HIGHLIGHTS

  • Corporate governance
  • External scrutiny
  • Management of human resources
  • Purchasing
  • Consultants
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Exempt contracts
  • Compliance reporting
  • Asset management

Corporate governance

As required by the Commonwealth's Enhanced Performance Framework, the Office developed and publicly released its 2017–18 Corporate Plan (the Plan) in August 2017. The Plan framed the Office's strategic vision, objectives, deliverables and key performance indicators for the next four years.

The Plan was audited by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) as part of the 'Corporate Planning in the Australian Public Sector 2017–1849' review. The Office was given the highest rating against the key metric–'Entities had positioned the corporate plan as the primary planning document', reinforcing that the Office's intent is being carried out in practice. The Ombudsman has responded to the report communicating that the Office has valued the opportunity to take part in the review and will make adjustments to the Plan as part of the Office's commitment to continuous improvement.

Senior Leadership Group

The Senior Leadership Group (SLG) is chaired by the Ombudsman and comprises the Deputy Ombudsman, Senior Assistant Ombudsmen and the Chief Operating Officer (COO). The SLG is the Office's overarching leadership and management committee and meets monthly to discuss and consider corporate governance, performance, resource allocation and operational issues.

Strategic Policy Board

The Strategic Policy Board (SPB) is chaired by the Ombudsman and comprises the Deputy Ombudsman, Senior Assistant Ombudsmen and the COO. The SPB was established in March 2018, and meets monthly to consider the strategic priorities of the Office including consideration of public interest issues and business intelligence to inform the selection, prioritisation, scoping, resourcing, timing and delivery of strategic projects. The projects include own motion investigations, issues papers, submissions, products and targeted engagement activities by the Office in fulfilment of its statutory mandate.

Office Committees

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. Table 16 sets out the Audit Committee's membership during the reporting period.

Regular observers at committee meetings included representatives from the ANAO, Bellchambers Barrett (the Office's internal auditors), the COO and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Table 16 – Audit Committee membership during the reporting period
MembersPosition Period of membership during year Meetings attended
Mr Will Laurie Independent Member and Chair 19 February
–30 June 2018
2 out of 2
Ms Jaala Hinchcliffe Chair (one meeting) and Member (two meetings), Deputy Ombudsman 1 November 2017
–30 June 2018
3 out of 3
Ms Doris Gibb Chair, acting Deputy Ombudsman 1 July
–31 October 2017
1 out of 1
Ms Joanna Stone Independent Member 1 July 2017
–30 June 2018
4 out of 4
Mr Alfred Bongi Independent Member 1 September 2017
–30 June 2018
4 out of 4
Mr Kurt Munro Independent Member 1 July
–31 October 2017
1 out of 1

People Committee

The People Committee was chaired by the COO and comprises:

  • SAO Strategy Branch
  • SAO Industry Branch
  • the Director, Human Resources
  • 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 in 2017–18 was on the development of the Staff Recognition Scheme Policy, the new Learning and Development Strategy and responding to issues arising from the 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 offices and is chaired by the SAO of the Complaints Management and Education Branch. The committee meets on a quarterly basis. 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 COO 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
  • to examine issues impacting on the Office with regard to information management.

The role of the 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 SLG.

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 COO, 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 (BCP) initiatives.
  • Facilitate the implementation of the Office's protective security measures, and information and communication technology security measures, in cooperation with the Agency Security Adviser (ASA) and the Information Technology Security Adviser (ITSA).
  • Review and report on the Office's operational risks.
  • Report to the SLG 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 of 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 (RAP) 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.

The Committee also hosted events to support the fundraising efforts of four executive staff members who represented the Office at the 2018 Vinnies CEO Sleepout in Canberra.

Risk Management

Our Risk Management Framework comprises a formal policy, a strategic risk plan and register and a Risk Appetite Statement. Strategic risk reporting is undertaken quarterly.

The SLG 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 documents. 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 2017–18 and 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 (WCAG) 2.0 as the benchmark.

Our online services are compliant with WCAG 2.0 (AA level). Management of the website includes authoring tools to check for accessibility issues and compliance reporting. The graphic design uses high contrast and a simple presentation of content to assist readability.

While this is a substantial improvement in accessibility, providing further improvements in information sharing using web enabled technology remains a high priority. The Office is currently reviewing the structure, content, and usability of the website with a view to ensuring the site is focused towards our stakeholders and the Australian public.

