Terms of reference
On 23 June 2011, the Senate referred the following matter, as an inquiry
under standing order 25(2)(a), to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation
Committee, for inquiry and report by 29 November 2011:
The performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services
(DPS), with particular reference to:
raised at the Budget estimates hearing of the committee on 23 May 2011 and
in answers to questions taken on notice;
and practices followed by DPS for the management of the heritage values of
Parliament House and its contents;
management and disposal policies and practices;
agreements and/or memoranda of understanding for the provision of services
within and by DPS;
assessment of the efficiencies achieved following the amalgamation of the three
former joint parliamentary service departments and any impact on the level and
quality of service delivery;
efficient use, management and delivery of information technology services and
The reporting date was subsequently extended to 28 June 2012. On tabling
of the committee's interim report on 27 June 2012, the tabling date for the
final report was extended to 28 November 2012.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised in The Australian newspaper and on the
committee's website. The committee invited submissions from interested
individuals, organisations and the Department of Parliamentary Services.
The committee received 24 public submissions as well as confidential
submissions. A list of individuals and organisations which made public
submissions, together with other information authorised for publication by the
committee, is at Appendix 1. The committee held public hearings in Canberra on
16 November 2011, 2 May 2012 and 30 October 2012. A list of the witnesses who
gave evidence at the public hearings is available at Appendix 2.
Submissions, additional information and the Hansard transcript of
evidence may be accessed through the committee's website at:
Background to the inquiry
During the committee's February 2011 Additional Estimates hearings, the
sale, in late 2010, of two billiard tables from Parliament House was canvassed.
The committee was told that a heritage assessment of the tables had been
conducted before the sale.
The 'heritage assessment' was provided in an answer to a question on notice and
consisted of a handwritten annotation by the Disposal Delegate on the Register
of all furniture installed in the New Parliament House.
The disposal of the tables was again pursued at the May 2011 Budget
Estimates. During questioning, the then Secretary of DPS, Mr Alan Thompson,
confirmed that the annotation was the heritage assessment.
Further, it was confirmed that the annotation had been added to the register after
the Additional Estimates hearing.
It was also revealed that the Disposal Delegate had no qualifications for
assessing the heritage value of the tables.
In its report to the Senate following the May 2011 Budget Estimates, the
committee noted that it had requested that DPS provide it with the original
version of the declaration of surplus or unserviceable items form and the asset
register containing the annotation. The committee indicated that it would consider
the matter further following receipt of the documents requested.
In speaking to the Estimates report, Senator the Hon. John Faulkner
Precisely eight months to the day after the sale had
occurred, and only after extensive questioning at the Senate Finance and Public
Administration Legislation Committee—only after those processes did we find out
that no heritage assessment had been made prior to the sale, contrary to DPS
policy; that the Senate's Finance and Public Administration Legislation
Committee had been misled; that inaccurate evidence to the committee had not been
corrected and that very serious questions remain unanswered about the status of
documents provided to the committee.
Senator Faulkner went on to comment that the Senate earlier that day had
agreed to refer a range of matters to the committee for inquiry. He noted the reference
had been supported by Government, Opposition and Greens senators.
On 28 June 2012, the committee tabled an interim report for its inquiry
into the performance of DPS. The interim report canvassed the sale of the
Parliament House billiard tables and the subsequent investigations undertaken
by DPS. The committee's findings on this matter exposed less than satisfactory
practices in DPS in relation to the disposal of Parliament House assets and the
very poor response by senior officers to matters raised by the committee during
estimates hearings. The interim report also canvassed issues in relation to the
heritage status and heritage management of Parliament House. The committee
indicated that there were a range of matters outstanding which required further
investigation including bullying and harassment of DPS employees, recruitment
procedures, design integrity issues in relation to projects managed by DPS, and
The committee made only one recommendation in the interim report: that
DPS be provided with additional funding of $100,000 to ensure the completion of
the Central Reference Document (CRD) by Ms Pamille Berg.
The interim report is reproduced in appendix 3 of this report.
