Asset management and disposal policies and practices
The assets of Parliament House are not small: the book value of
Parliament House and its contents was some $2.3 billion in 2011.
The role that DPS undertakes in relation to those assets is one of
stewardship, albeit with guidance from the Presiding Officers. This means that
DPS must preserve the assets that make up Parliament House on behalf of the
Parliament and the people of Australia. DPS has commented that 'effective asset
management is a significant component of the responsibilities of DPS, and it is
a role that we take very seriously'.
Indeed, as previously noted, the DPS asset management principle is promulgated
Protect what we have – we need to maintain the design
integrity and heritage values of this building and preserve cultural heritage
assets that have unique national historic significance.
However, the sale of the billiard tables from the Staff Recreation Room
in 2010 has cast doubt on DPS asset management and disposal policies and
As noted in the committee's interim report, the sale of billiard tables went
ahead because of inadequate recognition of their potential heritage or cultural
value. This arose as DPS has taken a very narrow view of cultural and heritage
items in Parliament House; principally that if the item was not listed on
Parliament House Art Collection database, little or no consideration of the heritage
value need be given before a disposal action takes place. DPS has recognised
that 'it is clear that some further work is required to fully detail the
heritage, cultural or historic values of various items in and around Parliament
House which are not within the [Parliament House Art Collection]'.
This action has only arisen as a result of the investigation into the disposal
of the billiard tables.
This chapter provides an overview of DPS asset management policies and
practices and the implementation of recommendations to improve asset
management. The committee also provides details of asset disposal processes
which appear to have been undertaken with little consideration to heritage
Parliament House Art Collection
DPS has stewardship over the following heritage and cultural assets
which, as at mid 2010, had a total value of $77.4 million and are referred to
collectively as the Parliament House Art Collection (PHAC):
- rotational art collection;
- architectural commissions (which comprise artworks commissioned
during the design of the building, including some furniture);
historical memorials collections;
- official gifts collection;
- constitutional documents; and
- archive materials.
Every four years, the PHAC is independently re-valued. In 2005 and 2009
the valuations were conducted by the Australian Valuation Office.
Following a review of the PHAC in 2004, conducted by Ms Betty Churcher
AO, DPS stated that it progressively implemented a range of recommendations to
protect and manage the collection. For example, current facilities were not
originally intended for storing art and the next priority is a major upgrade of
the storage facility as part of the capital works program for 2011–12 and
DPS described the improvements made over the last several years to the
management of the PHAC:
Many important items were either not previously listed as
part of the collection, or their listing was incomplete or inaccurate. Artworks
and gifts have been fully catalogued and described; independent formal
valuations have been conducted; and policies and guidelines relating to their
care and use developed and implemented. This has also led to better
conservation and maintenance outcomes, and improved inventory control for these
DPS concluded that 'effective management and curatorial quality systems
are now in place'.
Asset register for PHAC
A catalogue database of PHAC items is maintained by DPS Art Services.
The collection management system records comprehensive details of the assets
Collection items are registered in the system by staff at the
time of their acquisition (whether by purchase or gift) and updated as
appropriate (for example, movement/location details are updated every time an
item is moved). There are currently over 6000 records in the database; but not
all 6000 records represent individual items. Some records represent 'parent'
and 'child' components of items; and some items are listed for tracking and
information management purposes, but are not assets that belong to DPS.
Examples of these are the Tom Roberts painting, which is owned by the Royal
Collection; and the Yirrkala Petitions, which are owned by the Department of
the House of Representatives. The PHAC itself encompasses around 5000 artworks
assets that are owned by DPS.
PHAC policies and procedures
DPS outlined the following policies relating to the management of the
PHAC and provided copies of the documents:
- Operating Policy and Procedure No. 17–Parliament House
Art Collection (incorporates the Rotational Collection Acquisition Policy);
- Operating Policies and Procedures No. 19–Allocation of
artworks to Members of Parliament;
- Official Gifts Collection Policy;
- Historic Memorials Collection: Guidelines for the selection of
artists and processes for the procurement of portraits;
- Parliament House Art Collection De-accessioning Policy;
- Art Advisory Committee Terms of Reference; and
Parliament House Art Collection-Stocktake procedures.
According to the PHAC De-accessioning Policy, the following key
a) De-accessioning of items will only be undertaken with
the overall objective of improving the PHAC, so that it continues to fulfil its
stated purpose in accordance with the current PHAC Acquisitions Policy.
will not take place in response to current trends or on the basis of personal
previously acquired in accordance with the PHAC Acquisition Policy will be
de-accessioned in consultation with the artist or maker where appropriate, and
will take account of any specific contractual obligations that are still in
Rights obligations set out in the Copyright Act 1968 will be adhered to
when de-accessioning artworks.
The PHAC De-accessioning Policy also describes the criteria for
de-accessioning, the approval process (involving a written submission to be
prepared by the Director, Art Services, through the Secretary of DPS to the
Presiding Officers) and the disposal methods. The criteria for consideration of
item properly forms an integral part of the collection, building fabric and or
heritage significance of another collecting institution;
item is duplicated elsewhere in the collection;
item is a copy which has been replaced by a better copy;
d) the item
has become a danger to the safety of staff and or other materials in the
collection-e.g. due to chemical decomposition;
item has been lost or stolen and has not been recovered;
item does not satisfy the current collection Acquisition Policy;
provenance or authenticity of the item is questionable; or
item as deteriorated or been damaged to such an extent that:
and preservation of the content by migration or copying is not practicable; or
ii. the ongoing
costs associated with conservation, storage and maintenance of the item are
disproportionate to its assessed value and significance.
The written submission to the Presiding Officers should include the reasons
for the proposed removal of the item from the PHAC; the circumstances of the
original acquisition of the item; significance of the item to the PHAC; value;
effect of removal of the item on the integrity of the PHAC; and recommended
method or option for disposal. The submission recommending de-accessioning
should also satisfy the Presiding Officers that:
- there is no legal restriction on disposal of the item;
- consideration has been given to the full range of implications of
disposing of an item from the collection; and
- every reasonable effort has been made to consult the commissioned
artist, the donor, the trustee or their legal representative where relevant.