Ethical standards

Our 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.

Fraud Control

The Office has a fraud control policy which is reviewed biennially. All fraud allegations are reported to the Ombudsman and the Audit Committee and fraud investigations are outsourced as required.

One fraud investigation was carried out during 2017–18 resulting in no instances of fraud identified. Fraud training was provided to all staff by the Attorney-General's Department during the year.

Internal Audit

The Office's internal audit function is outsourced to BellchambersBarrett. BellchambersBarrett undertook four internal audits during 2017–18 in accordance with the Internal Audit Plan.

SLG and the Audit Committee approve internal audit plans annually and review each internal audit report. Implementation of internal audit recommendations are monitored by the Audit Committee at each quarterly meeting.

External scrutiny

Court and tribunal litigation

No decisions of courts or administrative tribunals made in 2017–18 had, or may have, a significant impact on the operations of the Office.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

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

At the time of reporting, there are two pending OAIC reviews that were commenced during 2016–17.

The Office received one decision from the OAIC in relation to a review that commenced in 2016–17. In this matter, the Information Commissioner affirmed the decision under review.

The Office is subject to the Privacy Act 1988. During the reporting period, the Privacy Commissioner did not receive any new complaints about our Office.

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Office is subject to the jurisdiction of the Australian Human Rights Commission. During the reporting period the Commission received new complaints about our Office from three people. At the time of reporting, the Commission had advised our Office that the President's delegate had closed and terminated the first two people's complaints and was considering the termination and closure of the other person's complaint.

ANAO Performance Audits

The Office was a subject of the ANAO performance audit–Corporate Planning in the Australian Public Sector 2017–18. (See page 104 under corporate governance for further information).

Management of human resources

The Office's Workforce Plan 2015–2019 is aligned to business planning processes, and:

  • seeks to identify high-level trends and developments that will affect our ability to deliver organisational outcomes
  • articulates 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 to initiate mitigation before the full potential impact of the risks are realised.

The Workforce Plan is complemented by the:

  • Workplace Diversity Program 2015–2018
  • Reconciliation Action Plan 2018
  • APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–2019
  • Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy
  • Balancing the Future: Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–2019.

Learning and Development

In 2017–18 we continued to deliver targeted learning and development opportunities against identified core competencies and priority areas.

The new Learning and Development Strategy 2018–2020 (the Strategy) commenced in January 2018. The Strategy sets a framework that:

  • delivers greater clarity and shared understanding of our learning and development investment priorities in a resource-constrained environment
  • is linked to the Workforce Plan to ensure employees have the necessary capabilities to meet the Office's strategic objectives–now and into the future
  • is flexible and responsive in addressing key learning and development needs in a dynamic, diverse and continuously changing environment.

The Strategy focuses on the following three priority areas:

  • Core corporate capabilities
  • Functional/role based capabilities
  • Leadership development and succession planning.

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 2017–18 we undertook the following health and safety initiatives:

  • Developed a new quarterly Case Management Report to assist the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman to keep informed of issues, covering health-related case management, underperformance and code of conduct matters and to identify trends and manage emerging risks.
  • Greater use of early intervention practices to support physical and mental wellbeing of staff.
  • A refreshed Work Health and Safety (WHS) Committee leading to increased Health and Safety Representative (HSR) engagement and participation and better awareness among senior leadership.
  • A pilot Wellbeing Check Program targeted towards staff who are at higher risk of vicarious trauma due to the nature of their work. This pilot assisted in evaluating the benefits of a whole-of-Office initiative of this type in the future.
  • Internal sources of WHS and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information were refreshed to coincide with the rebrand of our provider, Benestar (previously Davidson Trahaire Corpsych).
  • Renewal of the EAP contract to ensure staff have ongoing access to confidential counselling, facilitation of teamwork issues, career advice and the management of personal or professional issues.
  • Undertook workplace safety inspections across all offices. These inspections returned an excellent rate of compliance, particularly given the volume of office relocations in the same period.
  • Staff representative training across all offices was reviewed and refreshed (Health and Safety Representatives, Harassment Contact Officers, First Aid Officers).
  • Targeted individual health awareness by providing flu vaccinations to employees free of charge.

During the reporting period there were no notifiable incidents.

