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Chapter Three — Management and accountability

Corporate governance

In the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) first full year of operation a platform was built for its governance framework. Key elements of the framework included:

  • developing Business Continuity Plans for both Sydney and Canberra sites
  • developing a Security Plan
  • completing a strategic and operational risk assessment
  • revising the Chief Executive’s Instructions
  • preparing and gaining National Archives of Australia approval of a Records Disposal Authority
  • initiating a project to purchase and implement a new Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS).

In establishing its governance framework, the OAIC was assisted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). The OAIC has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the AHRC that covers the provision of corporate services to the OAIC. This includes financial, administrative, information and communications technology and human resources services. The OAIC also sub-leases its premises in Sydney from the AHRC under this arrangement. More information on the OAIC’s MOU with the AHRC can be found in Appendix 5.

The OAIC operates two standing committees — the Audit Committee and the Executive Committee.

Audit Committee

The OAIC Audit Committee’s objective is to provide the Information Commissioner with independent assurance and assistance on the OAIC’s risk, control and accountability responsibilities. The Committee oversees the work of the OAIC’s internal auditors, and ensures the Strategic Internal Audit Workplan provides appropriate coverage of the OAIC’s strategic and operational risks.

The Audit Committee is chaired by the Assistant Commissioner Operations, and has two independent members from the AHRC. The AHRC provides secretariat support to the Committee, and the OAIC’s internal auditors and representatives from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) attend meetings of the Audit Committee as observers. The Committee meets quarterly.

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee, comprising the Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner and the three Assistant Commissioners, meets weekly and oversees all aspects of OAIC business.

The Committee’s standing agenda covers business management and performance, finance, human resources, governance, risk management, external engagement and business planning. Key focus areas this year included:

  • monitoring and managing the OAIC’s growing workload
  • reform of the Privacy Act 1988
  • the OAIC’s role in the eHealth system
  • implementation of key projects such as the Resolve case management system, the EDRMS and the redevelopment of the OAIC’s website.

External scrutiny

During the year, there were no judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals that had a significant impact on the operations of the OAIC.

There were no reports on the operations of the OAIC by the Auditor-General, a parliamentary committee or the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Strategic and business planning

The OAIC has a strategic plan developed by the Leadership Group, made up of the Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners and Directors. The Leadership Group consulted with staff in the development of the plan.

The Strategic Plan 2011–14 sets out the OAIC’s vision, purpose and values. The strategic goals contained in the plan are underpinned by annual business plans for each branch. The branch plans are reviewed each quarter by the Executive Committee.

Ethical Standards

The strategic plan includes the OAIC’s values, developed with the input of staff and leaders, which complement the APS Values and Code of Conduct. With the assistance of the AHRC, the OAIC is reviewing and revising its policies and procedures to guide staff and managers, particularly in relation to human resources management and financial management.

Risk

The Executive Committee is supported in its management of risks by its internal auditors and the Audit Committee. The internal audit plan is developed each year based on risks identified in the OAIC Risk Register, and on risks shared by the OAIC and the AHRC. Audit reports and the risk register are regularly reviewed by the Executive Committee.

Statutory Office Holder and SES Remuneration

The terms and conditions of the OAIC’s statutory office holders — the Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and FOI Commissioner — are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

Remuneration for the OAIC’s three Senior Executive Service (SES) officers is governed by determinations made by the Information Commissioner under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

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People management

During 2011–12, the key human resources management challenges for the OAIC were to consolidate and build the skill base and expertise necessary for the OAIC to carry out its functions. A new Enterprise Agreement was negotiated with staff which commenced in August 2011. As part of that agreement, a staff consultation forum was established that meets twice a year, and gives staff a platform to discuss issues of concern.

In August 2011, OAIC staff participated in a survey of staff of agencies with fewer than 100 staff. The micro-agency survey, administered by the Australian Public Service Commission, gave the OAIC a timely picture of its employees’ views of their experiences working for the newly established agency. The survey identified a range of areas where staff feedback indicated the need for improvement, including communication of strategic objectives and priorities, encouraging high performance and managing underperformance, improving learning and development opportunities and improving leadership. The OAIC’s leadership group has put in place a comprehensive plan to respond to the survey findings, and will work with the consultation forum and all staff to implement the plan.

Staffing profile

The OAIC’s average staffing level for 2011–12 was 79.87 staff, with a turnover of approximately 18.7 per cent for ongoing staff. Fifteen ongoing staff either resigned, retired or transferred to other Australian Government agencies. Twenty ongoing staff were employed.

