Corporate governance

As required by the Commonwealth's Enhanced Performance Framework, the Office developed and publicly released its 2016–17 Corporate Plan (the Plan) in August 2016. The Plan framed the Office's strategic vision, objectives, deliverables and key performance measures for the next four years.

In developing the Plan, a review of the Office's performance framework was initiated with the aim of providing meaningful information to Parliament and the public on how the Office is delivering its strategic objectives. The result was an expansion of the Office's key performance indicators (KPIs) from nine in 2015–16 to 11 in 2016–17, including enhancements to existing KPIs.

Senior Leadership Group

The group comprises the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman, Senior Assistant Ombudsmen and the Chief Operating Officer. The group meets twice monthly to consider strategic and operational issues relating to the work of the Office.

Audit Committee

The Office has established an Audit Committee in compliance with s 45 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and PGPA Rule s 17 Audit Committees for Commonwealth Entities.

The role of the Audit Committee is to provide independent assurance to the Ombudsman on the Office's financial and performance reporting responsibilities, risk oversight and management and systems of internal control.

The Audit Committee met four times during the year. The Audit Committee comprised the following membership during the reporting period:

MembersPositionPeriod of membership during year
Richard GlennChair, Deputy Ombudsman1 July 2016 – 13 January 2017
Doris GibbChair, acting Deputy Ombudsman14 January – 30 June 2017
Joanna StoneMember, independent1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017
Kurt MunroMember, independent1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017

Regular observers at committee meetings included representatives from the Australian National Audit Office, Ernst and Young and BellchambersBarrett (the Office's internal auditors), the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.

Management Committees

Management committees assist the Ombudsman and Senior Leadership Group with decision making in key areas. The committees make recommendations to the group.

People Committee

The People Committee is chaired by the Senior Assistant Ombudsman, Integrity Branch and comprises the Chief Operating Officer, the Senior Assistant Ombudsman, Social Services, Indigenous and Disability Branch, the Senior Assistant Ombudsman, Immigration, Industry and Territories Branch, the Manager, Human Resources and staff representatives from each branch.

The Committee has been established to guide and advise on matters relating to the Office's Strategic Workforce Plan and priorities with the aim of ensuring the Office has a capable and adaptive workforce to enable it to respond to current and future business needs.

The Committee meets on a quarterly basis, or more frequently when determined by the Chair, and matters can be considered out of session if needed. The key focus this year was the development of the Staff Recognition Scheme Policy, the new Learning and Development Strategy and responding to issues arising from the 2016 APS Employee Census.

Work Health and Safety Committee

The Office's Work Health and Safety Committee is made up of elected staff representatives from each of our state and Canberra offices, and is chaired by the Senior Assistant Ombudsman, Operations Branch. The committee meets on a quarterly basis throughout the year. It has a strategic role in reviewing work health and safety matters and procedures to ensure we comply with the terms of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Workplace Relations Committee

The Chief Operating Officer chairs the Workplace Relations Committee. It comprises employee, management and union representatives and is the principle forum for regular exchange on change and workplace issues.

Information Governance and Management Committee

This Committee is chaired by the Deputy Ombudsman and provides strategic oversight and guidance:

  • in the development and implementation of information management policy, processes and systems, and
  • to examine issues impacting on the Office with regard to Information Management.

The role of the Information Governance and Management Committee is to make strategic decisions or recommendations (including resource prioritisation) on information management related issues and to provide recommendations and/or advice to the Senior Leadership Group or the Ombudsman, as appropriate, to achieve Office objectives.

Risk and Security Governance Committee

The Risk and Security Governance Committee provides guidance and advice on operational risk and security governance matters for the Office. It is chaired by the Chief Operating Officer, has representatives from the branches and subject matter experts and meets on a quarterly basis.

The Committee's role is to:

  • provide practical guidance and support on risk management and security strategies for the Office to effectively deliver its critical functions and services
  • facilitate the implementation of the Office's Business Continuity Management Framework and the delivery of related outcomes, including assisting with the development and review of Business Continuity Plan initiatives
  • in cooperation with the Agency Security Adviser (ASA) and the Information Technology Security Adviser (ITSA) facilitate the implementation of the Office's protective security measures and information and communication technology security measures
  • review and report on the Office's operational risks
  • report to Senior Leadership Group on progress against risk management and security initiatives, including identifying and raising significant issues for decision.