Following the Rehabilitation Management System (RMS) Audit in 2016–17–the second of its type for the Office–Comcare provided feedback indicating the level of compliance already achieved. Comcare's newly revised guidance on determining frequency of audits for low-risk agencies meant that a further audit in 2017–18 was not required. The Office is committed to continuous improvement and actioning RMS Audit outcomes.

Workplace arrangements

The Office's Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020 (the Agreement) came into effect on 31 August 2017.

As at 30 June 2018, a total of 203 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. Sixteen employees had an Individual Flexibility Arrangement in place under the provisions contained in the Agreement.

Conditions are provided for SES staff under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Determinations under s 24(1) provide SES annual salary advancement based on performance and does 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 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 2018 there were 211 staff (199.5 full time equivalent) employed across the Office. These figures include the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman who are statutory office holders.

Females made up 66 per cent of the Office's workforce and 22 per cent of employees worked part-time. The number of staff who identified as Indigenous was 1.4 per cent and 4.3 per cent of staff identified as having a disability.

Table 17 – Workforce Profile as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018
  At 30 June 2017 At 30 June 2018
CategoryOngoingNon-ongoingTotalOngoingNon-ongoingTotal
APS Classification
APS2 - 2 2 - - -
APS3 8 7 15 13 2 15
APS4 16 11 27 12 4 16
APS5 38 3 41 34 5 39
APS6 48 3 51 40 4 44
Executive Level 1 49 10 59 54 7 61
Executive Level 2 23 2 24 27 1 28
SES Band 1 6 - 6 6 - 6
Statutory Officers 2 - 2 2 - 2
Total1903822818823211
Location
ACT 120 27 147 112 21 133
NSW 16 2 18 13 1 14
QLD 16 1 17 18 1 19
SA 22 5 27 26 - 26
VIC 13 3 16 16 - 16
WA 3 - 3 3 - 3
Total 190 38 228 188 23 211
Gender/Diversity
Female 128 25 153 126 14 140
Male 62 13 75 62 9 71
Indigenous 1 2 3 1 2 3
People with a disability 6 1 7 9 - 9
Employment status
Full-time 149 25 174 148 17 165
Part-time 41 13 54 40 6 46
Table 18 – Remuneration by classification as at 30 June 2018
Classification Salary range
APS1 $44,582 – $49,277
APS2 $50,455 – $55,951
APS3 $57,470 – $62,029
APS4 $64,052 – $69,544
APS5 $71,440 – $75,754
APS6 $77,162 – $88,635
Executive Level 1 $98,917 – $106,814
Executive Level 2 $115,175 – $130,546
SES Band 1 $150,858 – $190,801

Disability Reporting

Since 1994, non-corporate Commonwealth entities have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Servicereports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, entities have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014, and can be found at dss.gov.au.

During 2017–18 the Office procured specialist disability consultants, WestWood Spice and partners Australian Network on Disability and Agency, to conduct a Disability Accessibility Review of the Office.

As a result of the review they made a number of recommendations to improve the Office's accessibility for people with disability.

The Office will begin implementing these recommendations during 2018–19.

Purchasing

Our 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. Our 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 any Indigenous businesses can provide the goods and services required. We 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.

All procurements that are in excess of $10,000 are published on AusTender as soon as practicable.

No contracts were entered into 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.

Consultants

The Office engages consultancy services in circumstances when particular expertise is not available internally or when independent advice is required. During 2017–18, 16 new consultancy contracts were entered into, involving total actual expenditure of $0.413 million (including GST). In addition, one ongoing consultancy contract was active during 2017–18, with a total expenditure of $0.062 million. These contracts covered financial services, IT development, internal management reviews and mediation services.

Table 19 – Expenditure on consultancy contracts
Year Number of consultancy contracts Total actual expenditure $'000
2017–18 17 475
2016–17 8 276
2015–16 10 291

Advertising campaigns

The Office did not undertake any advertising campaigns.

Exempt contracts

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

Compliance reporting

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

Asset management

The assets managed by our Office include ICT assets, plant and equipment, property and intangible assets such as software. The five year capital replacement and capital investment plans predict our requirements.

Our ICT assets are managed in-house. Our property plant and equipment assets are primarily ICT assets and are 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.

Footnotes

49 https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/corporate-planning-australian-public-sector-2017-18