Under 'Disposal methods', the Policy states that the disposal method
selected 'must take into account the protection of the public interest as well
as the interests of the collection'. Methods of disposal include transfer or
donation to another collecting institution; return to the artist/maker or donor
when they can be located; sale; or physical destruction.
In relation to provenance, the Policy states that 'where appropriate,
the Presiding Officers may require any person or organisation arranging the
sale of the de-accessioned item to keep its provenance confidential'. The
Policy also states very clearly that no parliamentarians, nor anyone associated
with DPS, should be able to acquire a de-accessioned item:
Under no circumstances should a de-accessioned item be
purchased by or have their ownership transferred to staff of the Department of
Parliamentary Services, parliamentarians, office holders of organisations
affiliated with the collection, or to members of the staff or immediate family
of any of those persons.
Finally, the Policy requires that 'complete records of each
de-accessioned item and the circumstances of its de-accessioning and disposal
will be maintained in the Art Services Collection Management System (CMS)
database as well as on the file registry'.
Art Advisory Committee
The PHAC is also overseen by the Art Advisory Committee. Membership
comprises the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, the Deputy
President and Chairman of Committees, the Deputy Speaker and the Secretary of
DPS. An independent advisor from the National Gallery of Australia also advises
the committee. The committee's responsibilities include:
providing guidance on the Rotational Collection Acquisition
Policy, and setting short-term priorities for acquisitions;
assessing acquisition proposals in accordance with the
Acquisition Policy and priorities; and
providing advice on other matters related to the display and
management of artworks in the Parliament House Art Collection as considered
necessary by the Presiding Officers.
PHAC stocktake procedures
DPS Art Services conducts a stocktake of the PHAC annually, using a sampling
approach of approximately 10 per cent of the entire collection. The last
stocktake of 100 per cent of the collection was undertaken in 2005. DPS
The practice of undertaking annual 100% stocktakes of the
PHAC has been discontinued, as it was very resource-intensive relative to the
levels of risk, and had a major impact on normal service delivery.
For the years 2006 to 2010, there were no missing items identified
during the sample stocktakes. There were, however, 'mislocated' items (i.e.
incorrect location details recorded) found: 11 in 2006; seven in 2007; one in
2009 and three in 2010. The location details for these items have been
Disposals and de-accessioned items
from the PHAC
DPS provided details of de-accessioned items since 2000. The
accompanying explanation stated:
Many of the de-accessioning actions listed date from between
2003 and 2005–this relates to the progressive introduction (between 2001 and
2004) of a comprehensive catalogue database of items in the PHAC, and
implementation of more rigorous stocktake procedures. Consequently, it was
identified that a number of items had been 'registered' in the collection prior
to (or in) 1988, but had either been missing for some time, or had never been
physically transferred to Parliament House (some were also listed in asset
registers of other cultural agencies).
DPS also advised that there were some items 'pending' for
de-accessioning in 2011, including:
a glass plate and ceramic bowl that have been damaged beyond
- three items that were identified as missing in the 2002 and 2004
stocktakes (one craft item, one photograph, and one furniture item); and
- a number of items that have been identified as highly suitable
for transfer to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.
These items originate from Old Parliament House (and some are physically
located there), and records suggest they were never intended for permanent
transfer to the new Parliament House, but final decisions were held off until
the ongoing status of Old Parliament House was resolved.
Management of assets outside the PHAC
DPS admitted that classifying and listing other items in Parliament
House (apart from the PHAC) that may have heritage value 'has been an iterative
process' and that the department has 'inherited responsibility for items that
were not registered as assets, or items that were registered as assets but were
very poorly described and controlled'.
DPS reported that, to date, it had generally used a definition of
cultural and heritage assets as set out in the Finance Minister's Orders.
However, DPS also recognised that there are other items that may have a
cultural, heritage or historic value which do not fit this definition and a
survey is underway to identify them. The results of the survey are discussed
Internal procedures and policies
The internal procedures and policies for managing non-PHAC assets were
outlined by DPS in an answer to a question on notice:
DPS has asset accounting policies and procedures that comply
with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA) and
Regulations, the Finance Minister's Orders and the requirements of Australian
Accounting Standards. Governance arrangements are set out in a range of
documents including a set of DPS Chief Executive's Instructions (CEIs)...which
underpin the internal financial management practices of DPS; and Chief
Executive Procedures (CEPs), which expand and underlie some of the CEIs. There
is a specific CEP (4.3)...governing disposal of public property.
DPS provided copies of the relevant documents as part of its answer.
According to CEI 4.5—Accounting for assets, officials in DPS with
responsibility for accounting for DPS assets must:
- maintain the DPS asset registers;
- determine methods for valuing departmental assets; and
- undertake regular stocktakes in accordance with the CEPs.
The commentary on this instruction states that 'the maintenance of
departmental asset registers is an important element of being able to account
for, and report on, the assets that DPS controls'.
DPS Financial Paper No. 4—Chief Executive's Procedures (CEP)
4.3—Disposal of Public Property
details the steps to be taken 'when items of public property are identified as
obsolete, unserviceable, worn out or surplus to requirements and are proposed
This paper was reviewed following the recommendations of the Tonkin Review (see
below). The following provides an overview of revised CEP 4.3.
CEP 4.3 outlines the disposal process including the stages of disposal
and the designated official; responsibilities for each DPS employee engaged in
the disposal process including the declaring official (the official responsible
for assessing when an item is no longer required); the Assistant Secretary with
custodial responsibility for the items; the disposals official and disposals
administrator; disposal methods; and reconciliation of funds from the proceeds
of the disposal.
The revised CEP 4.3 now includes information on special categories of
items. If items proposed for disposal fall into these categories, additional
action is required. These categories are:
- IT assets;
- heritage, cultural assets, artworks and/or furniture;
- items containing hazardous substances; and
- security items.
