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Annual Report 2015/16

03 Management and accountability

Corporate governance and performance

Corporate governance

Compliance with section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule (PGPA Rule)

Our Fraud Control arrangements comply with section 10 of the PGPA Rule and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy. A fraud risk assessment is being carried out across the Department in recognition of machinery-of-government changes that saw us gain new functions during 2015–16. Our last department-wide fraud risk assessment was carried out in 2014–15. It found we had no significant gaps in our existing fraud controls.

Compliance with section 19 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA ActDefinition:Public Governance and Performance Accountability Act 2013) and sections 17A(2)(d) and (e) of the PGPA Rule

There were no instances of significant non-compliance with finance law reported in 201516. 

Management committees

Executive Leadership Team

The Executive Leadership Team (ELT), comprising the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries, First Assistant Secretaries, General Counsel and Chief Economist, meets weekly and provides support to the Secretary in discharging her statutory roles as: 

  • principal policy advisor to the Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Regional Communications
  • manager of government programs to achieve portfolio and whole-of-government outcomes
  • leader within the Department and across the Australian Public Service
  • an Accountable Authority under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

The ELT supports the Secretary through: 

  • providing collective advice on whole-of-department issues
  • collaborating across internal boundaries on policy development, resource management and organisational capability development
  • actively promoting and modelling the Department’s agreed culture and corporate values.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee provides independent advice and assurance to the Secretary on the appropriateness of financial and performance reporting, the system of risk oversight and management, and internal controls.

The Audit Committee comprises external and internal members and has an independent Chair. As required under the relevant PGPA rule, the majority of the members of the audit committee are external.

The Audit Committee met six times in 2015–16.

Investment Committee

The Investment Committee provides strategic advice to the ELT on our significant financial investments, including implementation and management. It also considers proposals and provides guidance on investments from a medium to long-term point of view.

Membership for 2015–16 was:

  • Chair
  • Deputy Chair
  • six members including two with specialist expertise
  • two observers.

The Investment Committee met four times in 2015–16 and considered items out-of-session on two occasions.

Health and Safety Committee

The Health and Safety Committee is a key forum that supports our safety culture. It is an integral component of our Work Health and Safety (WHS) framework and has responsibility for achieving positive outcomes for the Department in the management of WHS issues. There were four Health and Safety Committee meetings during the 2015–16 period.

Workplace Consultative Committee

The Workplace Consultative Committee is the principal forum through which formal consultation and discussions on workplace relations matters take place between management and employees. There were five Workplace Consultative Committee meetings during 2015–16.

Business Planning Framework

Our Business Planning Framework includes the identification, documentation and regular monitoring of risk and mitigation strategies.

Risk management and fraud control

We engage with risk in a positive and transparent way, promoting a culture that encourages rigorous risk assessment, informed risk taking and anticipation of risk in the pursuit of our objectives. We establish and maintain systems of risk oversight, management and internal controls in accordance with section 16 of the PGPA Act and the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy. Our risk oversight includes regular monitoring and reporting on the risk environment to both the Audit Committee and the Executive Leadership Team (ELT).

Our risk management framework includes our Risk Management Policy, Risk Management Instruction and Fraud Control Plan. It was reviewed and updated in 2015–16.

Business continuity planning

We have a Business Continuity Plan that outlines policies, procedures and responsibilities to ensure that we can continue our key activities in the event of a business interruption. The plan is reviewed and updated regularly. It was updated in 2015–16 to incorporate the lessons learnt from a disaster recovery exercise.

Internal audit

During 2015–16, internal audit services were provided by KPMG, Ernst & Young and RSM Australia. These were traditional performance audits as well as a short ‘in-flight’ audit. The delivery of these audit services was overseen by our internal audit team and the Audit Committee.

As at 30 June 2016, four audits were completed and one was still underway.

Recommendations were tracked and reported to the Audit Committee and Secretary.

External scrutiny

In 2015–16, we took part in the following Australian National Audit Office (ANAODefinition:Australian National Audit Office) cross-portfolio audits:

  • Implementing the Deregulation Agenda: Cutting Red Tape—published 4 May 2016
  • Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period ending 30 June 2015—published 17 December 2015
  • interim phase of the audits of the Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Entities for the year ending 30 June 2016.

We also took part in an ANAO performance audit of the award of funding under the Mobile Black Spot Program. The Department’s response to the audit is included at paragraph 19 and Appendix 1 of the ANAO’s report.(3)

During 2015–16, the Commonwealth Ombudsman received three approaches about our Department. Responses were finalised at the end of the reporting period. None of the queries were investigated.

Client Service Charter

Our Client Service Charter offers a contact point for clients to resolve complaints with us. No formal complaints were received during the reporting period.

Freedom of Information (FOIDefinition:Freedom of Information)

We received 55 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in 2015–16. While this is an increase from 2014–15 (when 31 requests were received), similar numbers of FOI requests have been received in earlier years. The increase is associated with the processing of additional FOIs associated with the Arts portfolio, as well as continued interest in the national broadband network rollout. Documents released through FOI are published in our FOI Disclosure Log, unless an exception applies under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

Entities subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements.

Visit our website to view our Information Publication Scheme Plan and FOI Disclosure Log.

Parliamentary committee inquiries

During 2015­–16, we appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications for Supplementary Budget Estimates, Additional Budget Estimates and Budget Estimates.

We also made appearances before, and submissions and responses to, parliamentary committee inquiries during the year. 

