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Chapter Three — Management and accountability

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 subleases 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 Five.

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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.

During the year the role of chairing the Audit Committee moved from the Assistant Commissioner Corporate Support and Communication to the Assistant Commissioner Dispute Resolution. This move was in anticipation of the requirement of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014, which prohibits the Chief Financial Officer of an agency (a role performed by the Assistant Commissioner Corporate Support and Communication) from membership of an agency's audit committee. The Audit Committee has two independent members from the AHRC and one from the Attorney-General's Department (AGD).

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.

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 Freedom of Information Act 1982 and the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (the Hawke Review) which was tabled in Parliament on 2 August 2013. The Hawke Review included analysis of the OAIC's structure and processes. Further information about the Hawke Review can be found in Chapter Eight.

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 developed a fraud control plan for the period 2014–16 with accompanying control policy and guidelines. The OAIC also revised its policies on breaches of the APS code of conduct and whistleblowing procedures, to provide greater guidance to staff and supervisors in these areas.

The Executive informed staff about the commencement of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act). The PID Act establishes a framework to encourage and facilitate reporting and investigation of wrongdoing by public officials in the Commonwealth public sector, and provides protection for those who report such wrongdoing. Staff were advised that public interest disclosures may be made internally to an Authorised Officer (any of the three Assistant Commissioners) or externally to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Risk

In 2013–14 the OAIC revised its risk register to take account of changes to its risk profile since the last review. An internal audit plan is developed each year based on risks identified in the 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.

The Executive Committee is supported in its management of risks by its internal auditors and the Audit 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 2013–14, the OAIC's people management focus was on responding to staff feedback. In the State of the Service Employee Census in 2012 and 2013, and through its staff consultation forum, OAIC staff told managers that they were unhappy with the OAIC's performance management system and the way under performance and learning and development were managed.

The OAIC was keen to address these issues but mindful of the challenges faced by a small agency with a limited budget.

Performance management framework

During 2013–14, the OAIC introduced a new performance management framework. The Talking about performance (TAP) framework was the result of cross-agency collaboration. By working with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and the Department of Social Services, the OAIC had access to a performance management framework that was already operating successfully at a large agency. The OAIC was able to tailor this platform to suit its size, business model and the needs of its staff.

The TAP framework comprises a suite of material including over arching guidelines, step-by-step 'how-to' information sheets and a series of templates to ensure consistent reporting at each stage of the performance cycle.

Elements of the framework have been progressively implemented, with opportunities for staff consultation on each element. Staff feedback has been very positive. The framework has been integrated with the OAIC's records management system and its new learning and development plan.

The opportunity to re-use an existing resource from another agency allowed the OAIC to address a pressing need and deliver a comprehensive solution that would have otherwise been beyond the OAIC's means.

Learning and development

In 2013–14, the OAIC produced a learning and development plan. The plan was designed to be affordable and make use of the skills and knowledge available in-house. The plan was based on the 70:20:10 learning framework advocated by the APSC, and complemented the OAIC's new performance management framework TAP.

Under the learning and development plan, a series of seminars called 'Insights' were offered by video conference once a month, on topics determined by the Leadership Team and presented by in-house experts. Topics covered included administrative law, conducting Information Commissioner reviews, privacy reforms and record keeping.

The six members of the OAIC's Executive each agreed to mentor up to two staff. Staff could self-nominate for the program with the support of their Directors by setting out what they hoped to gain from the program. In its first year of operation 11 staff participated in the program.

The plan also addressed priority learning and development needs during 2013–14. Directors reviewed the learning and development plans contained in performance agreements and identified the highest priority needs across the OAIC. Plain English training was identified as the highest need for 2013–14, and training was offered to all staff.

To monitor the success of the plan, the OAIC introduced a register of all internal and external training opportunities. The register showed that on average OAIC staff spent about two days each in learning activities in the period September 2013 to June 2014. This training was supplemented by other development activities.

Staff support

Following the Government's Budget announcement to disband the OAIC by 31 December 2014, the OAIC put in place arrangements to support staff through the transition arrangements in preparation for closing the Canberra site. These arrangements included outplacement services for Canberra based staff and sessions on managing change for Sydney staff. All OAIC staff, including those on leave or secondment to other agencies, were provided with regular updates about the change process, and opportunities for questions and feedback were available including through the OAIC's staff consultation forum.

Staffing profile

The OAIC's average staffing level for 2013–14 was 77.55 staff, with a turnover of approximately 10.3% for ongoing staff. Nine ongoing staff resigned, retired or transferred to other Australian Government agencies. Eight ongoing staff were engaged.

As at 30 June 2014, the OAIC had a total of 81.07 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff, including ongoing and non-ongoing employees. The OAIC's staffing profile as at 30 June 2014 is summarised in Table 3.1. There were no casual staff employed as at 30 June 2014.

As at 30 June 2014, the OAIC had 22 staff located in Canberra and 69 staff located in Sydney. Nineteen ongoing staff had part-time or flexible working arrangements in place.

Table 3.1 Overview of staffing profile as at 30 June 2014
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
3
3
0
3
0
3
Executive Level 2
($111,201–$126,907)
4
6
8
2
10
0
10
Executive Level 1
($95,736–$102,409)
9
12
14
7
20
1
21
APS 6
($75,965–$83,652)
9
25
28
6
31
3
34
APS 5
($68,891–$72,831)
3
11
11
3
14
0
14
APS 4
($61,794–$65,659)
3
3
5
1
5
1
6
Total
31
60
72
19
83
8
91

Workplace diversity

The OAIC recognises the importance of reflecting the community it serves through diversity in staffing. Currently 5.5% of staff have a non-English speaking background and 1.1% identify as Indigenous.

The OAIC's Workplace Diversity Committee promoted and supported events including NAIDOC Week, National Close the Gap Day and Harmony Day.

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 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.

During the year the OAIC offered flu vaccinations for interested staff, revised its policy on rehabilitation and made standing workstations available in its Sydney and Canberra sites.

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.

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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 Australian Public Service Commission. From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–20, which sets out a ten 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 reports will be available in late 2014, and can be found at Department of Social Services.

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Purchasing

The OAIC's purchasing procedures comply with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules issued by the Department of Finance. 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 2013–14, no new consultancy contracts were entered into.

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.

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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 had a contract with Wallis Consulting Group to undertake the Community Attitudes to Privacy survey which was released in October 2013. The contract with Wallis Consulting Group was entered during 2012–13 and totalled $77,000. During 2013–14, total payments of $38,500 were made to Wallis Consulting Group. Further information about the survey is available in Chapter Four.

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Grant programmes

The OAIC does not have a grants programme.

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Memorandums of Understanding

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

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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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