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 Workplace Relations Act 1996 and other legislation.

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 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.

The role and membership of each group are described in Figure 21.

Figure 21 Management and advisory groups
Group Role Members Chair
Program Managers' Group Coordinate corporate governance matters, including:
  • workplace relations
  • terms and conditions of employment
  • performance management
  • human resource management policies
  • staff training and development
  • financial planning
  • departmental service quality.
The department's three Clerks Assistant and the Usher of the Black Rod. The Usher of the Black Rod.
Audit and Evaluation Committee Ensure that departmental operations and expenditures meet external audit standards in relation to best practice financial management and reporting, fraud control and business risk monitoring.

Develop and supervise the annual internal audit program.
Program managers, the Chief Finance Officer (as an observer) and an independent member; also observed by representatives from the Australian National Audit Office and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (internal auditor). The Deputy Clerk.
Senate Management Advisory Group Formulate and provide advice to program managers on departmental and managerial issues. All Senate Department Parliamentary Executive Level 2 staff. Chosen annually by the group.
Workplace Consultative Committee Serve as the principal forum through which formal consultation on workplace relations occurs between the department and staff. The Usher of the Black Rod, the Clerk Assistant (Procedure), up to 12 elected staff representatives and union representatives. The Usher of the Black Rod.

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

Program Managers' Group

The Program Managers' Group held six meetings and examined a range of corporate governance and other departmental management matters in 2008–09, including:

  • business continuity plans
  • implementation of the objectives of the Department's employee collective agreement
  • workforce planning
  • staff selection processes
  • staff training
  • intellectual property.

Audit and Evaluation Committee

The primary objectives of the Audit and Evaluation Committee are to oversee:

  • internal and external audits
  • administrative, operating and accounting controls
  • the planning and implementation of risk management.

The committee met on four occasions in 2008–09 and, among other things, considered the following matters, which were reviewed by the department's internal audit service provider, Deloitte:

  • administration of seminars
  • information technology governance
  • records management
  • travel processes
  • post-implementation of the financial system upgrade
  • the senators' survey
  • post-implementation of the asset system
  • asset management policies and procedures.

Risk management, fraud control and the certificate of compliance were standing items on the committee's agenda in 2008–09.

The committee provides an annual report of its activities to the Clerk and to the Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee.

Senate Management Advisory Group

In 2008–09, the Senate Management Advisory Group met on nine occasions to discuss departmental proposals, policy initiatives and changes, and to advise the Program Managers' Group on leadership and managerial matters.

The Senate Management Advisory Group's activities included:

  • contributing to the implementation report of the employee collective agreement
  • reviewing management case studies on intellectual property and fraud control
  • continuing its leadership and management training, which included sessions on human resources and staffing
  • reviewing intranet content
  • attending a presentation by the Australian Public Service Commission on the Senior Executive Service
  • considering activities for future review.

Workplace Consultative Committee

During 2008–09, the Workplace Consultative Committee met on four occasions to consider policies and issues that affect staff in the workplace and to monitor implementation of the Department of the Senate Employee Collective Agreement 2006–2010 (the ECA), which came into effect in July 2006.

The committee provided advice and recommendations on:

  • travel guidelines and guidelines for selection advisory committees
  • use of sick leave and carer's leave, and the meal allowance rate
  • workforce planning, the workplace diversity program and policy on recruitment and selection
  • the furniture replacement project
  • the annual report of the implementation of the ECA, and the report of the implementation of the amalgamation of the joint parliamentary departments
  • the Information Bulletin
  • roles and responsibilities of the Workplace Consultative Committee.

The committee formed a standing working group to consider and advise on a range of travel-related issues. The working group reviewed the travel guidelines and policy. Feedback was provided on the usability of the travel forms and issues related to the procedures and their interplay with the Clerk's Instructions. The working group also identified the need for further clarification and information in relation to hire cars and is considering the outcomes of an internal audit undertaken on the subject.

Corporate and operational plans

Corporate plan and work plans

The department continued to implement the corporate plan throughout the year, substantially achieving its goals of providing high-quality advice and support to the Senate and its committees and senators, and promoting public education and awareness.

Work plans for 2008–09 detailed priorities and expected performance results for each office. Regular reports to the Clerk showed high levels of achievement against the work plans.

The department also contributed to the whole-of-parliament strategic planning process, collaborating with the Department of Parliamentary Services and Department of the House of Representatives to ensure that its requirements were appropriately prioritised and included in future plans.

Fraud control plan and business risk assessment

The department has a robust framework for actively managing risk. The framework is revised regularly and is available to all staff via the department's intranet.

Risk mitigation strategies and the assessment of existing risk controls are regularly considered by executive management and reported to the department's Audit and Evaluation Committee. A major review of the department's risk profile and risk management plan is due in the 2009–10 financial year.

On 7 November 2008, at Comcover's annual awards ceremony, the department was presented with an Honourable Mention for excellence in risk management. The awarding committee acknowledged that as ‘the Department is a small agency and constrained with limited resources, the level of documentation supporting the framework was impressive'.

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.

Intellectual property

The department's policy on intellectual property was put into practice at the start of the financial year. Senior staff received awareness training on intellectual property, and opportunities arose during the course of the year to apply the principles to some aspects of the department's activities.

Ethical standards

Parliamentary service values and departmental policies

The Parliamentary Service Values and Code of Conduct, set out in the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, govern the ethical standards expected of departmental employees. A series of departmental policies support the values and code of conduct and describe in detail the standards of behaviour expected of staff.

Clerk's Instructions

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.

Social justice and equity impacts

As the department does not administer public programs, it does not directly implement a social justice strategy.

External scrutiny

A survey is conducted every two years to evaluate senators' satisfaction with the services provided by the department. Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute conducted the 2009 survey in two stages. In the first stage, all senators were invited to complete a questionnaire and record their satisfaction levels with the department's outputs. In the second stage, 10 senators were interviewed and gave qualitative information to clarify key responses to the questionnaire. The report of the survey findings was tabled in the Senate in June 2009. The results are discussed in the ‘Performance overview' section of this annual report.

Under their terms of reference, the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee and the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing monitor the department's performance. Neither committee made any specific recommendations relating to the department's performance during 2008–09.

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.