Table 3.1 Appearances before, and submissions and responses to, parliamentary committee inquiries 



Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications – legislation committee

  • Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Access Regime and NBNDefinition:National Broadband Network Companies) Bill 2015
  • Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016
  • Performance, importance and role of Australia Post in Australian communities and its operations in relation to licensed post offices [supported the Government’s response to the Committee’s report]

Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs – legislation committee

  • Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

  • Radiocommunications (27 MHzDefinition:Megahertz Handphone Stations) Class Licence 2015
  • Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 
  • Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions

  • Mobile phone reception in Sulphur Creek, Tasmania
  • Broadband services in Forster Keys
  • Regarding the relocation of the Craigieburn Post Office
  • Broadband services in Burnett Heads
  • Telecommunications in Burnett Heads   
  • Preserving historic motor vehicles in Australia under the Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986  (no.1)
  • Preserving historic motor vehicles in Australia under the Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (no.2) 

Senate Petitions


Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills

  • Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015
  • Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015

Scrutiny of Bills Reports: 

Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

  • Radiocommunications Advisory Guidelines (Protection of Apparatus-licensed and Class-licensed Receivers - 2 GHzDefinition:Gigahertz Band) 2015
  • Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Outpost Licence) Determination 2015
  • Radiocommunications (Overseas Amateurs Visiting Australia) Class Licence 2015
  • Radiocommunications (Radio-controlled Models) Class Licence 2015

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

  • Ratification of the Decisions of the 2012 Doha Congress: Universal Postal Union: General Regulations of the Universal Postal Union, Universal Postal Convention, Final Protocol of the Universal Postal Convention and Postal Payment Services Agreement

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities

  • Inquiry into the role of Smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure

Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network

  • In November 2013 the Senate established a Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) to inquire into and report on the Government's reviews of the NBN and the governance of NBN Co Ltd, with interim reports as the committee sees fit and a final report on or before 10 June 2014.
  • On 14 May 2014, the Senate agreed to extend the date for the presentation of the final report to the last sitting day of the 44th Parliament.
  • Interim reports were tabled on 26 March 2014 and 19 March 2015.
  • The Select Committee concluded its inquiry when it tabled its report on 4 May 2016.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts

  • Inquiry into broadcasting, online content and live production to rural and regional Australia

Legal services

The Office of the General Counsel provided legal advice about portfolio issues and transactions, including:

  • NBN legal issues
  • Mobile Black Spot Program (rounds 1 and 2)
  • media reform
  • spectrum reform
  • better practice regulation
  • departmental procurement and grants contracts
  • FOI requests.

During 2015–16, the Office of the General Counsel provided input on eight bills and 31 legislative instruments. Appendix 3 provides further details about legislation.  

Digital Communications

We continued to build on the strong foundations put in place last financial year to position ourselves as a digital leader in the Australian Government. This included continuing to refine the website and ‘Have Your Say’ policy consultation section; reviewing the information architecture and content of the website; being the first government department to work closely with the Digital Transformation Office on the development of a Beta version of the whole of government GOV.AU site; and releasing our new intranet to staff in July 2015.

We continued to support the successful implementation of broader policy and program initiatives across the Department. We did this through the delivery of traditional media materials while also reviewing and launching our new social media strategy. This strategy identifies appropriate channels and types of content that will help us explain the policy and program work we deliver, while also building on our ability to engage with stakeholders and the community.

This strategy is being refined to ensure it also can meet the needs of audiences in the arts sector. We have seen an increase of 24 per cent in the number of followers on our @CommsAU Twitter account, and an increase of 73 per cent in our communications and arts LinkedIn account. The @artsculturegov Twitter account continues to be one of the most followed accounts in government, with more than 190,000 followers.

We also supported communication of government priorities with our ongoing support of ministerial offices, providing communication and media materials as appropriate.

Our Digital Communications branch developed our first Innovation Strategy. From July 2016, we will trial an online tool so our staff can more easily give their ideas about how we can better respond to organisational challenges.

Information Technology

In 2015–16, we continued to build on our investment in a desktop mobility solution, embedding a digitally-based flexible and collaborative workplace culture. This versatile IT solution was rolled out in 2014–15 and provides staff in all of our six offices with mobile access to all our systems supported by wireless networks. The solution, including direct access laptops, Microsoft’s Direct Access technology and Skype for Business, gives staff mobility and removes the need to carry vast reams of paper to meetings.   

In June 2016, we developed a successful encrypted digital solution combining MobileIron and Dossiere that is robust and easy to use for Ministerial papers.

We transitioned to new Infrastructure Managed Services with our outsourcing vendor ASG Group.

The Arts Division (including Artbank), Classification Branch and Copyright team were successfully transitioned over to our ICT services.Environmental performance 

We have maintained our commitment to continuing and improving our environmental performance through a number of initiatives. These included:

  • recycling printer toner cartridges through the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ program
  • continued organic waste recycling of biodegradable materials and food waste
  • disposing used batteries (A size) from wireless IT equipment at recognised battery recycling depots.

These initiatives have let us minimise our environmental footprint. We also considered the environment in our procurement activities by making sure office equipment and whitegoods were replaced with energy efficient models.

Compliance of section 24Y of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983

We provided secretariat support to the independent Nomination Panel for ABCDefinition:Australian Broadcasting Corporation and SBSDefinition:Special Broadcasting Service Corporation Board Appointments (the Panel) for two merit-based selection processes. The first process involved two non-executive Director positions on the ABC Board, which were filled in November 2015. The second process, which will be completed in 2016–17, involves the SBS Chairperson position and two non-executive Director positions on each of the ABC Board and the SBS Board.

(3) Award of Funding under the Mobile Black Spot Programme published 1 September 2016.