In the old CEP 4.3, a section on how to deal with heritage and cultural
interest items was included and stated:
19. It is important to preserve items of genuine heritage
and cultural value for future generations of Australians. When items with
possible heritage or cultural value are declared surplus to requirements the
"declaring official" must seek advice from Art Services Section AND
the Strategy and Communication Section, as set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and
(c) below to determine:
if the item is listed on the Art Services' database and if so whether it
needs to be returned to Art Services;
b) if the item is not on the Art Services' database, the Strategy and
Communication Section is to advise whether the item can be identified by design
or any other permanent making as having Parliament House origin, or has any
other cultural or heritage significance;
c) if the item does have cultural or heritage significance the Disposal
Administrator and the AS Corporate will consult with Art Services Section and
Strategy and Communication Section to identify an appropriate future for the
item. Options include:
i. retention within Parliament House; or
ii. lending of the item(s) on a long-term basis to an appropriate
institution or donating/gifting the item(s); or
the item(s) to the original designer/maker; or destruction; or
expressions of interest for either the reuse of the item(s) or sale through a
The revised CEP 4.3 now states in relation to heritage, cultural assets,
artworks and/or furniture:
(b) Heritage, cultural assets, artworks and/or furniture
(excluding exempt items identified in the table at b(iv) below). When items
with possible heritage or cultural value are declared surplus to requirements
the Declaring Official must seek advice from Art Services Section AND the
Strategy and Communication Section, as set out in sub-paragraphs (i), (ii) and
(iii) below, to determine:
the item is listed on the Art Services’ Parliament House Art Collection (PHAC)
database and if so whether it needs to be returned to Art Services;
the item is not on the PHAC database, the Strategy and Communication Section is
to advise whether the item has any cultural or heritage significance;
the item does have cultural or heritage significance the Disposals
Administrator and the Assistant Secretary Corporate Services will consult with
Art Services Section and Strategy and Communication Section to identify an
appropriate future for the item. Options may include:
- retention within Parliament House;
lending of the items(s) on a
long-term basis to an appropriate institution or donating/gifting the item(s);
- returning the item(s) to the
original designer/maker; or
- destruction; or
- seeking expressions of interest
for either the reuse of item(s) or sale.
of items exempt from Heritage Assessment are provided in the following table:
monitors, laptops, printers, scanners, tap drivers, docking stations, toner
cartridges, servers, racks, phones, PDA’s, switches, and cables
Generic Audio Visual
recorders, Broadcasting monitors, racks, servers, cameras, lens, switches,
radio protons, controllers, amplifiers, audio and video patch panels,
(excluding items removed from areas of high significance, e.g. chambers)
magazines, monographs, DVDs, videos and maps
Chairs, desks, tables, cabinets,
Another internal paper, Financial Paper No. 2—Accounting Policy 2.1
Property, Plant and Equipment and Intangibles (last revised in March 2010),
outlines the 'revaluation cycle' for DPS assets. DPS advised that valuations of
its assets are conducted regularly 'by independent, appropriately qualified
valuers' from the Australian Valuation Office.
The accounting policy paper discusses the valuation of heritage and
Valuation of heritage and cultural assets may raise particular
measurement difficulties; however, the measurement principles for assets
generally apply also to these assets. Some heritage and cultural assets may be
unique, in that they cannot be replaced and there is no market evidence for
their value. For such assets, it may be impossible to find a reliable value.
Where no reliable value can be obtained for cultural or heritage assets, the
notes to the financial statements will explain the reasons.
Other heritage and cultural assets will instead be representative,
i.e. the asset is merely one of a type that is traded. In such cases, it should
be possible to arrive at a reliable value based on market evidence. Where a
reliable value can be ascribed to a heritage or cultural asset, that value will
be included in the relevant asset class in the financial statements.
DPS maintains an asset register with items recorded under 17 specific
Five of these classes relate to administered assets, one of
which is the Cultural and Heritage class, where items that are determined as
having cultural or heritage significance are recorded. All artworks in
Parliament House are recorded in this class. Records are updated as required
for: new acquisitions, retirements/disposals, revaluations and (through an
asset movement advice form) a change to the location or the responsible person.
Any discrepancies found in asset stocktakes are also accounted for in the asset
register. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) performs audits on the
asset ledger records and accounting controls in place every year as part of the
interim and annual financial statements audits. There are some 6,000
Administered asset records and 6,000 Departmental asset records in the assets
Stocktakes are conducted by DPS staff in accordance with Financial
Paper No. 2—Accounting Policy 2.1 Property, Plant and Equipment and Intangibles
and with Financial Paper No.4—Chief Executive's Procedures CEP
4.5.1—Stocktaking Framework. DPS advised that its internal auditor,
WalterTurnbull, conducted an audit in May 2010 of DPS Financial Processing and
Assets Stocktakes and noted that the audit had found that the 'method of
stocktaking currently being undertaken (including asset barcoding and scanning)
to be robust'.
Recent stocktakes have identified missing items including books from the
Parliamentary Library stocktake for 2009–10, (six items with a total value of
$297 from 897 of 107,272 asset items sampled); a 'stocktake variance' of
852 items (total value $8,588 out of a total value of $225,000) in the
Parliament Shop; five items of 180 Administered items sampled; of 11 items on
personal issue missing in 2010 two were found and nine were written off; and
departmental assets of $5,935 from the stocktake of 2009–10 were still missing
DPS commented in relation to Administered items:
Often it is difficult to identify an Administered
asset—particularly furniture—based on the descriptions of the asset, because
different people may use different descriptions. We have now implemented a
process for recording all new Administered furniture purchased. A photo of the
item is linked to the asset record in the financial management information
system to make it easier to identify the asset in the future.
In relation to items on personal issue, DPS noted:
As a result of the 2009–10 stocktake, procedures were changed
and a more secure room with restricted access was selected for storing laptops.
In addition, all laptop movements are documented in greater detail and every
laptop is assigned to a position or officer, and must be signed for.
For IT assets, the July 2010 stocktake of 100 per cent of the 1,048
system assets identified no missing items.
DPS outlined the ways in which missing assets may be located including checking
disposal forms and individual work areas. If the asset cannot be located at
that time, the asset is then written-off in the financial management system.