Inclusion Committee

The Inclusion Committee is chaired by the Deputy Ombudsman and comprises a variety of staff from across the Office. The Committee was established with the aim of providing advice on inclusion matters, including the Reconciliation Action Plan and the Multicultural Plan. It also supported a number of days of recognition across the Office including, International Women's Day, Harmony Day and R U Ok Day among others.

The Committee also hosted events to support the fundraising efforts of four executive staff who represented the Office at the 2017 Vinnies CEO Sleepout in Canberra.

Corporate Governance Practices

Risk management

Our risk management framework comprises: a formal policy and protocol, a strategic risk plan and register, and a risk appetite statement. Strategic risk reporting is undertaken at least bi-annually.

The Senior Leadership Group regularly reviews strategic and operational risks as part of the business planning process. The Office also participates in the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey, which independently assesses the Office's risk-management maturity.

Additional oversight of our risk management is provided by the Audit Committee and the Risk and Security Governance Committee.

Business Continuity planning

Our Business Continuity Plan is one of our key risk-management strategies. It sets out our strategies for ensuring that the most critical work of the Office can continue to be done, or quickly resumed, in the event of a disaster.

We further reviewed the plan in 2016–17 and we are continuing to refine the plan and the Office's preparation.

Accessibility

In developing and maintaining the Office's websites, we use the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as the benchmark.

We have implemented a substantial upgrade of our online services. This has improved compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (AA level). The upgraded systems included authoring tools to check for accessibility issues, and compliance reporting against the website. A graphic design refresh also simplified the presentation of content and increased contrast to assist readability.

While this marks a substantial improvement in accessibility, providing further improvements in information sharing using web enabled technology remains a high priority.

Ethical standards

The Office promotes ethical standards and behaviours by providing extensive information to staff and promoting the Australian Public Service Commission's Ethics Advisory Service and our Ethics Contact Officer. Our intranet contains information on:

  • APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment
  • conflict of interest
  • acceptance of gifts and hospitality
  • procedures for determining breaches of the Code of Conduct
  • procedures for facilitating and dealing with public interest disclosures relating to the office.

Employee Performance Development Agreements contain the following mandatory key behaviour: in undertaking my duties I will act in accordance with the APS Values, Employment Principles and APS Code of Conduct.

The Induction Handbook for new starters provides appropriate information for new starters on ethical standards and behaviours and we have implemented APS Learn Hub which contains eLearning modules on APS Values and Principles and Fraud Awareness.

External scrutiny

Court and tribunal litigation

No decisions of courts or administrative tribunals made in 2016–17 had, or may have, a significant impact on the operations of this Office.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

During the reporting period, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) advised this Office of seven matters where the applicant sought review of our decisions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act). Of these seven applications, two were withdrawn, two were closed by the OAIC under s 54W(a)(i) of the FOI Act and, at the time of reporting, the remaining three were under consideration by the Information Commissioner.

At the time of reporting, there was one pending OAIC review that was commenced during 2015–16.

The Office received one decision from the Information Commissioner in relation to a review that commenced in 2015–16. In this matter, the Information Commissioner affirmed the Ombudsman's decision under review.

The Office is subject to the Privacy Act 1988. During the reporting period, the Privacy Commissioner advised of the outcome of one complaint about our Office made during 2016–17. The Privacy Commissioner did not issue any report or make any adverse comment about the Office during 2016–17.

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Office is subject to the jurisdiction of the Australian Human Rights Commission. During the reporting period the Commission did not receive any new complaints about our Office.

Management of Human Resources

Overview

The Office's Workforce Plan 2015–19 is aligned to business planning processes, and:

  • seeks to identify high-level trends and developments that will affect the availability of the workforce capability required to deliver organisational outcomes, and
  • articulates a suite of actionable strategies that will enable mitigation of the workforce risks identified.

The Workforce Plan is reviewed on an ongoing basis to identify emerging workforce issues and, if these are assessed to be workforce risks, to ensure proactive mitigation can be initiated before the full potential impact of the risks are realised.

Our People Plan 2014–17, includes a range of strategies under three key areas—attract, develop and motivate, and retain and align. The People Plan is reviewed regularly to ensure it reflects the people priorities for the Office.

The Workforce Plan and People Plan are complemented by:

  • the Office's Workplace Diversity Program 2015–18
  • the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19
  • the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy
  • Balancing the Future: Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19.

