Chapter 2Overview of the annual reports examined
2.1In accordance with Standing Order 25(20)(a) the committee has examined annual reports against relevant legislative and reporting requirements and found them to be 'apparently satisfactory'. This chapter highlights some of the findings in relation to the annual reports examined.
2.2Most bodies included exact page number references for the required items except for the Tiwi Land Council. The committee recommends including the table of the list of requirements as it appears in the PGPA Rule and providing accurate and specific page references, which will assist with assessing compliance and improve the overall accessibility of the agency's annual report.
Availability of performance framework documents
2.3The availability of relevant performance framework documents is essential for assessing a department or agency's level of achievement of planned performance. Commonwealth entities and companies are required to set out in their corporate plan each year how they will achieve their purpose and how their performance will be measured and assessed. For budget funded entities, the portfolio budget statements (PBS) also set out performance information in the delivery of departmental programs. Therefore, access to these documents for the relevant financial year is necessary when examining a body's performance as set out in the annual report.
2.4While these documents have been primarily located on agencies' websites, the Government's Transparency Portal has now become an important repository for PGPA Act performance framework documents.
2.5The PDFs of all 2021–22 annual reports and corporate plans were available on all agencies' websites and on the Transparency Portal. However, the HTML versions of the performance framework documents for the agencies were not uploaded to the Transparency Portal. The inclusion of both PDF and HTML versions of documents on the Transparency Portal will improve accessibility.
2.6The committee strongly encourages agencies to make performance framework documents available in HTML format on the Transparency Portal to improve accessibility.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency
2.7The Workplace Gender Quality Agency (WGEA) is a non-corporate Commonwealth entity established by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (WGE Act) and subject to the PGPAAct, as part of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio.
2.8WGEA's annual report for 2021–22 was submitted to the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, on 30 November 2022. It was presented out of sitting to the Senate on 25 January 2023.
2.9The committee notes that according to paragraph 12(1) of the WGE Act, WGEA has an alternative date for submitting their annual report despite the timing set out in the PGPA Act. Therefore, WGEA's annual report was submitted in a timely manner.
2.10According to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio PBS 2021–22 WGEA's primary outcome is to:
Promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces including through the provision of advice and assistance to employers and the assessment and measurement of workplace gender data.
2.11WGEA outlined four priorities in its Corporate Plan 2021–22. These priorities were subsequently translated into three performance criteria in WGEA's PBS 2021–22. The agency's results against the performance criteria were reported on in the annual report. WGEA's performance criteria were:
(1)WGEA is bridging the gap between evidence and action;
(2)WGEA maximises the potential of the data by tailoring analysis and resources to reflect changing workforce and work patters; and
(3)WGEA's reporting and data management platform provides meaningful analysis for organisations and the public.
2.12WGEA reported that performance criterion 2 had been met; and that it was 'on track across the duration of the multi-year program' for performance criteria 1 and 3.
2.13The committee also notes that WGEA reports it is on track for the three principles of regulator best practice it outlined in its Corporate Plan 2021–22. The three principles were also outlined in the government's Regulator Performance Guide (July 2021).
'Clear read' principle
2.14The Department of Finance guidance on annual performance statements notes the importance of the alignment of the annual performance statement with the corporate plan and the PBS:
To assist readers to form a judgment, reporting by entities should provide a clear read between the allocation and use of public resources, and the results being achieved through activities undertaken with these resources. The performance measures reported in the corporate plan and PBS are reconciled in entity annual performance statements at the end of each reporting period.
2.15WGEA outlined four priorities in the Corporate Plan 2021–22. Each priority was accompanied by several targets and outcomes to be used to assess performance. In the subsequent PBS 2021–22, WGEA narrowed its priorities into three performance criteria which also featured accompanying targets. The annual report's Report on Performance included the same performance criteria set out in the PBS. There was certainly a thematic alignment between the priorities set out in the corporate plan and the resulting performance criteria in the PBS and annual report. However, a consistent continuation of priorities to performance criteria would have resulted in additional clarity.
2.16For each of the four priorities the corporate plan established, it also included various targets that WGEA intended to 'use to assess our performance against each priority'. However, the nature and number of targets had variations across the three performance framework documents.
2.17The committee found that WGEA's annual report was well-presented and informative. However, its performance reporting would have benefited from greater alignment between the corporate plan, PBS, and annual report to assist readers to form a judgement. For the purposes of its report to the Senate, the committee considers the agency's report 'apparently satisfactory'.
ANAO performance reports on Northern Territory land councils
2.18The committee’s examination of the annual reports of agencies, alongside the estimates process, forms an important part of the committee’s scrutiny and accountability functions. From time to time, the committee also draws on the work of other agencies such as the Auditor-General to complement this scrutiny function.
2.19The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Parliament with responsibility under the Auditor-General Act 1997 for auditing Commonwealth entities and reporting to the Australian Parliament. The Auditor-General is supported by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
2.20The ANAO recently conducted a series of audits on the governance of the four Northern Territory Land Councils established under the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976(ALRA). These are the Anindilyakwa Land Council, Central Land Council, Northern Land Council and Tiwi Land Council. These audit reports were published between May–August 2023. The audits were:
'…conducted to provide independent assurance to Parliament that the Land Council's governance arrangements are effective in meeting legislative obligations'.
Tiwi Land Council
2.21On 24 May 2023, the ANAO published its performance audit report on the Governance of the Tiwi Land Council (TLC). The ANAO found that the TLC's governance arrangements were partly effective. However, its arrangement to promote the proper use and management of resources was largely inappropriate.
2.22The ANAO found 'the TLC's policy framework and arrangements for risk management, fraud control and managing conflicts of interest are incomplete, not appropriately established, and inconsistently implemented.' The ANAO found that 'while there is a risk management policy, the risk register is not complete or up to date'. Furthermore, there is no regular fraud risk assessment, a lack of fraud training, and no mechanism for fraud reporting. Regarding conflict of interest management, the ANAO found that the TLC had 'not provided guidance to Council members to ensure they understand the purpose of their declaration of pecuniary interest and are able to complete it correctly'. As a result of the ANAO's findings, thirteen recommendations were made. The TLC agreed to all the recommendations.
2.23The committee notes that 'on 5 July 2022 a majority of the Council voted to dismiss the CEO from employment on the grounds of poor performance'. According to the new CEO, Mr Robert Graham, 'the TLC has been undergoing an extensive and challenging reform process with the staffing complement expanded and recruited'. The committee expects the TLC's changes in staffing to lead to improved outcomes.
Anindilyakwa Land Council
2.24The ANAO's performance audit report on the Governance of the Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC) was published on 31 May 2023. The ANAO found the ALC's governance arrangements were party effective and made fifteen recommendations that covered decision-making authority and governance arrangements under the ALRA and PGPA Acts. The ALC agreed to fourteen of the recommendations. However, the ALC disagreed with recommendation no.10 on the strengthening of the royalty equivalents process.
Central and Northern Land Councils
2.25The committee notes the ANAO found both the Central Land Council's and Northern Land Council's governance arrangements were largely effective. The ANAO also found the Central Land Council's and Northern Land Council's arrangements to promote the proper use and management of resources were largely appropriate.
2.26The committee is encouraged by the responses from the four Northern Territory Land Councils which variously welcomed the opportunity to respond to the recommendations and committed to implementing further initiatives to strengthen governance.
Senator Louise Pratt