Letter of transmittal
Mr Peter Woolcott, AO
Parliamentary Service Commissioner
GPO Box 3176
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Dear Parliamentary Service Commissioner
I am pleased to present the Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner’s annual report for the year ended 30 June 2019. As required by section 49 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 my report deals with the activities of the Office of the Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner; it is required that I must give a report to the Parliamentary Service Commissioner.
Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner
10 October 2019
The Parliamentary Service comprises the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Department of the Senate, the Department of the House Representative and the Parliamentary Budget Office.
As the Parliamentary Service Protection Commissioner (Merit Protection Commissioner) I am responsible for providing independent and impartial review of employment actions
and merit-based recruitment services through the establishment of Independent Selection Advisory Committees (ISACs).
As indicated in this report, there was not significant demand on my statutory functions this year and the majority of work focused on outreach and proactive work with Parliamentary Service.
Merit Protection Commissioner
The year in review
The Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner (Merit Protection Commissioner) is an independent statutory office holder with functions aimed at ensuring accountability and integrity in employment decision-making in the Parliamentary Service. In particular, the Merit Protection Commissioner is responsible for:
- providing independent reviews of employment actions
- providing recruitment services and Code of Conduct inquiry services to departments.
The Merit Protection Commissioner met with the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services in 2018–19 to discuss the role of the Office, and people management and integrity issues.
The Merit Protection Commissioner represents the Parliamentary Service Commissioner as a member of the Parliamentary Information, Communications and Technology Advisory Board which meets quarterly.
Staff of the Merit Protection Commissioner consulted with staff of the Department of Parliamentary Services on improving information on the website for Parliamentary Service employees regarding lodging reviews of action and seeking promotion reviews. This work was completed in October 2018.
Training was provided to an employee from the Department of the Parliamentary Service so they could be a MPC nominee on promotion review committees established to consider applications for promotion review from Parliamentary Service employees. The legislation requires the MPC nominee to be a Parliamentary Service employee. The two promotion reviews conducted in 2019 also provided an opportunity for discussion of recruitment and selection best practice between the Office and recruitment staff in the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Focus for the coming year
We have ongoing priorities to do the following:
- improve the service we provide to departments through online lodgement and a better service offering, as well as improved information on the MPC website, including case studies
- support departments in complex case management, including through the Code of Conduct inquiry service.
The Merit Protection Commissioner will continue her regular meetings with the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services to explore ways to work more collaboratively.
Outcomes for the year
Review of action performance
The review system, established under section 33 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (the Parliamentary Service 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 sanctions 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.
No applications for review were received by the Merit Protection Commissioner in 2018–19.
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 1 to 6.
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.
In 2018–19, the Merit Protection Commissioner received three applications for review of two promotion decisions in the Parliamentary Service. These applications resulted in the establishment of two PRCs. The PRCs upheld both promotion decisions.
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.
There were no requests for the establishment of an ISAC in 2018–19.
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.
The Merit Protection Commissioner was not asked to inquire into an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct or to investigate any complaints relating to entitlements on separation in 2018–19.
Governance, management and accountability
The Merit Protection Commissioner is Ms Linda Waugh. Ms Waugh’s five year appointment commenced on 25 June 2018. Mr Bruce Barbour acted as Merit Protection Commissioner for the period 28 June to 20 July 2018.
Role and functions
The Merit Protection Commissioner is an independent statutory office established under section 47 of the Parliamentary Service Act.
The Merit Protection Commissioner’s functions under the Parliamentary Service Act are set out in subsection 48(1) of the Act and in Parts 8, 9, 11 and 12 of the Determination.
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 2018–19, the Merit Protection Commissioner was supported by staff in the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner within the Australian Public Service Commission. The Merit Protection Commissioner is based in the Commission’s Sydney office and has staff in both the Sydney and the Canberra offices of the Commission. During 2018–19 the Merit Protection Commissioner was supported by 12 ongoing employees.
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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