Corporate governance

Inter-parliamentary departmental collaboration

As Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives, the Speaker has a role in relation to the department that is in some ways analogous to that of a minister of state in relation to an executive government department. The Speaker oversees administration of the department and is accountable to the House in respect of that role. The Clerk, who is responsible for leading the department and for its day-to-day management, reports to the Speaker.

Governance structure


The department is established under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 as one of four parliamentary departments that together support the parliamentary service. The department’s operations are governed by the Parliamentary Service Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). Other legislation, including the Fair Work Act 2009, also applies to the operations of the department. Together, these Acts set out the Clerk’s responsibilities for managing the department.

Executive and senior management

There were some changes in senior executive service (SES) staffing during the year, mainly due to the retirement in early 2017 of a long-serving SES Band 1 staff member and the establishment of an additional SES Band 1 position, the Clerk Assistant (Procedure), for an 18-month period.

As at 30 June 2017, the department’s Executive comprised the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and four SES Band 1 staff: the Clerk Assistant (Table), the Clerk Assistant (Procedure), the Clerk Assistant (Committees) and the Serjeant-at-Arms. Each SES Band 1 is responsible for one or more of the department’s offices (see Figure 1 on page 6). The roles and responsibilities of the Executive are described on page 7.

The senior management of the department consists of the Executive and managers at the Executive Band 2 level.

Departmental management committees


In 2016–17, the department’s Executive held 11 formal meetings to consider a range of departmental management and administrative matters. As well as standing items on finance and people strategies, during the year the Executive discussed:

  • corporate reporting and business planning
  • the department’s organisational structure
  • the department’s approach to leadership development
  • changes to the members’ survey and to the staff survey
  • a range of policies relating to financial compliance, information management and security, and employment and employees
  • matters relating to the negotiation of a new enterprise agreement for non-SES staff.

Audit Committee

The department’s Audit Committee provides independent assurance to the Clerk on the department’s risk, control and compliance framework, and its external accountability responsibilities.

In 2016–17, the committee was chaired by the Clerk Assistant (Procedure) and its membership included another SES Band 1 officer and three independent members. At 30 June 2017, the independent members were Mr Tim Courtney of the Australian Electoral Commission, Ms Susan McNeilly of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, and Mr Dermot Walsh of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The independent members contributed a valuable mix of skills, expertise and experience, complemented by an enhanced understanding, over time, of the department’s operations and its operating environment.

The committee met four times in 2016–17. In the first half of the year, it considered the department’s draft financial statements for 2015–16; the Australian National Audit Office’s closing letter on its audit of the financial statements; and, for the first time, the annual performance statement that was proposed for the 2015–16 annual report. The committee recommended to the Clerk that he sign the financial statements and management response letter and include the annual performance statement in the annual report.

In addition, the committee was briefed on:

  • the status of ICT arrangements between the parliamentary departments, presented by representatives of the Department of Parliamentary Services
  • departmental ICT security, risk and services, presented by the director of the department’s Parliamentary and Business Information Services Office.
  • The Serjeant-at-Arms attends committee meetings as an adviser, together with representatives of the Australian National Audit Office, the department’s internal audit team and the Chief Financial Officer.

During the reporting period, the department’s independent internal auditors, Bellchambers Barrett Pty Ltd, conducted the following audits:

  • a review of the framework of departmental policies and procedures
  • an assessment of the department’s records management practices
  • a review of the department’s performance measures and targets
  • a risk and fraud assessment and a review of the fraud and risk management framework.

As at 30 June 2017, a final internal audit plan for 2017–18 is in preparation. The plan will be provided to the Audit Committee for review.

Other departmental committees

Consultative Committee

The Consultative Committee is an important mechanism for communicating and consulting with staff on workplace issues. Chaired by the Deputy Clerk, the committee has four departmental representatives, two elected staff representatives and two union-nominated representatives.

The committee met six times during 2016–17. Standing agenda items for the meetings are:

  • implementation and monitoring of the enterprise agreement
  • proposals for change and developments affecting staff
  • reviews of implemented changes
  • reports on departmental activities.

