Corporate Governance

The department's operations for 2014–15 were governed by the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, and provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 and other legislation.

Corporate plan

The department's Corporate Plan 2012–2015, adopted in August 2012, details the tasks and expected performance results for each office of the department. Work reports provided to the Clerk throughout the reporting period showed continued progress in key areas and work tasks. Planned outcomes are detailed in the department's portfolio budget statements and performance results are contained in this report.

The department will adopt a new corporate plan in August 2015 as required by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act.

Management and advisory groups

The department's corporate governance mechanisms include two senior management committees, the Program Managers' Group and the Audit and Evaluation Committee, each chaired by the Deputy Clerk. These committees provide advice and support to the Clerk to ensure that statutory responsibilities for the management of the department are met.

The department's Senate Management Advisory Group provides advice and assistance to the Program Managers' Group. The department also has a Workplace Consultative Committee through which formal consultation on workplace relations occurs between the department and staff.

The role, membership and activities of these groups are described in figure 13.

The department also participates in a range of interdepartmental committees through which the parliamentary departments coordinate common and joint activities. Chief among these during 2014–15 were meetings of the heads of the four parliamentary departments, the Presiding Officers' ICT Advisory Board and a subsidiary steering group, the Security Management Board, the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group; and numerous boards managing joint projects.

Figure 13 Management and advisory groups

Audit and Evaluation 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.

Activities

3 meetings

Considered various matters reviewed by the department's internal audit service provider, including:

  • Shared Committee Information Database (SCID) – Phase 2 post implementation review
  • Internal budgeting and reporting.

Prepared an annual report to the Clerk and to the Senate Appropriations Staffing and Security Committee.

Membership

Program managers and an independent member.

Chaired by the Deputy Clerk.

Observers: Chief Finance Officer, representatives from the Australian National Audit Office and the department's internal audit service provider.

Program Managers' Group

Role

Coordinate corporate governance matters, including:

  • human resource management
  • risk management and planning
  • financial planning, and
  • departmental service quality.

Activities

9 meetings.

Examined matters including:

  • budget and staffing matters
  • risk assessments
  • administrative arrangements supporting the PGPA Act
  • review and recalibration of performance measures in preparation for new performance reporting requirements.

Membership

Program managers.

Chaired by the Deputy Clerk.

Other staff attend as required to advise on matters within particular programs.

Senate Management Advisory Group

Role

Discuss departmental proposals, policy initiatives and changes.

Advise the Program Managers' Group on leadership and managerial matters, as requested and on the initiative of the advisory group.

Activities

4 meetings.

Considered matters including new procurement requirements under the PGPA Act and security arrangements in Parliament House.

Membership

All departmental Parliamentary Executive Level 2 staff.

Convenor elected annually by the group.

Workplace Consultative Committee

Role

Serve as a forum for formal consultation between the department and staff on workplace relations.

Monitor and evaluate the impact of the department's enterprise agreement.

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

Activities

4 meetings

Provided advice and recommendations on:

  • learning and development activities
  • the Workplace Diversity Program
  • changes to sections and functions within the department.

Membership

The Usher of the Black Rod, the Clerk Assistant (Committees), up to 12 elected staff representatives and union representatives.

Chaired by the Usher of the Black Rod.

Fraud control and risk management

Consistent with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, the Clerk's Instructions and associated financial management policies promote the proper use of the department's resources. The Clerk's Instructions are reviewed on an annual basis to ensure their applicability and coverage.

The department has in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting mechanisms that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework, as certified by the Clerk in Appendix 3. During 2014–15, risk mitigation strategies and the assessment of existing risk controls were routinely considered by senior management and reported to the department's Audit and Evaluation Committee. The framework for managing risk is revised regularly and made available to staff on the department's intranet. Fraud control and risk management are standing items for meetings of the Audit and Evaluation Committee.

At the end of the reporting period the department was in the process of reviewing its Fraud Control Plan and Fraud Risk Assessment.

Ethical standards

The department upholds the Parliamentary Service Values and Parliamentary Service Employment Principles, and employees are required to comply with the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct set out in the Parliamentary Service Act 1999. The values, employment principles and code are integrated into departmental policies and practices and are highlighted in its induction program, in other learning and development activities, and in staff information resources.

Social justice and equity

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

External scrutiny

The Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee and the Standing Committee on Appropriations, Staffing and Security provide fora in which senators and others may monitor the department's performance. Matters relating to the structure and functions of the parliamentary departments may also examined by the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee.

Estimates hearings are an important accountability mechanism in which senators may test advice provided by departmental officers and evaluate the department's performance. The Clerk and officers of the department appeared before the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee on 20 October 2014, 23 February 2015 and 25 May 2015. Matters considered included committee workload and resourcing, committee powers and procedures, the role of the Security Management Board and arrangements for security at Parliament House, among others.

The department's activities were also scrutinised by both an internal audit service provider and the Australian National Audit Office, although that office did not conduct any performance audits covering the department's activities during the reporting period.

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.

Management of human resources

Staffing

The Clerk of the Senate is appointed by the President of the Senate under subsection 58(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 after consultation with senators. Staff are engaged under section 22 of that Act. Additional support was provided to the department through secondment arrangements with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, through the Parliamentary Secondment Program, and by graduates participating in the Parliament of Australia Graduate Program.

Figure 14 shows that the average full–time equivalent (FTE) staffing level for 2014–15 was 151, ten more than for 2013–14, chiefly reflecting the higher level of Senate and committee activity. Further staffing statistics, including a breakdown of the FTE staffing level by office, are provided in Appendix 2.