As at 30 June 2012, the OAIC had a total of 88.23 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, including both ongoing and non-ongoing employees. An overview of the OAIC’s staffing profile as at 30 June 2012 is summarised in Table 3.1. There were no casual staff employed as at 30 June 2012.

Table 3.1 Overview of staffing profile as at 30 June 2012
ClassificationMaleFemaleFull timePart timeTotal ongoingTotal non-ongoingTotal
Statutory Office Holders 3 0 3 0 0 3 3
SES Band 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
SES Band 1 1 3 4 0 3 1 4
Executive Level 2
($104,818-$119,622)
5 11 9 7 14 2 16
Executive Level 1
($90,240-$96,530)
5 17 17 5 17 5 22
APS 6
($71,605-$78,850)
12 27 33 6 37 2 39
APS 5
($64,936-$68,850)
3 9 11 1 11 1 12
APS 4
($58,247-$61,890)
3 3 6 0 6 0 6
APS 3
($50,650-$54,667)
1 1 1 1 1 1 2
APS 2
($45,692-$49,313)
0 1 0 1 0 1 1
APS 1
($39,293-$44,552)
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 33 72 84 21 89 16 105

As at 30 June 2012, the OAIC had 32 staff located in Canberra and 73 staff located in Sydney. Sixteen ongoing staff had part-time or flexible working arrangements in place.

In May 2012, the OAIC appointed Ms Toni Pirani from the Attorney-General’s Department as an additional Assistant Commissioner (Compliance) on a non-ongoing basis for six months to undertake a management review of OAIC handling of FOI complaints and reviews, with a view to reducing the backlog.

Workplace diversity

The OAIC recognises the importance of reflecting the community it serves through diversity in staffing. Currently 4.9% of staff have a non-English speaking background and the OAIC supports one Indigenous cadet.

The OAIC participates in a joint Workplace Diversity Committee with the AHRC. Throughout the year, the OAIC promoted and supported events including NAIDOC Week and Harmony Day. Other strategies under the Workplace Diversity Plan focus on flexible and family-friendly workplace policies.

Indigenous cadetship

The OAIC continued to host an Indigenous cadet during the reporting period. Merinda Dutton commenced her internship in 2010–11, and joined the OAIC again from 28 November 2011 to 22 February 2012, and 4 June 2012 to 11 July 2012. Ms Dutton is from the Gumbaynggir Nation and is in the process of completing a combined Jurisprudence/Law degree at the University of New South Wales.

Ms Dutton worked with both the Policy and Operations branches of the OAIC on a range of projects, including research on awareness tools for Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) and the eHealth record system. Additionally, Ms Dutton assisted with the OAIC’s review of the Privacy Protocol for Commonwealth agencies in the Northern Territory handling personal information of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The OAIC hopes to recruit a cadet through the APS Indigenous Pathways Program in the next 12 months.

Remuneration

Staff members at the OAIC are employed under s 22 of the Public Service Act 1999. The OAIC signed a new Enterprise Agreement with staff in August 2011. Salary ranges for the current Enterprise Agreement are reflected in Table 3.1.

The former Office of the Privacy Commissioner had seven staff covered by individual flexibility agreements under s 24(1) Determinations. All seven transferred under these agreements to the OAIC. All of the existing s 24 (1) Determinations lapsed upon signing of the new Enterprise Agreement.

Performance pay

The OAIC had no performance pay arrangements in place.

Work health and safety

The OAIC and the AHRC are co-located in Sydney and share expertise and resources on Work Health and Safety (WHS) issues. The OAIC’s Health and Safety representative is a member of the joint agencies’ WHS Committee. The OAIC conducts regular site inspections as a preventative measure and there have been no incidents reported over the last year.

All new staff are provided with WHS information upon commencement. Ongoing support and assistance on WHS and ergonomic issues is provided to all staff. All OAIC managers completed the Comcare A Manager’s WHS responsibilities training course, a legislative requirement in the Work Health Safety Act 2011. All OAIC staff also completed the Comcare online WHS training.

The OAIC offered flu vaccinations for interested staff.

The OAIC provides a Healthy Lifestyle Allowance under the Enterprise Agreement to promote health and fitness as a means of achieving work-life balance and improving productivity. The OAIC also provides access to independent, confidential counselling services through its Employee Assistance Program. No systemic issues have been identified through this service.

