Letter of transmittal
The Hon John Lloyd, PSM
Parliamentary Service Commissioner
GPO Box 3176
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Dear Parliamentary Service Commissioner
I have pleasure in presenting to you the Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner’s annual report for the year ended 30 June 2017. Section 49 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 requires that, after the end of each financial year, the Commissioner must give a report to the Parliamentary Service Commissioner on the activities of the Commissioner during the year.
Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner
5 September 2017
The Parliamentary Service comprises the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Department of the Senate, the Department of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Budget Office.
The Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner (the Merit Protection Commissioner) is responsible for independent and impartial review of employment actions in the Parliamentary Service. Merit-based recruitment is also conducted through the establishment of Independent
Selection Advisory Committees (ISACs).
The Merit Protection Commissioner provides assurance, with respect to staffing decisions, to the Parliament and the community. That is, an assurance the Parliamentary Service Employment Principles and Values are applied effectively by Parliamentary Service decision-makers with respect to staffing decisions. By reviewing departmental decisions the Merit Protection Commissioner supports fair, transparent, and ethical decision-making. Through promotion reviews and ISACs, the Merit Protection Commissioner supports merit-based recruitment and provides independent assurance on the quality of selection outcomes.
Focus on the year
The Merit Protection Commissioner met with the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services on a number of occasions in 2016–17. These meetings discussed a variety of issues relevant to both the public service and parliamentary service environments. For example, trends and research in review and integrity issues, lessons learnt from other jurisdictions to better integrate and improve employment-related decision-making and, sharing observations based on reviews.
The Merit Protection Commissioner also assisted in a large recruitment exercise for a Band 2 position within the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Outcomes for the year
Review of action performance
The review system, established under section 33 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (the PS Act) and by the Parliamentary Service Determination 2013 (the Determination), allows Parliamentary Service employees to seek review of employment actions.
Parliamentary Service employees are able to apply directly to the Merit Protection Commissioner for a review of a determination that they have breached the Code of Conduct, and/or sanction(s) imposed as a result of a breach of the Code. Employees are also able to apply for review by the Merit Protection Commissioner of other employment decisions if they are not satisfied with the review undertaken in the parliamentary department.
In 2016–17, the Merit Protection Commissioner conducted reviews of breaches of the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct and/or sanctions imposed and other employment actions. All casework received was submitted by employees in the Department of Parliamentary Services
There were six applications for review received by the Merit Protection Commissioner in 2016–17 and two on hand at the beginning of the year. Three applications related to Code of Conduct matters were reviewed. The three reviews were completed within the target timeframe of 14 weeks and the Department’s decisions were upheld.
Two applications were made for primary review by the Merit Protection Commissioner as a result of involvement by the Departmental Secretary. Of these, one was not accepted as the application was considered to be misconceived or lacking in substance. The other application was reviewed and the Merit Protection Commissioner found the allegations to be lacking in substance.
Three applications were received for secondary review of employment decisions. Two of the applications involving workplace directions and allegations of bullying and harassment were not accepted as the Merit Protection Commissioner considered that further review was not justified in the circumstances. The remaining case relating to performance management, on hand at the end of the reporting period, was still within the target date for completion.
The PS Act also provides a right of review by the Merit Protection Commissioner of a determination that a former Parliamentary Service employee has breached the Code of Conduct where that finding was made after the employee left the employment and was related to actions the employee took when employed in the Parliamentary Service (Part 11, Division 4 of the Determination). No requests were received from former employees during the reporting period.
Promotion review performance
The Merit Protection Commissioner establishes promotion review committees (PRCs) to conduct merits review of promotion decisions for jobs in Parliamentary classification groups 2 to 6. A PRC comprises a convenor, a nominee from the relevant department and a third member nominated by
the Merit Protection Commissioner.
The only ground for a review of a promotion decision is merit. The PRC has the power to confirm the promotion decision made by the department or substitute a different decision. Promotion reviews provide assurance of the integrity of the process and the outcome.
In 2016–17, the Merit Protection Commissioner did not receive any applications for review of a promotion decision within the Parliamentary Service.
Independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) performance
An ISAC is an independent three-member committee that makes recommendations to a Secretary about the suitability of candidates for employment opportunities at the Parliamentary Service 1–6 levels. An ISAC’s recommendation is not binding on a Secretary; however, if it is accepted, any resulting promotion decisions are not subject to promotion review.
ISACs provide departments and their employees with greater confidence in the fairness and integrity of the selection process and outcomes.
There were no requests for the establishment of an ISAC in 2016–17.
The functions of the Merit Protection Commissioner include:
- inquiring into and determining whether a Parliamentary Service employee, or former employee,
has breached the Code of Conduct. (The request is made by the relevant Secretary and must have
the written agreement of the Parliamentary Service employee or former employee).
- investigating a complaint by a former Parliamentary Service employee that relates to the
employee’s final entitlements on separation from the Parliamentary Service.
In January 2017, the Merit Protection Commissioner finalised an inquiry into an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct by an employee in the Department of Parliamentary Services.
The Merit Protection Commissioner was not required to investigate any complaints relating to separation entitlements in 2016–17.
Focus for the coming year
The work of the Merit Protection Commissioner is largely demand-driven. Levels of casework are expected to be small.
The Merit Protection Commissioner will work with departmental Secretaries to increase awareness amongst Parliamentary Service employees of the review of actions scheme. The intent is to reassure staff that there is an independent assessment process which provides a high level of assurance that employment-based decisions are fair and made in accordance with the relevant legislative and policy framework. Where appropriate, the Merit Protection Commissioner will discuss with the Parliamentary Service departments lessons learned from her casework.
The Merit Protection Commissioner has established a panel of skilled persons to inquire into alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct on a fee-for-service basis. This service can assist with complex and contested cases that would benefit from an independent and credible investigation. A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Merit Protection Commissioner for the provision of Code of Conduct inquiries was signed in July 2016.
In 2017–18, the Merit Protection Commissioner will provide information on ISACs to departments as a cost-effective way of selecting staff.
Governance, management and accountability
The Merit Protection Commissioner is Ms Annwyn Godwin. Ms Godwin was reappointed by the Presiding Officers for a second five year term in
January 2013, this term will finish in January 2018. It has been an honour to serve the Parliament of Australia and the community through this
Role and functions
The Merit Protection Commissioner is an independent statutory office established under section 47 of the PS Act.
The Merit Protection Commissioner’s functions under the PS Act are set out in subsection 48(1) of the Act and in Parts 8, 9 and 11 of the
The Australian Public Service Commissioner, under subsection 49(2) of the Public Service Act 1999, makes available the services of
employees of the Australian Public Service Commission to assist the Merit Protection Commissioner in the performance of her functions including
her functions as Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner. In this role, the employees are accountable to the Parliamentary Service
Merit Protection Commissioner.
In 2016–17, the Merit Protection Commissioner was supported by staff in the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner within the
Australian Public Service Commission. The majority of these employees are located in Sydney.
There is no appropriation for the Merit Protection Commissioner and her activities are included in the financial statements of the
Australian Public Service Commission.
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