Records of disposals of original
Parliament House items
When asked whether the department could provide details of any original
Parliament House items disposed of since 2000, DPS responded:
Asset information acquired from PHCA and maintained prior to
2004 by the former parliamentary departments is incomplete. This may be due to
different accounting policies at that time. It may also be because we are not
able to access old records because, in the majority of cases, the paper records
have not been kept beyond the mandatory seven years retention period. In
addition, we are not able to access the legacy Financial Management Information
Systems that were used by the former departments. Available records show that,
since 2000, the following original Parliament House items, which came from OPH,
were gifted back to OPH:
a) two billiard tables (2000) and
b) a barber's chair (2009).
Furniture in Parliament House
The furniture in Parliament House is intended to reflect the design
ethos and philosophy of Parliament House. The Parliament House Furniture
Collection is classified into three classes, depending on where the furniture
is located. Status A furniture is found in all areas of Public and/or VIP
status which require a unique and comprehensive design service for loose
furniture and furnishings. These areas will lend themselves to the
accommodation of highly crafted, custom-made and specialised furniture item.
Status B areas include all other Ministerial offices, Members' and
Senators' offices and areas which require special design and/or selection
services for a limited range of standard items of loose furniture and
furnishings that will be duplicated within all areas of similar status
throughout the building.
Furniture in Status C areas includes all items apart from those listed
under Status A and Status B and in these areas, there are ready-manufactured
items that provide a range of standard elements for loose furniture and
furnishings within each area of similar status. Such office spaces within this
classification are the House of Representatives Department office spaces,
Senate Department office spaces, Parliamentary Library and other DPS office
spaces. General office furniture under Status C is replaced as required for OHS
and functional reasons, due to deterioration associated with age.
DPS outlined the 'known Status B and C furniture replacements' since
1988. Details on the outdoor Bertoia furniture are included under case studies
later in the chapter.
Black Leather Lounges
Black Leather Lounges were replaced in two stages for a total
cost of $255,614. Stage one (2002-03) consisted for 65 lounges (60
single-seaters and 5 two-seaters). Stage two (2003-04) consisted of 32 Lounges
(28 single-seaters and 4 two-seaters) at a final cost of $83,512. The
existing lounges were replaced because the leather and cushioning were in poor
condition and in need of replacement.
Cabinet Suite Executive Chairs
A total of 64 chairs—36 high-back and 28 low-back chairs—were
replaced in 2006, at a total cost of $179,656. The Cabinet Suite flood in 2004
damaged many of the Cabinet Suite Executive Chairs. The remaining chairs were
in poor condition and it was more cost effective to replace all of the chairs
at the same time. $94,315 was recovered from the insurance claim—leaving a cost
to DPS of $85,341.
MG 63 Meeting Room Chairs
16 Wilkhahn committee room chairs were replaced in 2010, due
to poor condition, notably the deterioration of the chair upholstery. They were
replaced with 18 Wilkhahn chairs @ a total cost of $51,700.
Status C furniture
From 2008–09, DPS spent $735,862 on Status C furniture
replacement in existing work areas...Workstations were replaced for either OHS or
for functional reasons (ie where the functional role of an area had
substantially changed). Chairs were replaced because they were worn out and
where repair was not economical. The budget for 2011–12 is $200,000.
Reviews of asset disposal and management policies in DPS
Following the May 2011–12 Budget Estimates hearings, DPS indicated that it
...an internal audit investigation into the disposal of two
billiard tables; a review of asset disposal policies; and a survey to identify
and assess items with potential heritage values (beyond the Parliament House
Art Collection). These activities will supplement work that DPS had already
commenced to finalise a Heritage Management Framework for Parliament House.
As noted in the committee's interim report, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
undertook two internal audits in relation to the sale of the billiard tables.
The audit in relation to the disposal of the billiard tables pointed to a
number of deficiencies in DPS disposal practices and found:
- under the disposal process in place at the time of disposal of
the billiard tables, staff were required to discuss possible cultural and
heritage value assets with Art Services to determine if the asset is on the Art
Services database, and if so to seek advice from Art Services on the disposal.
While Art Services were contacted before the disposal, as the billiard tables
were not in the database, no further action on heritage was undertaken;
DPS staff held a variety of views on how to define and manage
Parliament House assets, in relation to their potential culture and heritage
- weaknesses were found in DPS policies for the disposal of public
PwC recommendations included introduction of a policy to formalise DPS's
stance on whether to advertise that items are from Parliament House; updating
of the assets disposal policy to require valuations of unusual sale items prior
to them being disposed of; and DPS should consider the use of specialised
auction agents. PwC also made recommendations addressing documentation and
policy weaknesses regarding disposals and addressing heritage issues.
In relation to addressing heritage issues, PwC recommended defining
cultural and heritage value. It was also noted that some assets may not meet
the definition of cultural or heritage, 'but could nevertheless be considered
significant by sections of the community and a policy which guides their
management, including disposal practices, should be developed'.
DPS agreed to all of the PwC recommendations which were to be
implemented by June 2012. In particular, DPS stated that it was:
- undertaking a comprehensive review of disposal practices; and
- initiating a survey of Parliament House to identify further
moveable items which may have cultural and heritage significance.
The Tonkin Review
A review of DPS asset disposal practices was initiated by DPS in
response to the PwC internal audit recommendations and was completed by Mr
Robert Tonkin in October 2011 (Tonkin Review). Building upon the audit
investigation into the disposal of the billiard tables by PwC, this review
...DPS disposal policies and practices, available better
practice guidance on asset management and disposals, the definition of assets,
the structure of delegations and authorisations in relation to disposal,
existing instructions and procedures, mechanisms for disposal, the
disclosure/non-disclosure of the provenance of items and staff training and
The review noted that since the Senate Estimates hearings of February
and May 2011 and the subsequent internal audit report, there had been
'improvements in the overall departmental procedures' in managing asset
disposals. However, the review identified a remaining 'need for further
clarification and improvement of departmental asset management and disposal
policies and procedures'.
