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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 4.

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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 assist the Australian Information Commissioner (Information Commissioner) to discharge his responsibilities on the OAIC's financial and performance responsibilities, risk oversight and management, and system of internal control. 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, Dispute Resolution and has two independent members, from the AHRC and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

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 (until 31 December 2014) and 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
  • implementing the reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act)
  • the Australian Government's Budget decision to disband the OAIC and the subsequent closure of the OAIC's Canberra office.

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 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.

Risk

The OAIC develops an internal audit plan each year based on risks identified in its 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 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 2014–15, the OAIC's people management focus was on managing and supporting staff, following the Australian Government's decision to disband the OAIC by 1 January 2015, and the resulting closure of the OAIC's Canberra site.

Performance management framework

In 2014–15, the OAIC's performance management framework, Talking about performance (TAP), entered its second year of operation.

Two further elements of the TAP framework were implemented during 2014–15:

  • the manager-once-removed process
  • a comprehensive suite of material to support the managing underperformance process, including guidelines and a performance improvement form template to create a performance improvement plan.

Staff were consulted on each element of the framework. The material was drafted to give staff and supervisors clear direction when there are concerns regarding performance. The guidelines offer a constructive, structured and supportive approach to address and correct performance and to enhance productivity, accountability and leadership.

The TAP framework continues to receive positive feedback from staff. A review of the framework will be scheduled for the 2015–16 financial year to ensure the TAP framework is in line with APS best practice, in keeping with the Australian Public Service Commissioner's (Performance Management) Direction 2014.

Learning and development

In 2014–15, the OAIC continued to implement its learning and development plan.

The OAIC's first mentoring program was completed during 2014–15, with the six members of the OAIC's Executive each mentoring up to two staff members. OAIC staff self-nominated for the program with the support of their Directors. In its first year of operation, 11 staff participated in the program. A survey of both mentors and mentees was undertaken in June 2015 to ascertain the benefits of the program. The results showed strong support for the program, with both mentors and mentees indicating that it increased the overall communication between the Executive and staff, and provided them with a unique insight into the challenges they each face. The report on the findings is due to be submitted to the Executive in 2015–16.

To monitor the success of its learning and development plan, the OAIC continues to maintain a register of all internal and external training opportunities undertaken by OAIC staff. This training was supplemented by other development activities.

Staff support

The OAIC put in place arrangements to support staff following the Australian Government's Budget decision to close the OAIC and the resulting closure of the OAIC's Canberra site. Outplacement services were offered to assist Canberra staff to develop their job search and interview skills, prepare effective resumes and deal with the challenges of facing redundancy.

In response to concerns raised in a 'Pulse check' survey conducted in June 2014, sessions on dealing with change and resilience were offered to Sydney staff concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the Australian Government's Budget announcement, and its impact on the OAIC Sydney office.

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 2014–15 was 63.77 staff, with a turnover of approximately 48% for ongoing staff, due to the closure of the OAIC's Canberra office. Twenty three ongoing staff resigned, retired or transferred to other Australian Government agencies, and a further six ongoing staff accepted voluntary redundancies. Five ongoing staff were engaged, located in the remaining Sydney office.

As at 30 June 2015, the OAIC had a total of 58.38 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, including ongoing and non-ongoing employees, and one casual staff member. The OAIC's staffing profile as at 30 June 2015 is summarised in Table 3.1.

As at 30 June 2015, the OAIC had one Statutory Office Holder located in Canberra. Eighteen ongoing staff had part-time or flexible working arrangements in place.

Workplace diversity

The OAIC recognises the importance of reflecting the community it serves through diversity in staffing. Currently 21% of staff have a non-English speaking background and 1.5% identify as Indigenous.

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

Table 3.1 Overview of staffing profile as at 30 June 2015
Classification
Male
Female
Full time
Part time
Total ongoing
Total
non-ongoing
Total
Statutory Office Holders
2
0
2
0
0
2
2
SES Band 1
0
2
2
0
2
0
2
Executive Level (EL) 2
($111,201–$126,907)
2
5
4
3
7
0
7
EL 1
($95,736–$102,409)
6
6
9
3
12
0
12
APS 6
($75,965–$83,652)
9
22
24
7
27
4
31
APS 5
($68,891–$ 72,831)
1
7
4
4
7
1
8
APS 4
($61,794–$65,659)
3
2
4
1
5
0
5
Total
23
44
49
18
60
7
67

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 WHS 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 and provided various health and wellbeing information sessions, such as Fitting It All In.

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 (EAP). To maintain consistency with the Attorney-General's Department's Portfolio, the OAIC changed service providers in June 2014. No systemic issues have been identified through either of the EAP service providers.

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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 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 the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 (the Strategy), 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 can be found at www.dss.gov.au.

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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.

The OAIC supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. When undertaking its procurement processes, the OAIC prioritises the skills and experience of the relevant entity. The OAIC has found that small businesses are often able to deliver the required services in the most timely manner, and with the required expertise and value for money. Small and Medium Enterprises and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website at www.finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts/.

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Consultants

During 2014–15, 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 Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 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 ANAO 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 did not have any advertising or market research contracts during the 2014–15 financial year.

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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 MOUs. Details of financial MOUs are at Appendix 4.

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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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