Go to top of page


Governance framework

The department’s governance framework supports the achievement of its purpose. The framework is an effective system for managing risk and fraud as well as human and financial resources through planning and assurance processes.

Senior management committees

A number of governance committees support the Secretary and ensure effective governance within the department.

Executive Board

The Executive Board is the department’s primary decision-making body. The board sets the vision and strategy for the department, oversees risk and ensures organisational performance. It is responsible for driving organisational capability, culture and strategic stakeholder engagement. It comprises the Secretary and Deputy Secretaries, the Australian Government Solicitor, Chief Finance Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Assistant Secretary of Strategy and Governance Branch. One SES representative from each group takes up a rotating membership every six months.

Throughout the year, the Executive Board meets with senior management from each business unit as part of a series of executive reviews. These reviews focus on strategic priorities, risk management, emerging challenges and opportunities, workforce planning, culture, resource allocation and progress of key initiatives.

Incident Management Team

In March 2020, the Incident Management Team was stood up to manage the department’s response to the COVID‑19 pandemic and to support senior leadership in facilitating the government’s response to the emergency. The Incident Management Team comprises the Deputy Secretaries, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Finance Officer, Chief Information Officer, Assistant Secretary of Human Resources Branch, Assistant Secretary of Strategy and Governance Branch and advisers as required to facilitate decision-making by the team.

Senior Management Committee

The Senior Management Committee is an information sharing forum for significant corporate and strategic whole-of-department issues. The Senior Management Committee acts as a conduit to support two-way communication between the senior executive and staff. The committee meets weekly to discuss significant issues and priorities and champions organisational reform.

Strategic Operations Steering Committee

The Strategic Operations Steering Committee is a forum for ongoing dialogue between the Deputy Secretaries, the Chief Operating Officer and the Secretary’s Senior Advisor about the operations of the department. The committee assists the Chief Operating Officer to advise the Executive Board about the department’s needs, priorities and culture and informs inter-group decision-making on matters that do not go to Executive Board. It also serves as the Investment Review Board, ensuring capital investments and projects are aligned with the department’s strategic priorities and are financially stable. The Strategic Operations Steering Committee operates more informally than the Executive Board and the Senior Management Committee.

Workforce Planning Committee

The Workforce Planning Committee monitors our external environment to ensure workforce management activities and employee development initiatives enable effective performance.

Audit and Risk Management Committee

The Audit and Risk Management Committee provides independent advice on the department's financial and performance-reporting responsibilities, risk oversight and management and systems of internal control. It is comprised of five members (three external and two internal members), appointed by the Secretary.

During 2019–20, the Audit and Risk Management Committee met three times to:

  • review the financial statements and provide advice to the Secretary, including recommending the statements be signed by the Secretary
  • review the performance statements and provide advice to the Secretary
  • facilitate communication between the department and the Australian National Audit Office
  • review systems and processes for preparing financial reporting information and the inclusion of the financial statements in the annual report
  • review systems and procedures for assessing and reporting the achievement of the department’s performance
  • review internal and external audit reports and track the implementation of recommendations
  • review systems of risk oversight and management.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the timings of meetings were changed. Consequently only three meetings were held within the reporting period.

Information on Audit and Risk Management Committee functions and responsibilities are detailed on the department's website.

The department has a positive and constructive working relationship with committee members and provides frequent updates to members out of session.


Ms Maria Storti FCA, FAICD (Chair-external member) is a former EY partner and has a strong background in audit, systems of control, risk management and performance improvement. She has held senior executive roles across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Ms Storti is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the Australian Institute of Internal Auditors. Ms Storti maintains her financial knowledge via continuing professional education requirements.

Ms Storti attended all three meetings of the committee during the 2019–20 financial year. Remuneration to Ms Storti was based on per-meeting participation of $4,950.00 (total price GST inclusive).

Ms Karen Toole FCA (external member) has a strong background in audit and systems of control and has previously worked as a Chief Financial Officer. She has more than 20 years’ experience in finance and risk management, program management, stakeholder management and strategic planning and ICT management. Ms Toole is currently sitting on three other audit committees, is the treasurer of a not-for-profit Board, has good technical knowledge of performance-reporting requirements and relevant Department of Finance guidance, and is well versed in the workings of the department. She has a mix of public, private and not-for-profit sector experience and is a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. She maintains her financial knowledge via continuing professional education requirements.

Ms Toole attended all three meetings of the committee during the 2019–20 financial year. Remuneration to Ms Toole was based on per-meeting participation of $4,400.00 (total price GST inclusive).

