Corporate Governance menu: Strategic plan | Business plans | Audit Committee | Risk management | Business continuity planning | Fraud prevention and control | Occupational health and safety | Providing access to people with disabilities | Commonwealth Disability Strategy | Environmental matters | Advertising and market research | Service charter
The Governor-General appointed Prof. John McMillan as Commonwealth Ombudsman in March 2003 and Mr Ron Brent as Deputy Ombudsman in June 2003, both for a five-year period. The remuneration for the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman is determined in accordance with a ruling by the Remuneration Tribunal. The office's Executive comprises the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and five Senior Assistant Ombudsmen.
Each year, the Ombudsman's office develops a Strategic Plan and a Business Plan, which identify priorities for the year. Progress against these plans is monitored and assessed on a quarterly basis, with any adjustments made accordingly.
The major objectives outlined in the office's 2004–05 Strategic Plan were to:
The Strategic Plan for the office is being reviewed for the period 2005–06 to 2007–08, and a priority action plan for 2005–06 is being developed.
Each specialist team and office throughout Australia has developed a detailed business plan outlining strategies and activities to support the strategic plan. The plans are customised to reflect current challenges and relevant issues facing individual teams. These business plans are, in turn, used to develop individual work plans for staff members.
The Audit Committee's role is to review, monitor and where necessary recommend improvements to internal control, financial reporting, internal audit functions, external audit processes, and the office process for monitoring compliance with legislation, and government policy directives.
The Audit Committee comprises five members: Mr Ron Brent, Deputy Ombudsman (Chair); Ms Helen Fleming, Senior Assistant Ombudsman (alternate Chair); Mr Joe D'Angelo, Chief Finance Officer from the Department of the Senate; Ms Mary Durkin, Senior Assistant Ombudsman; and Ms Natalie Humphry, Contract Manager. The committee also has a standing position for the Australian National Audit Office.
Risk management activities have been incorporated into the Ombudsman's planning and operations and the management of contractors. The office has developed a risk management policy and procedures to:
An external consultant was engaged to review the existing risk management framework and assess the strategic business risks. The Audit Committee endorsed the consultant's reports.
An important issue for the office is continuity management to identify and assess risks that could disrupt services and functions, to predict likely problems and to plan to avoid or minimise the impact of hazardous incidents.
Finalisation of a business continuity plan was delayed in 2004–05 due to the office's implementation of the new information technology framework. The business continuity plan will:
The plan will be finalised in 2005–06 and tested as part of its implementation.
The Ombudsman has adopted a Fraud Control Plan in line with the government''s Fraud Control Guidelines to reflect best practice in identifying and controlling fraud risks. This policy aims to:
The office reviewed its fraud risks and controls in 2004–05, and the risk of fraud remains low. The Audit Committee has endorsed the office's new Fraud Control Plan.
The office's Occupational Health and Safety Committee is made up of elected representatives from staff, including the State offices, and chaired by the Human Resource Manager, who represents management. The committee met twice during the year.
All new employees are made aware of the importance and responsibilities of both staff and management for health and safety in the workplace. New employees are encouraged to have workplace assessments conducted shortly after commencement. There were no reportable incidents during the year.
During 2004–05, the office ensured that:
The office provides an Employee Assistance Program to ensure that employees and their families have access to a confidential counselling service to assist with workplace problems and the management of any work-related or personal stress.
The Ombudsman recognises the importance of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 in ensuring equality of access to the services of the Commonwealth Ombudsman for people with disabilities and eliminating discriminatory practices by staff. The office endeavours to meet its obligations under the Act through implementation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy and its Disability Action Plan and Workplace Diversity Plan.
The Ombudsman's Disability Action Plan was reviewed during 2004–05. A revised plan is now in place for the three-year period from July 2005 to June 2008. The plan commits the office to ensuring that people with disabilities are not disadvantaged when accessing the services provided by our organisation. It outlines the various approaches we are taking, such as:
The implementation of the plan is being monitored through the office's Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
The office's operations encompass the activities of regulator, service provider and employer.
Our role as regulator
The Ombudsman does not enforce regulations directly, but provides a complaints resolution service under statute for the Australian Government, which can include recommendations to agencies on enforcement of regulations. The Ombudsman seeks to promote awareness of services in all areas of the Australian community, and provides an online complaints lodgement facility on the office's website (which complies with Australian Government accessibility requirements). Ombudsman staff regularly liaise with community organisations to promote awareness of the Ombudsman's services.
Our role as provider
The office's complaints management system has a specific quality assurance function. Complaint handling is reviewed to ensure that outcomes are appropriate and to identify areas that may have affected service delivery.
The Ombudsman has an established internal complaints and review process, which allows complaints about the office's decisions and service quality to be resolved quickly, fairly and informally. We seek to promote awareness of the office's role and service in all areas of the Australian community. An important element in a redevelopment of the Ombudsman's website (to be completed in 2005–06) is to better meet web accessibility guidelines.
Our role as employer
The Ombudsman's Workplace Diversity Plan aims to ensure that, in working to achieve the goals of the office, the diverse background, skills, talents and views of staff are recognised, encouraged and valued, and that all staff are aware of the value of creating a culture of workplace diversity. The plan provides for the following measures to assist staff who have particular needs.
The Ombudsman is required to report on certain environmental matters by s 516A(5)(a) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, detailing the office's environmental performance and its contribution to ecologically sustainable development.
The Ombudsman continued to encourage staff to manage all resources, including energy, prudently and in an ecologically responsible manner. Policy guidance is provided on conservation of energy in use of lighting and computer equipment. The office actively recycles paper and cardboard products.
Reporting requirements contained in s 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 oblige the Ombudsman to report details of all amounts over $1,500 (including GST) paid during 2004–05 for advertising or market research, including payments to advertising agencies, market research bodies, polling organisation, direct mail services and media advertising organisations. To support the office's outreach program to regional and rural Australia, advertisements were placed in 13 regional and ethnic newspapers. The total payment by the Ombudsman for newspaper advertising was $5,295.
We are committed to providing the best service possible to the community. The Commonwealth Ombudsman Service Charter is available on our website at www.ombudsman.gov.au. The charter outlines the service that can be expected from the office, ways to provide feedback and steps that can be taken if standards are not met.
Where a complainant disagrees with our conclusions and decision on a complaint, they may ask for a review of how the investigation was conducted. A more senior officer not previously involved in the matter will conduct a review, and seek to determine whether the conclusion reached was reasonable, justified and adequately explained to the complainant. Only in exceptional circumstances will more than one review be undertaken.
In last year's annual report, we stated that we would review the office's service charter and the mechanisms for monitoring, responding to and recording complaints about our service. This review has been held over until early 2006 following the implementation and bedding down of the office's new complaints management system and revised work practices.
Feedback from complainants to this office is an effective way to identify where changes may need to be made. During the year, 14 written comments were received from complainants about our services. Most of the feedback concerned service delivery and decisions reached, with 12 of the comments positive and two negative. The negative comments related to dissatisfaction about decisions we made.