Overall, the report concluded that DPS's asset disposal process should
be 'clear, accountable and efficient' and proposed a number of improvements to
Issues arising from the PwC audit
The Tonkin review acknowledged that DPS had already taken measures to
strengthen its asset disposal practices, including the following:
- A draft amendment to CEP 4.3 – Disposal
of public property has been prepared by the Department to clarify the roles
of the various officers involved in the disposals process and to include
additional safeguards to assess the heritage and cultural significance of items
proposed for disposal.
- The Declaration of surplus or
unserviceable items form has been revised to include a requirement that
where items with possible heritage or cultural value are declared surplus, such
items must be assessed by the Strategy and Communications Section in advance of
any final disposal decision.
- The development of a Parliament House
Heritage Management Framework that was distributed in draft form for
consultation in June 2011.
- The conduct of a preliminary survey to
identify moveable and semi-moveable items that have some heritage or historical
connection and are not already managed as part of the Parliament House Art
Collection group of cultural and heritage items.
Despite these improvements, the review also highlighted a number of
remaining weaknesses, particularly the reliance upon individual staff members'
judgment when discerning a need to consider an item's heritage significance:
The revised departmental disposal procedures continue to rely
on the judgement of the individual members of staff proposing a disposal that a
particular item may have cultural or heritage significance. It is this
judgement that triggers the consideration of the possible heritage or cultural
significance of the item. In addition, no definition of heritage or guidelines for
the conduct of any initial assessment of such significance is provided.
To address this deficiency, the Tonkin review called for:
- a clear definition of heritage or cultural significance that is
available to and understandable by all DPS staff; and
- a comprehensive database of all assets and items of significance
that will automatically prompt the consideration of heritage and cultural
significance issues when an item on that database is being proposed for
The review also found that the legislative authority of various DPS
instructions and procedures lacked clarity, particularly Governance Paper No 1
and Financial Paper No 1.
Regarding asset management, the review identified some significant
limitations to DPS practice, summarised as follows:
- An undetermined but potentially significant number of (generally)
movable items within Parliament House are not on any asset register or are not
controlled in any way.
- The lack of one asset database for the
whole building (including Senate and House of Representatives but excluding
tenancy areas) is a serious control shortcoming.
- The financial accounting definition of
"assets" is a source of confusion, particularly in relation to the
control and disposal of significant or portable or attractive items that fall
below the asset threshold.
- Staff perception and awareness is the
only current effective safeguard against a repeat of the billiard table issue
for any presently uncontrolled or unrecorded item.
The review recommended that the department ensure the inclusion in its
asset management arrangements of 'all items, regardless of value, that have
already been classified as being of heritage or cultural significance' as well
as those that 'might be judged to potentially be in that category'. A further
recommendation was for a 'consistent heritage assessment process' to be
established to determine which items should be recorded on the new database.
The lack of a common asset database across parliamentary departments was
also raised as a potential risk to proper asset management including loss of
items. The review therefore recommended that DPS consult with the Chamber departments
to determine whether a common policy and set of procedures and databases would
be worth establishing to mitigate the risks of items being lost or moved.
The final recommendation relating to asset management was that the
coverage of the Art Services database should be retitled as the 'Arts and
Heritage database' and that it include all items of cultural or heritage
significance under the control or responsibility of DPS. The department agreed
in-principle to this recommendation, noting that it was still considering
whether to establish a new stand-alone database 'which records heritage
attributes and also allows other important data to be recorded'.
The review found that DPS's current procedures for asset disposal were
...particularly in terms of the sequence of decision making
when an item is declared surplus, the respective responsibilities of the
various officers involved in the process, the documentation of reasons for
proposals and decisions at each stage of the process, and heritage
In relation to asset valuation, the review found:
In most instances of proposed disposal by sale, the current
asset valuation of the item may provide a suitable reserve price. However,
where an item may be of particular significance than an independent valuation
to determine an appropriate reserve price would be desirable.
The disposals form needs to be sufficiently detailed to
provide guidance on the overall disposal process and to require the provision
of sufficient information to inform and support disposal decisions.
Two recommendations were made with a view to improving asset disposal:
- that the Declaration of Surplus or Unserviceable Items Form
be revised to include guidance on 'the required sequence of disposal actions
and decisions, and the required documentation of reasons for recommendations
and decisions'; and
that CEP 4.3 – Disposal of public property paper be
revised to 'reflect best practice in asset disposal and to clearly and
comprehensively detail the asset disposal process'.
Disclosure of the provenance of
items for disposal
The review supported the disclosure of the provenance of items for sale
from Parliament House stating that:
Where the disclosure of the Parliament House origin or
provenance of an item for sale is likely to result in an increase in the
realisable return from the sale of that item, and the disclosure would not be
detrimental to the interests of the Department, then disclosure of the
Parliament House origin provenance of the item is supported. In the case of the
Department of Parliamentary Services, such items are most likely to be
furniture and fittings or items approved for de-accessioning from the
Parliament House Art Collection.
The review recommended that the DPS procedures for the disposal of
public property be amended to require the disclosure of provenance.
The review's final recommendation was for additional training and
awareness programs to be developed to underpin the revised asset management,
disposal and heritage assessment procedures.
Preliminary survey of items of
possible heritage value
On 20 September 2011, DPS provided to the committee a copy of a
preliminary survey of 'moveable and semi-moveable items' of possible heritage
value not already managed as part of the PHAC group of cultural and heritage
The scope of the survey was described in the departmental minute to the
Secretary of DPS:
The focus of this preliminary survey was on items located
within DPS work areas, or in the control of DPS staff. The Chamber Departments
have not been approached about items of significance in their control; however,
we consider it highly likely that significant Parliament House heritage
material will also be held by those departments.
Virtually all areas of DPS yielded some items that merited
Items were identified across a range of different
media/material types, including photographs; documents; architectural material
(drawings/models); technology/tools/equipment; furniture; artwork; plants,
samples (e.g. building fabric); uniforms and ephemera.