Other matters discussed in the reporting period included:

  • the department’s recruitment and staff selection processes
  • changes to the department’s organisational structure
  • the department’s health and fitness reimbursement.

Knowledge Management Steering Committee

The Knowledge Management Steering Committee is a forum to discuss issues in information and knowledge management and advocate for the sharing of departmental knowledge and skills. The committee has an advisory and monitoring role and may make recommendations to the Executive for decision and undertake roles as requested by the Executive. It is the department’s Information Governance Committee under the National Archives’ Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

The committee is chaired by the Clerk Assistant (Table) and includes representatives from all areas of the department. In 2016–17 it met four times and discussed matters such as:

  • enhancements to internal information-sharing systems, including the departmental intranet
  • development of a departmental project management toolkit
  • the department’s response to the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

Inter-parliamentary departmental collaboration

Meetings of heads of parliamentary departments

In 2016–17, the Clerk, the Clerk of the Senate, the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Parliamentary Budget Officer held four formal meetings. Matters discussed included:

  • amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act
  • Parliament House Open Day and the thirtieth anniversary of Parliament House
  • future directions for parliamentary ICT
  • security capital works
  • the parliamentary pass policy
  • enterprise bargaining.

During the reporting period, the four department heads endorsed two significant joint publications. The first was the Australian Parliament’s Reconciliation action plan 2016–18, which articulates the four departments’ vision for and commitment to working collectively to establish respectful, sustainable and enduring partnerships between the Australian parliamentary service and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


David Elder, Clerk of the House (third from left), and a representative from Reconciliation Australia (second from left) with representatives from the three other parliamentary departments at the launch of the Australian Parliament’s Reconciliation action plan 2016–18, July 2016. Photo: David Foote, Auspic/DPS.

The second was the Australian Parliament’s Strategic plan for the parliamentary administration, which brings together the key priorities across the whole of the parliamentary administration, identifying shared goals and formalising a collaborative approach to achieving optimal outcomes in providing support and services for the parliament.

Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group

In 2016–17, the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group met four times to discuss matters of common interest across the parliamentary departments. Membership comprised the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod, an Assistant Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services, and the Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer of the Corporate Strategy Branch of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Responsibility for chairing the group rotates annually.

Matters discussed over the reporting period included:

  • work health and safety policies across the four parliamentary departments
  • proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Service Determination 2013
  • proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act
  • sunsetting of the Archives (Records of Parliament) Regulations 1995
  • parenting and nursing room facilities in Parliament House.

Other inter–parliamentary department forums

In 2016–17, the department was active in a number of other inter–parliamentary department forums that considered matters of common interest, particularly ICT and security. Departmental representatives participated in meetings of the following groups:

  • Parliamentary ICT Strategic Initiatives Steering Group—a forum for making decisions on ICT strategic initiatives for the parliament. The group was chaired by the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Parliamentary Services, and the department was represented by the Deputy Clerk.
  • Joint Management Committee—a committee to ensure oversight of ICT service delivery in accordance with formal agreements between the parliamentary departments. Responsibility for chairing the committee rotates on an annual basis, and the department was represented by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
  • Joint Management Group—a group to consider security-related matters. The group was chaired by a senior representative from the Australian Federal Police, and the department was represented by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms.
  • Incident Planning and Response Committee—a committee to manage security and emergency incident planning and response operations. The committee was chaired by a senior representative from the Australian Federal Police, and the department was represented by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms.

Departmental planning

The department continues to work on strengthening its corporate planning and performance reporting to comply with its statutory obligations and to improve transparency and accountability.

The corporate plan is the department’s primary planning document. As required under the PGPA Act, the department’s corporate plan for 2016–17 was published in August 2016. It covered 2016–17 and three forward years to 2019–20. The corporate plan sets out the department’s purpose, the activities undertaken to achieve that purpose, and measures for assessing the department’s performance. It also describes the environment in which the department operates and the department’s risk management and oversight systems.

Program areas and individual offices in the department were invited to consider whether they would benefit from developing their own business plans with a more operational focus to complement the corporate plan.

As part of the department’s comprehensive work management framework, each year individual staff members, together with their supervisors, must identify and agree on work objectives. The work objectives reflect the individual’s role in their work area, but must also relate to any applicable program area or office business plan and, ultimately, to the corporate plan.

