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Chapter Three — Management and accountability

 Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Corporate governance
  3. People management
  4. Changes to disability reporting in annual reports
  5. Purchasing
  6. Consultants
  7. ANAO access clauses
  8. Exempt contracts
  9. Advertising and market research
  10. Grant programs
  11. Memorandums of understanding
  12. Ecologically sustainable development and environment performance
  13. Opening of new Canberra office

Overview

This chapter reports on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's (OAIC) corporate governance framework and activities, including the operation of the OAIC's audit and executive committees, strategic and business planning, risk management and people management.

The OAIC has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Australian Human Rights Commission (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.

 Corporate governance

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 Audit 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 Corporate Support and Communication, and has two independent members from the AHRC. During the year, another independent member, from the Attorney-General's Department (AGD), was appointed to the Audit Committee.

The AHRC provides secretariat support to the Audit 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 Audit 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 Executive 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
  • budget monitoring
  • reform of the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act)
  • the OAIC's role in the eHealth system
  • implementation of key projects such as the Electronic Document Record Management System and the redevelopment of the OAIC's website
  • relocation of the Canberra site to new premises
  • the review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (AIC Act)
  • the OAIC's organisational restructure.

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. However, Dr Allan Hawke AC prepared a report for the Attorney-General on the operation of the FOI and AIC Acts (the Hawke Review). The Hawke Review included analysis of the OAIC's structure and processes. The report was prepared during the reporting period but was not tabled until August 2013. Further information about the Hawke Review will be available in the 2013–14 Annual Report.

Strategic and business planning

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 Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct.

During the year the OAIC revised its policies on managing conflicts of interest and gifts, to provide greater guidance to staff and supervisors in these areas.

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.

 People management

During 2012–13, the OAIC's focus was on responding to the feedback provided by its staff to the Australian Public Service State of the Service Employee Census 2012.

The census provided a valuable opportunity for the OAIC to hear from its staff some 18 months after its establishment. The Leadership Team, made up of the Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners and Directors, responded to the feedback by implementing a range of measures including broader communications channels, more involvement for staff in planning and strategic processes, and a revised performance management system. The OAIC's staff consultation forum played a valuable role in clarifying and prioritising the census feedback, and in implementing the responses to the feedback.

The OAIC provided support to staff and managers through revising key human resources policies including: work health and safety, leave without pay, harassment policy, outside employment and its healthy lifestyle program.

Staffing profile

The OAIC's average staffing level for 2012–13 was 85.27 staff, with a turnover of approximately 24.7% per cent for ongoing staff. Twenty one ongoing staff resigned, retired or transferred to other Australian Government agencies. Twelve ongoing staff were engaged.

As at 30 June 2013, the OAIC had a total of 75.53 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, including ongoing and non-ongoing employees. The OAIC's staffing profile as at 30 June 2013 is summarised in Table 3.1. There were no casual staff employed as at 30 June 2013.

As at 30 June 2013, the OAIC had 18 staff located in Canberra and 66 staff located in Sydney. Twelve ongoing staff had part-time or flexible working arrangements in place.

Table 3.1 Overview of staffing profile as at 30 June 2013
Classification
Male
Female
Full time
Part time
Total ongoing
Total
non-ongoing
Total
Statutory Office Holders
3
0
3
0
0
3
3
SES Band 1
0
2
2
0
2
0
2
Executive Level 2
($107,962–$123,211)
4
5
6
3
9
0
9
>Executive Level 1
($92,948–$99,426)
6
14
16
4
20
0
20
APS 6
($73,753–$81,216)
7
24
26
5
31
0
31
APS 5
($66,884–$ 70,710)
2
11
13
0
13
0
13
APS 4
($59,994–$63,747)
4
2
6
0
6
0
6
Total
26
58
72
12
81
3
84

Workplace diversity

The OAIC recognises the importance of reflecting the community it serves through diversity in staffing. Currently 3.5% of staff have a non-English speaking background and 1.2% of the OAIC identify as Indigenous.

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.

Remuneration

Staff members at the OAIC are employed under s 22 of the Public Service Act 1999. Salary ranges for the OAIC Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 are reflected in Table 3.1.

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 representatives are members 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. The OAIC offered flu vaccinations for interested staff.

The OAIC provides staff with 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

In 2012–13, 15 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. 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.

 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.

 Consultants

During 2012–13, one new consultancy contract was entered into involving total actual expenditure of $125,630.

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.

 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.

 Exempt contracts

The OAIC did not have any exempt contracts.

 Advertising and market research

The OAIC had a contract with Orima Research Pty Ltd to undertake a survey of all Australian Government agencies subject to the FOI Act regarding their compliance with the Information Publication Scheme obligations. This contract was entered during the 2011–12 financial year and totalled $31,489. Total payment of $31,489 was made to Orima Research Pty Ltd during the 2012–13 financial year.

The OAIC contracted with Wallis Consulting Group to commence the Community Attitudes to Privacy survey in June 2013. The contract with the Wallis Consulting Group totalled $77,000. During 2012–13 total payments of $38,500 were made to Wallis Consulting Group. Further information about the survey will be available in the 2013–14 annual report.

The OAIC did not undertake any campaign or non-campaign advertising in the 2012–13 financial year.

 Grant programs

The OAIC does not have a grants program.

 Memorandums of understanding

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

 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.

 Opening of new Canberra office

The OAIC Canberra site relocated to new premises at 4 National Circuit, Barton in October 2012. The Canberra site was previously located in temporary accommodation since the OAIC commenced in November 2010.

The new Canberra site is subleased from AGD.

The building was officially opened on 15 April 2013 by the Attorney-General, The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP. The event included a welcome to country and smoking ceremony and a presentation by the building owner.

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