a business continuity programme to ensure critical services are delivered and assets are available in accordance with the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework.

In 2014–15, we conducted a business impact analysis to update and validate the department’s critical functions. We also carried out business continuity exercises to test our plans, provided training and identified improvements.

Managing our security

We strengthened the department’s approach to preventing fraud, corruption and addressing security vulnerabilities through targeted risk mitigation measures.

These included raising staff awareness of integrity matters through a mandatory e-learning module. We also entered into an arrangement with a law enforcement agency for the secondment of specialist staff, and re-evaluated our fraud and corruption risks.

Cutting red tape

Reducing compliance costs

The first year of the government’s deregulation agenda ended on 31 December 2014. During the year, the agriculture portfolio removed a net $24.5 million of compliance costs for clients while maintaining strong risk management safeguards.

The portfolio introduced 105 regulatory changes between September 2013 and 31 December 2014. Of these, fewer than 10 introduced compliance requirements, 37 reduced the cost of compliance and more than half had no effect on compliance costs.

Overall, the new measures reduced the total annual cost of complying with regulations by 4 per cent compared to 2013.

These measures included the introduction of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and related instruments to modernise Australia’s biosecurity laws—estimated to save at least $6.9 million a year in compliance costs—and implementing the SDM programme. The programme is designed to facilitate trade in animal and plant commodities while reducing compliance costs for importers and exporters.

Regulatory reform

ABARES conducted a portfolio-wide audit of all existing regulations to assess their scope, scale and impact. All regulations were catalogued and the compliance cost was estimated using the government’s Regulatory Burden Measurement framework. The results will help the department identify potential areas for reform.

Other key activities included:

  • consulting the Agricultural Industry Advisory Council on opportunities to reduce unnecessary compliance costs
  • providing letters of expectation from the minister to portfolio regulatory agencies on the behaviour and performance of regulators
  • coordinating the development of the portfolio’s first deregulation annual report. The Agriculture portfolio—deregulation annual report 2014 is available on the department's website.

Internal audit

Our internal audit programme is developed through risk analysis, review of previous and current assurance arrangements and discussions with senior management. The secretary endorses the annual programme and the Audit Committee monitors implementation. The committee also reviews audit findings and recommendations and the department’s response.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu provides audit services to the department. In 2014–15, audits reviewed our:

  • progress on the development of the new post-entry quarantine facility
  • accounts payable function
  • processes for ICT change management
  • SDM programme.

The overall results showed our control processes were operating effectively.

Figure 8​ compares the numbers and types of audits completed during the past three years.

The department’s business assurance activities also include an annual programme of biosecurity audit and verification activities, the Certificate of Compliance process and independent reviews by the Australian National Audit Office and the Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity.

Figure 8 Internal audit activities by type, 2012–13 to 2014–15​

This graph shows the number of internal audit activities undertaken by the department in the past three years:  In 2012–13, there were three information and communication technology audits, two finance audits and 11 performance audits.  In 2013–14, there were four information and communication technology audits, three finance audits and 13 performance audits.  In 2014–15, there were four information and communication technology audits, two finance audits and 10 performance audits.  ​

Meeting service standards

The department’s Client Service Charter outlines our service responsibilities and standards and supports the SDM programme.

The service charter establishes benchmarks for service delivery to the com​munity and other stakeholders. During the year, we met our benchmark of responding to official complaints within 10 business days in 71 per cent of cases.

In 2014–15, the department received 77 compliments and 292 complaints through its client feedback channels. We also received feedback through other channels, which was referred to relevant divisions. Client feedback is reported monthly to the EMC, which considers trend data for planning and improving client interactions.

The Client Service Charter is available on the department's website.


Maintaining business continuity

Our business continuity plan was tested when severe thunderstorms in Sydney on 25 April 2015 damaged the Central East Region Office.  Flooding on the top level of the building caused widespread damage to the furniture, computers, printers and phones, and left the regional office unfit for use.

While repairs were carried out, we maintained the department’s critical business services by relocating staff to other sites in Sydney and the Canberra office, and drawing on increased capacity through national service delivery arrangements.  

The business continuity plan enabled the department to communicate with affected staff through SMS alerts and other updates, and to keep the executive and the minister informed. Full operations at the regional office were restored on 11 May 2015. We reviewed the real-life use of our business continuity arrangements to consider further improvements.

Increasing the portfolio’s profile

We worked to support and build on the minister’s strong presence in the community. The number of media releases prepared for the minister, parliamentary secretary and the department in 2014 increased by 39 per cent from 2013. The nu​mber of speaking materials developed increased by 186 per cent.

The minister’s and parliamentary secretary’s close engagement with stakeholders has encouraged an increase in the volume of ministerial correspondence. In 2014­–15, the total items of correspondence received increased by 41 per cent from 2013–14.

The implementation of the new Parliamentary Document Management System has been an important tool in ensuring we meet the needs of the minister, the parliamentary secretary and the department to maintain clear communication with our stakeholders.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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