Figure 14 Full–time equivalent staff numbers

Figure 14 Full-time equivalent staff numbers

Workforce planning

The department has reduced full-time equivalent targets over several years as a consequence of previous budget cuts due to efficiency dividends as part of its ongoing management of staffing numbers. Continued close monitoring and the use of staffing caps have supported the department's ability to manage those targets effectively, although increased workload has meant that additional staff have recently been engaged to support the Senate and committee activity.

Staff turnover

The number of staff separations in 2014–15 was less than in the three previous years. Table 5 shows the reasons for separations.

Table 5 Reasons for separations from the department

Reason 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Resignation 21 9 13 11
Retirement (age) 5 2 2 2
Retirement (other) or death 2 1 - -
Return to home agency 2 2 2 -
End of non-ongoing employment 12 8 5 2
Transfer or promotion to another agency 13 13 3 5
Total 55 35 25 20

Senior executive remuneration

The remuneration of the Clerk of the Senate, who is the holder of a statutory office, is set by the President of the Senate after consultation with the Remuneration Tribunal.

The department's Senior Executive Service (SES) employees were covered by a collective determination made under subsection 24(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999. In accordance with their terms and conditions, and consistent with the provisions of the department's enterprise agreement, SES staff received a three per cent pay increase in May 2015. The salary ranges for SES staff and the Clerk are set out in Appendix 2.

Employment arrangements

Enterprise agreement

The department's enterprise agreement commenced on 10 August 2012 with a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2015. The enterprise agreement is a streamlined, simple agreement and contains many of the model clauses required to be included in Public Service enterprise agreements including a cap on pay increases.

In May 2015, the agreement delivered a three per cent salary increase to staff. All non-SES staff were covered by the enterprise agreement. One employee has an Individual Flexibility Arrangement with the Clerk in accordance with clause 9 of the agreement.

The main areas covered by the enterprise agreement are people and performance management, remuneration and allowances, hours of duty and overtime, and leave provisions. The agreement is supported by a number of human resource management policies and procedures. In addition to salary, staff are entitled to a range of benefits including leave entitlements, study assistance, a Health and Wellbeing Subsidy, guaranteed minimum superannuation payments and a range of allowances.

The salary ranges applicable to non-SES staff classification levels are set out in Appendix 2.

The department's employment arrangements do not provide for performance pay.

Learning and development

The department's learning and development framework encompasses a broad range of activities designed to ensure the department has a highly skilled, knowledgeable and motivated workforce. A focus on parliamentary skills and knowledge aligns with objectives in the department's corporate plan, so that staff across the department continue to develop expertise in the constitutional and procedural bases of the Senate and its committees and ensure the highest standard of accurate and prompt procedural advice.

In consultation with supervisors, employees set professional development goals for a 12-month performance cycle. The department has a target of 21 hours of work-related learning activities for each full-time, ongoing staff each performance cycle.

During 2014–15, six employees received financial assistance, paid leave, or both, under the department's Studybank scheme, to help them undertake tertiary studies relevant to the department's objectives.

The key features of the department's Learning and Development Framework in 2014–15 were:

  • the Parliamentary Executive Professional Upgrade Program (PEP-UP) and a program of parliament-specific training activities
  • an advertised program of “skills for the workplace” training and access to in-house and online training in information technology applications
  • a 'behind the scenes' program, familiarising staff with the support services delivered by DPS
  • corporate induction sessions.

Work health and safety

The department's Health and Safety Committee met four times during 2014–15. The committee is made up of elected health and safety representatives for each designated workgroup. The committee was consulted in relation to incident reports received by the department.

Initiatives and measures undertaken in 2014–15 to create a safe and healthy working environment for staff included:

  • ergonomic assessments of workstations for new employees and other employees as required
  • provision of new furniture in certain areas
  • a work health and safety inspection program
  • revisions made to the Parliament House Incident Report form.

No claims for compensation were accepted by Comcare in respect of the department during 2014–15. One claim was rejected by Comcare.

In 2014–15, within the department, there were no incidents which required the giving of notice under section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and no investigations or notices under sections 90, 191 and 195 of that Act.

Management of financial resources

Policies and procedures for conducting tenders, selecting consultants, contracting, and approving expenditure are set out in the Clerk's Instructions, which incorporate the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

Purchasing

The department applies the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the Clerk's Instructions to all purchases of goods and services.

The most significant procurement activities during the financial year related to the continuation of joint projects with the Department of the House of Representatives and DPS to develop a new document production system for the two Houses and a booking system for committee rooms and other venues within Parliament House.

Asset management

The Black Rod's Office is responsible for the effective management of departmental assets in accordance with the Clerk's Instructions.

Consultants

The department engages consultants to provide specialist expertise when not available within the department, or where an independent assessment is desirable.

The department uses various selection processes to engage consultants. These may involve: open tender, selective tender, direct sourcing, a panel of recognised or pre-eminent experts, or consultants who have previously undertaken work for the department or are known to have the requisite skills.

In 2014–15, the department entered into seven new consultancy contracts involving total actual expenditure during the year of $26,259. There were three ongoing consultancy contracts active during the 2014–15 year, involving total actual expenditure of $101,860. This amount does not include $142,510 for the provision of independent legal advice supporting the work of the two legislative scrutiny committees and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. There was no expenditure on counsel during the year.

In accordance with the Senate order on departmental and agency contracts, details of the department's contracts valued at greater than $100,000 are listed online, at www.aph.gov.au/senate/dept/contracts.

In addition, information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website www.tenders.gov.au.