Developments during the inquiry
During the inquiry, there were significant changes to senior executive staff
in DPS. Ms Roxanne Missingham retired as Parliamentary Librarian on 13
February 2012 and Dr Dianne Heriot was appointed to that position. In
early April 2012, Mr Alan Thompson retired as secretary of DPS. During the
period before the appointment of a new secretary, Mr Russell Grove, former
Clerk of the NSW Legislative Assembly, acted as secretary of the department and
appeared at the committee's inquiry hearing of 2 May and at the May 2012 Budget
estimates. On 28 May 2012, Ms Carol Mills, a former senior New South Wales
public servant, commenced as secretary of DPS.
Following an initial review of DPS, Ms Mills indicated her concern that
management structures did not work as well as they could to help staff focus on
their cores areas of responsibility, work across teams or use resources most
effectively. In order to strengthen DPS as a customer focussed organisation, Ms
Mills proposed a structural realignment of the department which will see the
regrouping of existing functions into seven divisions.
At the Supplementary Estimates of October 2012, Ms Mills informed the
committee that new positions of Chief Information Officer and Executive
Director, Building Management, had been created and recruitment was under way.
Ms Mills also noted that three senior executive staff, Mr David Kenny, Deputy
Secretary, Ms Bronwyn Graham, Assistant Secretary, Building Services, and Ms
Liz Bryant, Assistant Secretary, Projects, had retired from the department as
their former positions no longer existed under the new structure.
Structure of report
The report is structured as follows:
- chapter 2 discusses DPS as an employer and addresses bullying and
harassment, appointment practices and occupation health and safety issues;
- chapter 3 canvasses heritage values and maintenance of Parliament
- chapter 4 provides details of four recent projects undertaken by
DPS: the House of Representatives Chamber Enhancement project, the DPS Staff
Accommodation project, the Staff Dining Room project and the car park lighting
- chapter 5 addresses the management of assets in Parliament House,
in particular the disposal of assets and provides details of the disposals including
the Bertoia chairs as well as the removal of the terracotta pots from
- chapter 6 canvasses security issues in Parliament House including
security enhancement projects and matters related to the Parliamentary Security
- chapter 7 provides details of information technology issues
including the outcome of the review of ICT for the Parliament commissioned by
the Presiding Officers;
- chapter 8 examines the amalgamation of the three parliamentary
service departments and the DPS budget since it was established in February
- chapter 9 addresses a range of other matters raised during the
inquiry including accountability issues; and
- chapter 10 provides the committee's overall conclusions for this
inquiry. It brings together various themes running through the report and makes
recommendations for improved accountability, project and asset management, and
In coming to its conclusions, the committee has not limited itself to
evidence received during the inquiry. Rather, it has reviewed an extensive
range of additional evidence including answers to questions on notice provided
in the House of Representatives and the Senate, in particular answer to Senate question
on notice No. 682, DPS Annual Reports, evidence taken during estimates
hearings and answers to questions on notice arising from estimates.
The committee found it a difficult task to piece together all the facts of
some of the matters canvassed from this range of sources. In particular, the
committee notes that sometimes the precise details of matters the committee
wished to pursue were unclear from the evidence reviewed, for example, the
aligning of information in DPS annual reports and estimates evidence was
problematic. As a consequence, the committee sought a range of additional
documents from DPS and has examined these during its deliberations.
Further information received
The committee commented in its interim report on the apparent loss of
original records created by the building architects, Mitchell/Giurgola &
Thorp. Following tabling of the report, the National Archives of Australia provided
further information about the evidence received in relation to the records and
stated that 'we have not been able to find any evidence that the records
referred to by Ms Berg were ever transferred from the controlling authority to
the Archives or have at any time ever been in the custody of the Archives'.
The committee notes that the controlling authority was, in the first
instance, the Parliament House Construction Authority followed by the former
Department of Administrative Services.
The committee thanks all those who contributed to the inquiry by making
submissions, both public and confidential, providing additional information,
and appearing before it to give evidence.
For many people, providing a submission in relation to their time while
employed by DPS has revived unpleasant memories of bullying and harassment. As
noted in chapter 2, the committee has been unable to adjudicate on individual
cases of bullying and harassment. However, the committee has used this evidence
to build a picture of employment practices in DPS. The committee encourages any
DPS employee, both former and current, who feels that their case has not been
adequately addressed to date, to again approach the department to discuss their
Notes on references
References to committee Hansards in this report are to final Hansards except
for the Supplementary Budget Estimates of October 2012 and the hearing
conducted with DPS on 30 October 2012 where reference is made to the proof
Hansard. All Hansards are available on the committee's website.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page
Back to top