The minute also advised that a 'Significance Methodology' (recognised by
the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Pollution and Communities)
was used when surveying items; however, it was noted that the 'significance
criteria have been used as guiding principles only' and that detailed
assessments of significance had not been conducted.
List of 'new' items
The survey initially uncovered 170 'new' items. Some of the items
identified were said to 'clearly warrant classification as cultural and
heritage assets' and required the 'imposition of more rigorous control and
management systems' similar to those used for the PHAC.
The minute noted that four categories had been developed for an
'indicative grading' for items in the preliminary survey: highly significant;
significant; items of interest; and flagging for future attention.
In summary, there were 22 highly significant items found including
silver ceremonial spades used for sod turning; 53 significant items found
including a set of carpet design drawings; 71 items of interest found including
teak outdoor furniture benches; and 16 items for future attention found
including recording machines used in the Chambers.
At the committee's hearing of 30 October, Ms Carol Mills, Secretary,
DPS, commented on the new items and observed that some are 'absolutely heritage
items' but had not been included on any asset register because their value was
less than $5,000. Other items required review to ensure that they fell within
the criteria. An independent consultant will review and validate the list. In
addition, the consultant will undertake work for the Chamber departments in
relation to items of a cultural or heritage nature that they hold.
Recommendations from the survey
As a result of the survey, it was recommended that DPS undertaken the
a) create a comprehensive definition for items associated
with Parliament House that have cultural and heritage significance;
the works listed in appendix B [of the minute];
each item to form part of the above mentioned catalogue;
d) advise all
DPS asset custodians...of the heritage items they are responsible for and their
requirement to protect them;
all DPS asset custodians of the requirement to consult with our heritage
specialist before any action to dispose of the item;
Services Section should assess if any of the identified items listed...should be
transferred to the Parliament House Art Collection or possible other institutes
such as OPH;
the catalogue has information about maintenance/preservation; and
a clearer policy or process to update the cultural and heritage register as
i. are acquired;
ii. gain heritage significance as a result of events in and around
iii. are moved or disposed (including method of disposal), and including
standard stocking procedures.
Implementation of the recommendations
of the Tonkin Review
In September 2012, Ms Mills indicated that the majority of the
recommendations of the Tonkin review had been fully implemented by DPS
including training to support the revised asset recognition procedures for
items that may have heritage value.
Ms Mills also stated that she is continuing to closely monitor the
implementation of all outstanding actions from the review. In relation to the
preliminary survey of items, Ms Mills indicated that a draft procedure for
identifying and recording heritage items had been reviewed by heritage
management staff of Old Parliament House, the Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Department of Finance
and Deregulation. Ms Mills also commented that DPS was holding discussions with
the Departments of the Senate and House of Representatives to develop a common
heritage policy and procedures.
As noted above, Financial Paper No. 4—Chief Executive's Procedures
CEP 4.3—Disposal of public property has been revised following the Tonkin Review.
The new procedure clarifies the responsibilities of all staff engaged in each
step of the disposal process. It also now makes clear the requirements in
relation to items not on the PHAC database including those that may have
heritage or cultural value.
Ms Mills also provided the committee with an overview of changes to disposal
practices and noted that work had been undertaken to provide a much more robust
process of decision making that draws on the recommendations of the Tonkin Review,
a more rigorous assessment of officers who have delegation to make decisions,
and a process of training those staff. As an example of the changed practices, Ms
Mills pointed to the recent disposal process of equipment undertaken as part of
the Parliamentary Library refurbishment project: some items were retained
because the heritage assessment indicated their value; some were retained in
the building but in a different location; and some were disposed of as being surplus
Case studies of disposal of Parliament House assets
The committee has already addressed the disposal of the billiard tables
in its interim report. However, there are a number of other disposal processes
which were also brought to the committee's attention. For example, Mr Romaldo Giurgola
told the committee that there were instances where 'specially designed and
procured lifetime furniture' has been decommissioned including terracotta planters
and custom light fittings with some being sold.
Mr Hal Guida also reported that on several occasions he had received emails
from people who recognised items from the building in the rubbish. He detailed
two instances that had occurred in 2011 involving a door pull specifically
designed for Parliament House and a light fixture from the Staff Dining Room.
In such cases he indicated that he passed the information to DPS. Mr Guida
noted that DPS has responded positively and assured him that every effort was
being made to address the issue.
Below are some examples of case studies regarding disposal of assets raised
in evidence. Comments related to the disposal of fixtures and fittings from Parliament
House are discussed in chapter 4.
Original outdoor furniture
In an answer to a question on notice, DPS provided details about the original
outdoor furniture at Parliament House, which consisted of:
- two styles of Bertoia chairs (in the courtyards and on
- metal-legged jarrah tables (in the courtyards and on the
jarrah benches (near the tennis courts); and
- teak benches—gift of the Burmese Government and People (on the
The Parliament House Construction Authority (PHCA) had purchased 466 Bertoia
plastic coated chairs:
There were two types of chair—the Side (dining) Chair and the
Diamond (lounge) Chair. Bertoia chairs had been standard furniture items
manufactured by Knoll Inc. of the USA. The chairs purchased by the PHCA were
made in Australia by George Pockett and Sons (under licence from Knoll Inc).
They each cost $185.60 and $241.60, respectively, according to PHCA records.
The original chairs underwent rejuvenation in 1994 as it was found that
the plastic feet on the bottom of the chairs was wearing through damaging the
plastic coating and allowing weather to penetrate and rust the wire. There was
also inadequate fixing of the seat mounts resulted in fracturing of the plastic
causing further rusting. The Joint House Department (JHD) had sought to replace
the wire chairs with a more serviceable chair. However, JHD stated:
...after researching the market place, it
became apparent the only outdoor chair available was a bulky design, which when
grouped together gave a visual impression of a 'sea' of white or grey chairs.
This was clearly not the intention of the PHCA when designing outdoor
furniture. It was obvious that the wire design was selected as a practical soft
JHD therefore repaired the chairs rather than replace them. A further
300 Bertoia chairs were purchased in March 2000, bringing the total number
of Bertoia chairs acquired to 766.
DPS indicated that 107 chairs were destroyed in March 2000.