Departmental accountability and reporting

The department’s main formal external accountability mechanisms are the Portfolio Budget Statements and the annual report, prepared pursuant to section 65 of the Parliamentary Service Act. The annual report for 2015–16 provided an assessment of the department’s performance against the targets set in the 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements and the corporate plan, and presented the department’s financial statements.

The department’s annual report and Portfolio Budget Statements were provided to all members and published on the Parliament of Australia website.

Managing risk

Risk assessment and management

The department’s approach to risk and management of risk is underpinned by its Risk Management Policy and Framework 2015–17 and Risk Management Plan 2015–17.
The risk management policy and framework details the department’s commitment to embedding systematic risk management into governance and planning processes. The policy defines the department’s risk appetite and tolerance, and allocates responsibility for aspects of planning, mitigation, oversight and reporting to staff at various levels. The accompanying plan identifies the key strategic risks for the department and the treatments to be applied.

The policy and plan are available to all staff via the departmental intranet. The department has a monitoring and reporting framework that requires regular reporting on risk and risk treatment to the Executive and annual reporting to the Audit Committee.

In April 2017, the department undertook a periodic risk assessment exercise facilitated by its internal auditors. Outcomes from the exercise will be used to update the risk management policy and plan for 2017–19.

Comcover benchmarking

In 2017, the department completed the Comcover risk management benchmarking program survey. The survey assessed risk management capability using a six-state maturity model.
Results from the 2017 survey indicate that the department achieved a risk maturity of systematic, an increase on the previous year’s level of developed.

Business continuity

A departmental business continuity plan was in force throughout the reporting year, complemented by office-level business resumption plans. The department’s business continuity plan is managed by the Serjeant-at-Arms and endorsed by the Clerk. The Business Continuity Network, which is responsible for business continuity governance and oversight, met once in 2016–17. The department also conducted a scenario-based training exercise during the year involving the Clerk’s Office. Work commenced on reviewing the business continuity plan and associated resumption plans to ensure that they are still relevant and up to date.

Preventing fraud

The department is committed to compliance with the provisions of section 10 of the PGPA Rule relating to preventing, detecting and dealing with fraud.

The department’s Fraud Control Plan 2015–17 outlines strategies and processes for preventing and detecting fraud, and for investigating and reporting instances of fraud should they occur. The plan is available to all staff on the department’s intranet, and all new staff are required to complete online training on financial management responsibilities and fraud control. The department’s monitoring and reporting framework requires regular reporting to the Executive and the Audit Committee. No losses of public money and no instances of fraud were identified during the year.

In April 2017, the department undertook a periodic fraud risk assessment exercise facilitated by its internal auditors. Outcomes from the exercise will inform an updated fraud risk assessment and fraud control plan for 2017–19.

Statement of significant non-compliance with the finance law

The department did not identify any instances of significant non-compliance with the finance law during 2016–17. The finance law incorporates the PGPA Act, any rules and instruments created under the PGPA Act, and appropriation and supply acts.

Ethical standards and behaviour

The Parliamentary Service Values and Code of Conduct, which are set out in the Parliamentary Service Act, provide staff with a framework for ethical conduct. The department promotes sound ethical behaviour.

During induction, all new staff are advised about what it means to work in a values-based environment and how ethical standards apply to their day-to-day work.

Public interest disclosure

The Clerk, as the principal officer of the department for the purposes of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, has established procedures and appointed authorised officers for facilitating and dealing with public interest disclosures relating to the department in accordance with that Act.

During 2016–17 the department continued to ensure that information on public interest disclosure procedures was available to all staff, and in 2016 an information session on the Act presented by the Commonwealth Ombudsman was open to all staff. During the year there were three authorised officers approved to handle public interest disclosures.


While not an entity to which the Privacy Act 1988 applies, the department abides by the principles of the legislation in its dealings with employees and the handling of their records.

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental reporting

The Department of Parliamentary Services is responsible for managing Parliament House and the parliamentary precincts. The Department of Parliamentary Services reports in accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in its annual report, which is available from the Parliament of Australia website.

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