Mr Matthew Minogue (external member) is a former government lawyer and senior manager with 30 years’ experience in the Australian Public Service. He was formerly First Assistant Secretary, Strategy and Delivery, in the Attorney-General's Department and has held senior positions in several agencies including the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He has experience in strategic management of complex projects and issues, cross-agency delivery, risk management and governance, legal issues, legislative reform and policy development. Since leaving the public service he has focused on audit committee and directorial roles. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from the Australian National University.

Mr Minogue attended all three meetings of the committee during the 2019–20 financial year. Remuneration to Mr Minogue was based on per-meeting participation of $4,400.00 (total price GST inclusive).

Ms Kathleen Denley (internal member) is the Assistant Secretary of the Native Title Unit in the Legal Service Policy Division of the department. She commenced in the department in 2001 and has worked in legal, policy and program areas including legal assistance, legal services, federal offenders, international transfer of prisoners, intercountry adoption, national security and strategy and governance. She has Arts and Law degrees and a Master of Laws.

Ms Denley attended two of the three meetings of the committee during the 2019–20 financial year. Ms Denley did not receive payments for her participation.

Mr Chris Behrens (internal member) was an Audit and Risk Management Committee member from October 2017 until December 2019. He is a Senior Executive Lawyer in Australian Government Solicitor Dispute Resolution, having joined Australian Government Solicitor in 2006. He has been a litigation lawyer specialising in commercial disputes since 1988, is a former member of the Risk Management Institute of Australia and has chaired several external risk management committees.

Mr Behrens attended two of the three meetings of the committee during the 2019–20 financial year as his tenure ended in November 2019. Mr Behrens did not receive payments for his participation.

Ms Alison Durbin (internal member) is the First Assistant Secretary of the Employment Conditions Division in the Industrial Relations Group. She has been an SES officer since 2002 and has managed program, policy and contract-management teams across multiple portfolios including in the United Kingdom civil service. She previously sat on the Audit Committee within the Employment and Workplace Relations Portfolio.

Ms Durbin joined the committee in 2020, replacing Mr Behrens. She was unable to attend the final meeting of the 2019–20 financial year. Ms Durbin did not receive payments for her participation.

Security and Risk Management Committee

The Security and Risk Management Committee is responsible for ensuring a cohesive and coordinated departmental approach to risk, fraud, business continuity and information, physical and personnel security.

Corporate planning

We develop a corporate plan each year in accordance with section 35(1)(b) of the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The plan details the priorities for the year ahead, how they will be achieved and how they will be measured, as well as the factors that may affect us undertaking our activities. It is an important part of the department’s performance framework and provides a vital link between the portfolio budget statements and the annual report. See Part 2, Our performance framework for an illustration of the framework.

The plan is normally published on the department’s website in August. However, due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the delay in releasing the 2020–21 budget, the 2020–24 corporate plan will be published later in 2020. This will facilitate better alignment with the budget.

Risk management

The department’s risk management framework aligns with the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and enables us to manage risks in line with our risk appetite. We monitor and report on risks via a series of risk registers. The Executive Board, the Audit and Risk Management Committee and the Security and Risk Management Committee regularly review the risk-management framework, including the strategic risk register and other risk registers as appropriate.

During 2019–20, the risk management framework was reviewed and updated to emphasise the importance of a strong risk culture, where employees have open risk conversations and risk management is embedded into the department’s systems and processes. We continue to mature our risk management capability through online and face-to-face learning and information sessions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the risk environment managed by the department, with heightened and new risks escalated to senior management and governance committees for consideration and response.

Fraud prevention and control

The department’s fraud control framework comprises policies and processes to minimise fraud risks by preventing, detecting, investigating, recording and reporting instances of fraud and corruption. The fraud control framework is regularly reviewed and aligns with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework 2017.

During 2019–20, we introduced an in-house fraud investigation capability, including developing a Fraud Investigation Framework that aligns with the Australian Government Investigation Standards 2011. The Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre has provided expert advice to improve our fraud control activities, including managing fraud during emergency response situations and through risk assessments.

Internal audit

Internal audit is a central component of our governance framework. Audit strengthens accountability and promotes good governance and transparency through independent and objective assurance.

We have an internal audit program that specifically considers our strategic priorities and risks. It reinforces the appropriate use of resources, cost effectiveness, self-assessment and continuous improvement.

Ethical standards

During 2019–20, the department maintained high ethical standards for the behaviours of its employees. As part of their acceptance of an offer of employment, new employees sign a statement to acknowledge that they have read and understood the APS Values, Code of Conduct and the Criminal Code Act 1995. Our induction program provides clear guidance for new employees in relation to the APS Values, Code of Conduct and Employment Principles.

The department participates in the Australian Public Service Commission Ethics Contact Officer Network. Information is available to employees regarding how to contact the Ethics Advisory Service to discuss any concerns they may have in this regard. All alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct are treated seriously and managed in accordance with best practice.