Corporate governance

Corporate governance mechanisms

The department’s operations are governed by the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and are subject to provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 and other legislation.

In 2009–10, the department’s mechanisms to implement best practice corporate governance included senior management and consultative committees and a strategic corporate plan.

Management committees

At the strategic level, two groups under the supervision of the Clerk’s Office, the Program Managers’ Group and the Audit and Evaluation Committee, are responsible for implementing and monitoring corporate governance principles. The department’s Senate Management Advisory Group assists the Program Managers’ Group.

The Workplace Consultative Committee is the principal forum through which formal consultation on workplace relations occurs between the department and staff.

In addition, the department participates in the interdepartmental committees through which the parliamentary departments coordinate Parliament House–wide matters.

The role, membership and activities of the department’s senior management committees and advisory groups are described in figure 22.

Figure 22 Management and advisory groups, 2009–10
  Audit and Evaluation Committee Program Managers' Group Senate Management Advisory Group Workplace Consultative Committee
Role Oversee:
  • internal and external audits
  • administrative, operating and accounting controls
  • risk management.
Supervise the annual internal audit program.

Ensure best practice financial management and reporting, fraud control and business risk monitoring.
Coordinate corporate governance matters, including:
  • human resource management
  • risk management and planning
  • financial planning
  • departmental service quality.
Discuss departmental proposals, policy initiatives and changes. Advise the Program Managers’ Group on leadership and managerial matters. Serve as the principal forum for formal consultation between the department and staff on workplace relations.

Monitor implementation of the department’s collective agreement.

Consider employment-related initiatives and matters that affect staff in the workplace.
Activities 3 meetings

Considered various matters which were reviewed by the department’s internal audit service provider, including:
  • certificate of compliance processes
  • procurement and contract management processes
  • payroll services review.
Prepared an annual report to the Clerk and to the Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee.
7 meetings

Examined matters including:
  • budget planning and reporting
  • business continuity plans
  • development of a new enterprise agreement for non-SES staff
  • human resource delegations, authorisations and policies
  • the Parliament of Australia Graduate and Working in the Senate programs
  • workforce planning
  • information technology issues
  • the department’s structural review
  • election period projects.
11 meetings

Reviewed various redrafted and new departmental policies.

Contributed to the
department’s structural
review by:
  • organising two facilitated meetings to consider the review’s terms of reference
  • preparing a submission for the review steering group.
Considered for future review the group’s terms of reference and its future role and activities in the strategic management of the department.

4 meetings

Provided advice and recommendations on:

  • various redrafted and new departmental policies
  • the development of work level standards
  • Health and Safety Management Arrangements
  • the meal allowance rate
  • non-ongoing employment conditions
  • the department’s structural review
  • the furniture replacement project
  • the role and responsibilities of the committee.
Membership Program managers and an independent member.

Chaired by the Deputy Clerk.

Observers: Chief Finance and Information Technology Officer, representatives from the Australian National Audit Office and the department’s internal audit service provider.
Program managers.

Chaired by the Usher of the Black Rod.
All departmental Parliamentary Executive Level 2 staff.

Convenor elected annually by the group.
The Usher of the Black Rod, the Clerk Assistant (Procedure), up to 12 elected staff representatives and union representatives.

Chaired by the Usher of the Black Rod.

Structural review

An important component of the department’s governance framework during 2009–10 was the initiation of a structural review. In January 2010, the Clerk initiated the review:

  • to consider the best arrangements to deliver the current mix of services
  • to examine opportunities to integrate the Deputy Clerk’s position into the management structure so that the skills and expertise of that role can be better utilised
  • to identify a more systematic approach to training and supporting departmental officers to undertake the role of a clerk at the table
  • to consider the integration and coordination of public information about the work and roles of the Senate and its committees.

The review is being conducted by a steering group chaired by the Acting Deputy Clerk and comprising the program managers. By 30 June 2010, the consultation phase was complete and the steering group was considering the various submissions provided by staff, prior to preparing a report with recommendations for the Clerk’s consideration.

Corporate plan and work plans

The corporate plan outlines the department’s strategic direction in providing non-partisan advice, support and information to senators, and information about the Senate and its committees to the public. The department continued to implement the corporate plan throughout 2009–10.

Annual work plans detail the tasks and expected performance results for each office of the department. Regular reports to the Clerk showed continued progress on the work plans during 2009–10.

Fraud control and business risk management

The department has in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting mechanisms that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, as certified by the Clerk in appendix 3.

This framework for managing risk is revised regularly and made available to all staff via the department’s intranet.

Consistent with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, the Clerk’s Instructions and Financial Management Guidelines promote the proper use of the department’s resources. They are reviewed on an annual basis to maintain their applicability and coverage.

Risk mitigation strategies and the assessment of existing risk controls are regularly considered by senior management and reported to the department’s Audit and Evaluation Committee.

During 2009–10, the department’s risk management plan was considered in detail by the Program Managers’ Group. A revised document was submitted to the Audit and Evaluation Committee and was approved. The risk management plan is a standing item at meetings of the Program Managers’ Group and the Audit and Evaluation Committee.

Ethical standards

The department upholds the Parliamentary Service Values and the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct set out in the Parliamentary Service Act 1999. The values and code are integrated into departmental policies and the corporate plan, which expresses the department’s commitment to:

  • independence and integrity
  • good management and continuous improvement
  • probity and accountability.

New staff are briefed on the expected ethical standards, and provided with supporting literature, on their first day with the department.

Social justice and equity

As the department does not administer public programs, it does not directly implement a social justice strategy. However, the department aims to provide equality of access to its services, and equality of opportunity for employees.

External scrutiny

The Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee and the Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing monitor the department’s performance. Neither committee made any specific recommendations relating to the department’s performance during 2009–10.

Estimates committee hearings are an important mechanism for evaluating the department’s activities. Senior departmental officers appeared before the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee at the 2009–10 supplementary budget estimates hearings on 19 October 2009, the 2009–10 additional budget estimates hearings on 8 February 2010, and the 2010–11 budget estimates hearings on 24 May 2010. Issues considered included the resourcing of Senate select committees, the department’s overall budget position, and staffing.

The department’s activities were also scrutinised by both the internal audit service provider and the Australian National Audit Office. The Australian National Audit Office did not conduct any performance audits of the department during the year.

The department was not subject to any judicial or administrative tribunal decisions which had, or may have, a significant impact on the department’s operations.

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