A quarterly report on the status of activities being undertaken against the Workforce and People Plans is provided to the Senior Leadership Group.

Learning and Development

This year we continued to deliver training against the core competencies established under the Learning and Development Strategy 2013–16, together with other targeted learning and development opportunities against identified priority areas.

The new Learning and Development Strategy 2017–19 is currently being developed and will be finalised and implemented early in the new financial year.

The training delivered in 2016–17 included:

  • When do I lead? When do I manage?
  • De-escalating conflict and managing difficult clients
  • Committee Member training
  • Peer Leadership Program
  • Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) training
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Writing courses
  • Building a bullying free workplace
  • Building high performance teams
  • Website content publishing
  • Workplace health and safety (online through LearnHub)
  • APSC training
    • Building relationships and engagement
    • Influencing, negotiation and persuasion
    • Presentation skills
  • Attendance at APSC Event Series sessions
  • Privacy refresher and FOI training
  • Administrative Law
  • Resilience training
  • Office writing for the Australian Public Sector
  • Trauma-Informed Service Delivery training.

We also support staff to undertake relevant study at tertiary institutions through study leave and/or financial assistance.

Work Health and Safety

The Office is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace for all our employees, contractors and visitors. We acknowledge our employer responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), the Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and anti-discrimination legislation.

During 2016–17 the Office undertook the following health and safety initiatives:

  • The Office WHS Policy was endorsed by Senior Leadership Group in 30 September 2016 and published on the intranet.
  • An event was held in recognition of R U OK? Day, with materials distributed to staff to assist them in having conversations with friends, family and colleagues and a presentation by a Beyond Blue speaker.
  • To coincide with National Safe Work Month, messaging regarding general office safety was promoted to staff by Senior Management and the Office joined a free trial of an online ergonomic assessment tool for all staff to access.
  • Internal sources of WHS and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information were refreshed and developed.
  • The EAP contract was renewed for a further 12 months to ensure staff have ongoing access to confidential counselling, facilitation of teamwork issues, career advice and the management of personal or professional issues.
  • Workplace safety inspections were undertaken across all offices.
  • Health and Safety Representation (HSR) across the Office has been reviewed and refreshed, with the relevant initial five day HSR training provided as required.
  • Targeted individual health awareness by providing flu vaccinations to employees free of charge, a healthy lifestyle reimbursement of up to $299 per year, and undertaking workstation assessments.

During the reporting period there was one dangerous incident classified as an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance which was notified to Comcare under Section 37(a) of the WHS Act. The incident was a result of activity that was being undertaken by another person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) with shared tenancy at the premises. Ombudsman staff were briefly exposed to a hazardous chemical, resulting in some minor side-effects which resolved quickly after completion of the works.

At the time of preparing this report, Comcare were conducting a site inspection and preparing a report in relation to the incident. There were no investigations conducted within the office under Part 10 of the Act in the reporting period.

The Office conducted its second internal audit of its Rehabilitation Management Systems, in accordance with the requirements of the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2012. This audit found that the Office achieved a 73 per cent conformance rating, representing an improvement on the 62 per cent conformance rating achieved in the previous year.

Workplace arrangements

The Office's Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 (the Agreement) came into effect on 27 July 2011 and reached its nominal expiry date on 30 June 2014. The Office held an unsuccessful ballot for a new Agreement in November 2016, in which 86 per cent of eligible employees participated in the ballot with 59 per cent of these employees voting no.

The Office has continued to bargain in good faith in relation to the new Enterprise Agreement and it is envisaged that it will be finalised early in the 2017–18 financial year.

As at 30 June 2017 a total of 219 employees were covered under the current Agreement. The Agreement does not make provision for performance pay. Salary advancement within each of the non-SES classifications is linked to performance. Fifteen employees had an Individual Flexibility Arrangement in place under the provisions contained in the Agreement.

Conditions are provided for SES staff under s24 (1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Determinations under s 24 (1) of the Public Service Act 1999 provide for SES annual salary advancement based on performance and do not make provision for performance pay.

The Office does not have any staff employed under Australian Workplace Agreements or common law contracts.

The Office offers non-salary benefits to our employees under the enterprise agreement and other individual industrial instruments. These benefits incorporate various types of leave, including annual, personal and long service leave, as well as flexible working arrangements, access to salary packaging and eyewear reimbursement for screen based work.

Workforce profile

As at 30 June 2017 there were 228 staff (211.3 full time equivalents) employed across the Office. These figures include the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman who are statutory office holders.

