Letter of transmittal
Mr Peter Woolcott, AO
Parliamentary Service Commissioner
GPO Box 3176
PARKES 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 2018. 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
19 October 2018
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 the independent and impartial review of employment actions in Parliamentary Service. Merit-based recruitment services may also be provided to Parliamentary Service through the establishment of Independent Selection Advisory Committees (ISACs).
As noted in this report, there was only one review of action matter from Parliamentary Service this year. The majority of our work focused on outreach and proactive work with Parliamentary Service outlined in the following sections.
I note that for the majority of the year Ms Annwyn Godwin (former Merit Protection Commissioner) and Mr Mark Davidson (acting Merit Protection Commissioner) were responsible for discharging the duties of the Merit Protection Commissioner.
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 former Merit Protection Commissioner met with the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services in 2017 to discuss the lessons learned from review as they affect employment decision making and integrity. The Acting Merit Protection Commissioner met with the Chief Operating Officer and the Assistant Secretary People and Governance Branch in April 2018 to discuss the Merit Protection Commissioner’s contribution to the capability building of human resources staff.
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 commenced at the end of June 2017.
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 meet with staff in the Parliamentary Service 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 new applications for review were received by the Merit Protection Commissioner in 2017–18.
In 2017–18, the Merit Protection Commissioner finalised one review that was on hand at the beginning of the year. The review concerned the management of an employee’s performance. It was completed within the target timeframe of 14 weeks from the date of receipt of the application and the department’s decision was upheld.
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.
In 2017–18, 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.
There were no requests for the establishment of an ISAC in 2017–18.
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 2017–18.
Governance, management and accountability
The Merit Protection Commissioner is Ms Linda Waugh. Ms Waugh commenced on 25 June 2018 following the resignation of Ms Annwyn Godwin on 31 December 2017. Mr Mark Davidson acted as Merit Protection Commissioner in the interim period.
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 2017–18, 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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