DPS also sought to replace the Bertoia chairs during 2004–05 as much of the old
outdoor furniture presented safety concerns as wells as being expensive to
However, the tender process did not identify a product that satisfied
requirements. An inspection of the chairs in May 2005 found that 170 of the
chairs were in poor condition and required immediate replacement or removal
from services, 140 were in poor to average condition and the remaining 85 were
in good condition.
It was recommended that a complete replacement of the chairs be undertaken:
...and a value for money outcomes will be achieved by
replacement of the group of 400 outdoor chairs in one procurement process by
(a) the purchase of the complete group of 400 chairs. As some
other projects planned for 2005–06 have not been approved we have uncommitted
administered funds to fund the purchase; or
(b) a standing offer arrangement staged to purchase the
chairs as required.
DPS provided the following details of the disposal of the Bertoia chairs:
A total of 245 Bertoia outdoor chairs have been sold; 198
were destroyed. The 245 chairs were sold because, even though they were still
stable, their condition was deteriorating (specifically, they had elements of
rust and some of the plastic coating had come off). The 198 were destroyed
because they were assessed as unstable and unsafe; specifically, they had large
amounts of rust, and/or their frames and/or joints were broken.
June 2008 sale of 42 chairs realised $154.
January 2009 sale of 92 chairs realised $625.
March 2009 sale of 13 chairs realised $43.
July 2009 sale of 27 chairs realised $600.
March 2011 sale of 29 Side chair realised $873.
March 2011 sale of 19 Diamond chairs realised $1,514.
June 2011 sale of 3 chairs realised $78.
The committee notes that the vendor remittances provided by DPS show
that the lots were listed as 'outdoor chairs'.
DPS advised that the Bertoia chairs had not been listed as heritage and
cultural assets and that no heritage assessment had been undertaken before
disposal. Nor were any valuations performed on these items as they had not been
included on the asset register. The chairs were not recorded on the asset
register of the former JHD and as such were not transferred to the DPS asset
register. However, DPS also stated that it was satisfied 'value for money was achieved'
for the chairs that had been sold by public online auction (using Dola On-line
Auctions and AllBids auction houses). DPS also advised that no reserve was set
for the items put up for sale.
The identity of the purchasers of the chairs was not provided to DPS.
However, DPS said that 'it is understood that a former DPS staff member had
purchased several of the chairs'.
Regarding those items of furniture that have been retained, DPS stated:
DPS has retained one Diamond (lounge) chair and 23 Bertoia
Side (dining) chairs. The one Diamond chair and 16 of the Side chairs are now
held in the Furniture Store. These have been kept as part of the furniture
collection to reference the original design of the chairs. Another five Side
chairs are in use on a Senate tearoom balcony and two weathered Side chairs are
located in the Gardeners compound. The original jarrah tables and benches
remain in use (courtyards, balconies and/or near tennis courts), as do the teak
benches on the Queen's Terrace.
DPS also provided details of new outdoor furniture that had been acquired:
In November 2007, 370 outdoor Hee Hay dining chairs and 30
outdoor Hee Hay lounge chairs were purchased to replace the Bertoia chairs, for
a total price of $106,470. These chairs were selected as they matched the
evaluation criteria well and were significantly cheaper than other short-listed
The committee also notes the comments in an email of 8 December 2006
relaying the DPS Finance committee approval to purchase new chairs. The Finance
committee 'considered that there was no need for the chairs to be identical to
the current chairs. The SOR should be rewritten to allow for minor
Submitters raising the issue of the sale of the Bertoia chairs pointed
to the value of original chairs and suggested to the committee that single chairs
from Parliament House now sell on the open market for $250 each.
The committee also notes that in the replacement process undertaken by
DPS there appears to have been no consideration of the 'visual impression' and
the intentions of the PHCA as JHD had done in 1993 when the decision was made
to rejuvenate the original chairs rather than replace them with bulky outdoor
furniture which was then on the market.
Terracotta pot plant holders were located throughout Parliament House. In
early 2010 the pot plant holders were removed from all parliamentarians'
offices and DPS offices. DPS indicated that this arose as a cost saving measure
in relation to potted plants with DPS saving approximately $120,000 per year.
Some 719 pots were removed from parliamentarians' officers and are being stored
in various areas in the building and in the Landscape Services area.
DPS provided further information which indicated that 22 terracotta pots
were being maintained in the public areas of the building. 184 pots were being
maintained in the private areas including the Members' Guests Dining Room,
Staff Dining Room and circulation areas not accessible to the public.
DPS indicated that the total values listed for the original terracotta
pots in the PHCA Register of Furniture for New Parliament House is $234,928.
The terracotta pots were not recorded on the asset register as transferred to
DPS in accordance with the accounting policy of the former JHD. DPS went on to
state that as the pots are not on the DPS assets register, no valuation has
At that time of the removal of the pots, it was suggested that it was
proposed to dispose of the pots. Witnesses expressed concern at the possible
sale of the pots. At the committee's 2011 hearing, Ms Pamille Berg took
the opportunity to explain the history of the terracotta planter pots
throughout Parliament House:
Each of you know when you walk through the Members Hall that
there are the four huge pots that sit in the corner. They were commissioned
through the art program as a special commission to a ceramicist named Cameron
Williams, who at that time as an AFL footballer was the only person in
Australia who had long enough arms to be able to raise pots nearly a
metre-and-a-half high. They are by themselves a remarkable feat. Those were
protected under the art program and have continued to be known and protected
under the art collection. Cameron was also commissioned through the furniture
program to specially design and hand fabricate hundreds upon hundreds of the
terracotta planters that are used in the seating groups. They came from the
same person, they were designed for the building and had the same care and the
same quality. But because those were seen as part of a procurement process they
have not had the degree of protection that the items that were actually
commissioned under the art program did, even though it was the same person who
did this similar quality of work. That is where the knowledge of the
accomplishments of hundreds and thousands of people in this building needs to
underpin those decisions about, 'What can you get rid of? What should you get
rid of? What should you save?' As Aldo says, simply trying to understand things
as heritage requirements is not a way that is going to pick up those kinds of
However, DPS commented that there has been no program to dispose of the
terracotta pots and DPS had no record of any disposal. However, DPS also
commented that there are several hundred pots and it was possible that one or
two have been broken and scrapped over the years.