Learning and development

The OAIC is developing a Learning and Development Policy that will be finalised in 2012–13. The policy will set out the framework for staff development and will incorporate the strategies already in place including studies assistance and attendance at courses, conferences and seminars.

In 2011–12, 11 staff were supported to undertake formal external study through study leave, examination leave and/or financial assistance.

Staff attended a range of formal training courses offered by external providers including courses on leadership and staff management, media, social media, strategic communications, speech writing and project management. OAIC staff members also attended a number of training courses offered by the Attorney-General’s Department, including training on coaching and mentoring; clear writing and correspondence; career management; negotiation, influencing and conflict management skills.

The OAIC also offers internal learning and development opportunities, including training on freedom of information and privacy law and policy.

The effectiveness of learning and development activities is evaluated through regular reviews between staff and their managers under the Performance Management Scheme.

Changes to disability reporting in annual reports

Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies 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 Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by a new National Disability Strategy which sets out a ten year national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. A high level report to track progress for people with disability at a national level will be produced by the Standing Council on Community, Housing and Disability Services to the Council of Australian Governments and will be available at www.fahcsia.gov.au. The Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy agreed by the Government in December 2009 will also include some reporting on disability matters in its regular How Australia is Faring report and, if appropriate, in strategic change indicators in agency Annual Reports. More detail on social inclusion matters can be found at www.socialinclusion.gov.au.

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Opening of new Sydney office

The OAIC relocated to a new site at 175 Pitt Street in June 2011. The former Office of the Privacy Commissioner had previously been co-located with the AHRC in Castlereagh Street, Sydney for a number of years, and the two agencies are again co-located in the new premises.

The OAIC formed a staff consultative working group to assist with decision making and share information about the move.

The Sydney office was officially opened on 13 July 2011 by the then Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP.

The new Sydney office includes communication technology (including video conference facilities) to allow staff at the Sydney and Canberra sites to communicative effectively, as an integrated office.

The office also includes a reception area for members of the public shared with the AHRC, an open plan design to encourage communication across the OAIC branches, and a number of meeting rooms for OAIC staff to meet together and with external stakeholders and suppliers.

Photo of Brendan O'Connor and Timothy Pilgrim at the new Sydney office.

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP and the Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, at the opening of the new Sydney accommodation.

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Purchasing

The OAIC’s purchasing procedures comply with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules issued by the Department of Finance and Deregulation. They address a wide range of purchasing situations, allowing managers flexibility when making purchasing decisions provided arrangements comply with the Australian Government’s core procurement principle of value for money.

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Consultants

During 2011–12, two new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $53,877.

The OAIC engages consultants where it lacks specialist expertise or when independent research, review or assessment is required. Consultants are typically engaged to investigate or diagnose a defined issue or problem; carry out defined reviews or evaluations; or provide independent advice, information or creative solutions to assist in OAIC decision making.

Prior to engaging consultants, the OAIC takes into account the skills and resources required for the task, the skills available internally, and the cost-effectiveness of engaging external expertise. The decision to engage a consultant is made in accordance with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and related regulations including the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

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 www.tenders.gov.au.

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ANAO access clauses

No contracts were let during the year for amounts of $100,000 or more with provisions to exempt Australian National Audit Office access to the supplier’s premises.

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Exempt contracts

The OAIC did not have any exempt contracts.

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Advertising and market research

The OAIC contracted with Orima Research Pty Ltd to undertake an online survey of all Australian Government agencies (subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982) about compliance with information publication scheme obligations. The contract with Orima Research Pty Ltd totalled $31,489 and no payments were made to Orima Research Pty Ltd during 2011–12.

The OAIC undertook non-campaign advertising (recruitment) in the 2011–12 financial year. The payments totalled $5104 (including GST). $2750 was paid to Fairfax Media, $710 was paid to Seek Limited and $1644 to the Australian Public Service Commission.

The OAIC also undertook non-campaign advertising for the 2011 Information Policy Conference. The payment totalled $1231 (including GST) to PS News Pty Ltd.

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Grant programs

The OAIC does not have a grants program.

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Memorandums of understanding

The OAIC receives funding for specific services under a range of memorandums of understanding (MOUs). Details of financial MOUs are at Appendix 5.

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Ecologically Sustainable Development and Environment Performance

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requires the OAIC to report on how its activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD).

The role and activities of the OAIC do not directly link with the principles of ESD or impact on the environment other than through its business operations in the consumption of resources required to sustain its operations.

The OAIC uses energy saving methods in its operation and endeavours to make the best use of resources.

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