Females made up 67 per cent of the Office's workforce as at 30 June 2017 and 24 per cent of employees worked part-time. The number of staff who identified as Indigenous was 1.3 per cent (down from 2.3 per cent in 2016) and 3.1 per cent of staff identify as having a disability (down from 3.5 per cent in 2016).

Table 19 – Workforce Profile as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2016

 At 30 June 2017At 30 June 2016
CategoryOngoingNon-ongoingTotalOngoingNon-ongoingTotal
APS Classification     
APS2-22---
APS3871511314
APS416112717623
APS53834126329
APS64835129231
Executive Level 149105945651
Executive Level 22322415217
SES Band 16-74-4
Statutory Officers2-23-3
Total1903822815022172
Location      
ACT12027147831396
NSW1621816420
QLD1611712315
SA2252719120
VIC1331616117
WA3-34-4
Total1903822815022172
Gender/Diversity     
Female1282515310212114
Male621375481058
Indigenous123134
People with a disability617516
Employment status     
Full-time1492517411017127
Part-time41135440545

Table 20 – Remuneration by classification as at 30 June 2017

ClassificationSalary range
APS1$43,283 – $47,841
APS2$48,985 – $54,321
APS3$55,796 – $60,222
APS4$62,186 – $67,518
APS5$69,359 – $73,547
APS6$74,914 – $86,053
Executive Level 1$96,035 – $103,702
Executive Level 2$111,820 – $126,743
SES Band 1$147,900 – $187,060

Note: Under the Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, where an employee moves to the Office from another agency and their salary exceeds the maximum point in the Office's salary range for the relevant classification, the higher salary will be maintained until the salary is absorbed by the Office's salary rates.

Purchasing

The Office is committed to achieving the best value for money in procurement activity and manages this using procurement practices that are consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. This includes the use of the Commonwealth Contracting Suite to prepare approaches to market and formalise contracts. The procurement practices are supported by the Accountable Authority Instructions and internal policies and guidelines.

To improve efficiency in procurement, the Office accesses established procurement panels where possible. The Office supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website. The Office's procurement methods aim not to discriminate against small and medium-sized enterprises. Our policies and processes highlight the requirement to first access the Supply Nation website to check whether there are any Indigenous businesses that can provide the goods and services required. The Office will seek to enter into engagements with Indigenous businesses where possible ensuring that the arrangement adheres to the value for money and best fit principles. All procurements entered into by the Office are done on the basis of value for money and best fit.

Procurement plans are published on AusTender as they become known to facilitate early procurement planning and to draw attention to our planned activity. All procurements that are in excess of $10,000 are published on AusTender as soon as practicable.

Consultants

The Office engages consultancy services in circumstances when particular expertise is not available internally or when independent advice is required. During 2016–17, three new consultancy contracts were entered into, involving total actual expenditure of $0.187 million (including GST). In addition, five ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the 2016–17 year, with total expenditure of  $ 0.089million. These contracts covered financial services, IT development and mediation services.

No contracts were let containing provisions that do not allow the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor's premises, and no contracts were entered into that were exempt from being published on AusTender. Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website at tenders.gov.au.

The Office does not administer any grant programs.

Table 21 – Expenditure on consultancy contracts 2014–15 to 2016–17

YearNumber of consultancy contractsTotal actual expenditure $'000
2016–178276
2015–1610291
2014–159321

Advertising campaigns

The Office did not undertake any advertising campaigns.

Exempt contracts

There were no contracts over $10,000 exempted from reporting on AusTender.

Compliance reporting

There were no significant issues reported to the responsible minister under paragraph 19 (1) (e) of the PGPA Act that relates to non-compliance with the finance law by the Office. The Office has conducted a review of the Fraud Control Plan and the Fraud Risk Register and has rolled out mandatory fraud awareness training. An internal compliance process is undertaken throughout the year and the results considered by the Senior Leadership Group and the Audit Committee.

Asset management

The assets managed by the Office include ICT assets, plant and equipment, property and intangible assets such as software. With the exception of the property assets, all of these assets are handled internally and the five year capital replacement and capital investment plans predict our requirements.

Our ICT assets are managed in-house and our property plant and equipment assets are primarily ICT assets and supported by maintenance agreements and warranties. Intangible assets comprise software and websites. These are either supported internally or through a support contract. The other major asset is property leasehold fit out. We currently have offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.