DPS supplied further information to the committee in October 2011:
In June 2011, Senator Faulkner lodged a series of questions
on notice about various items and assets around the building (QoN 682). One set
of issues related to terracotta pots (682(b)). We provided answers to these
questions, based upon the knowledge that we had available at the time. In
recent weeks, DPS has become aware that some terracotta pots may have been
disposed of via public auction around 1995/1996 by the Joint House Department.
While we can find no record of the transaction, we have
become aware that the Parliament House Construction Authority originally
acquired around 1,300 pots.
Current DPS records indicate that we have around 900. The estimated
date of disposal is based upon information provided by former staff members.
This matter was also explored at the committee's hearing in October
2012. Ms Mills stated that the terracotta pots were now included on the
list of new items of cultural or heritage interest. Ms Mills also provided the
following information in response to questions about whether there was any
record of a proposed sale of the terracotta pots:
Anecdotal advice from former employees indicates that some
terracotta pots had been disposed of during the time of the former Joint House
In addition, in late 2009, DPS explored options for the large
number of terracotta pots in store. One option was disposing of some of the
pots. Mr Thompson alluded to this at the Additional Estimates hearing on
8 February 2010 (F&PA p.34).
Senator FERGUSON–...So what is
going to happen to the pots eventually? Are you just storing them?
Mr Thompson–At the moment
they are in store. I think from our perspective we were going to then try to
assess the future budget outlook for DPS on behalf of the parliament and once
that had become clearer, one way or the other, then we might well look at a
path towards disposal.
The former Secretary decided to retain all the pots then in
use or in store.
Furniture from the former staff
As described in an earlier chapter, the two billiard tables that were
sold through an online auction site came from the former staff recreation room.
DPS provided details concerning the other furniture, fixtures and fittings from
i. pool table: sold at auction.
ii. ping pong tables: one relocated to Health and Recreation Centre, and one
iii. dartboard and cupboard: relocated to DPS Building Fabrics Services (BFS)
for storage and future reuse in APH.
iv. trophy cabinet and trophies – cabinet brass: returned to DPS BFS for
future reuse in APH (spares); medium density fibreboard carcass and glass:
disposed to scrap; trophies: returned to DPS BFS for storage.
v. piano: relocated to childcare centre for use with the children
vi. tables: relocated to furniture store for storage and future reuse in APH
vii. chairs: relocated to furniture store for storage and future reuse in
fixtures—down lights: reinstalled in Staff Dining Room; pendant lights: 4 x
returned to DPS Electrical for future reuse in APH (spares), 1 x returned to
DPS Building Information for records, 16 x disposed to scrap.
ix. carpet: Staff Dining Room: most carpet retained in place; but, where
replaced with parquetry, the carpet was disposed to landfill (being too worn
for re-use). Staff Recreation Room: disposed to landfill (being too worn for
x. accessories: Snooker Table rules: relocated to NG 61 (new office area
that incorporates former Staff Recreation Room) to be hung on wall.
DPS also provided a list of other items either disposed of (for example,
MDF skirting) or retained for future use (for example, brass skirting board
trim, cupboard and door hardware, clocks).
In response to a question about whether any of the items disposed of had
undergone any heritage assessment, or whether any significance or expert advice
was obtained before disposal, DPS advised, at August 2011:
The existing internal guidelines for DPS in CEP 4.3 make
provision for consultation with DPS Art Services before disposal of any items
with possible cultural and heritage values. However, none of the subject items
for disposal were listed in the cultural and heritage asset class in the DPS
The committee welcomes the changes made to DPS's asset management and
disposal practices and notes the new Secretary's interest in progressing all
the recommendations made in the PriceWaterhouseCooper and Tonkin reviews. It is
unfortunate that these changes have been made only as a consequence of the very
costly reviews undertaken following the exposure of the sale of the billiard
tables. Had that unsavoury episode not been exposed, the committee questions
how long inadequate disposal processes would have continued in DPS and how many
more Parliament House assets of potential cultural or heritage value would have
It is not only the loss of the assets that is a major concern, but also the
sale of items without adequate assessment of their true value with the sale of
the Bertoia chairs being a case in point. DPS stated that value for money had
been received. The committee acknowledges that many of the chairs appeared to
have sustained significant wear and tear. However, without the chairs being
listed showing their provenance, and without the chairs being listed as original
Bertoia chairs, the committee considers that DPS was in no position to be able
to state that value for money was received. The committee also notes that the
Parliament House collection was possibly the largest single collection of
Bertoia chairs in the world. Indeed, the Power House Museum has only two
original Bertoia chairs.
Another matter of concern is that the Bertoia chairs were classified as 'global
furniture', that is, status B furniture.
The Parliament House Heritage Management Framework notes that this is
'important, high-quality furniture'.
It appears that the replacement of important outdoor furniture was undertaken with
more regard to cost than design integrity.
The committee also points to the difference in approaches of JHD and DPS
in the consideration of the replacement of the outdoor furniture: JHD took into
account the 'visual impression' and the intentions of the PHCA, while DPS
appears only to have been interested that the replacement chairs matching the evaluation
criteria well and were significantly cheaper than other short-listed proposals.
In relation to the terracotta pots, the committee acknowledges that they
were not sold and most are now in storage. While the committee welcomes this
outcome, it may have been only timely questioning during the committee's estimates
hearings that prevented the pots from being sold by DPS.
The disposal of items with possible heritage and cultural significance appears
to have been a distressingly all too frequent occurrence under DPS's
stewardship of parliamentary assets. The committee considers that the processes
put in place following the Tonkin Review will significantly improve asset
management within DPS. However, the committee believes that there is still some
further work to be undertaken in relation to disposal practices and the
recording of heritage and cultural assets in Parliament House. The committee
looks to the new leadership of DPS to continue to progress this matter.
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