Austrade manages its assets and financial resources to support its operations by maintaining:
- an effective system of management and internal controls
- accounting, treasury and taxation services
- procurement systems and processes that achieve value for money
- business systems and processes that provide financial performance information to enhance decision-making and the efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of resources
- information technology that is stable and secure and increases connectivity for staff, clients and key stakeholders
- systems to monitor, safeguard and enhance property and other assets.
SIGNIFICANT ISSUES RELATING TO NONCOMPLIANCE WITH THE FINANCE LAW
Annual reports must include a statement of any significant issues—reported to the responsible minister under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013— that relate to noncompliance with the finance law in relation to the entity.
Austrade had no significant issues to report to its minister in relation to noncompliance with the finance law during 2019–20.
Austrade’s highest priority is our people, and it is essential that we provide a safe and secure environment to protect staff, visitors and clients. We also place a high value on the information we collect and generate, and it is critical that we safeguard our information and our information and communications technology infrastructure.
To support these objectives, in 2019–20, Austrade continued its program of work to mitigate security risks, prioritising innovative and flexible security solutions to support our workforce in continuing to operate, remotely, in response to COVID-19.
As part of the Australian Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework reforms, Austrade successfully transitioned to the new Australian Government security classification scheme in February 2020. Austrade continues to use the reforms as an opportunity to further adapt the existing security management framework, positioning the agency to respond to changing work practices in a safe and secure manner.
Austrade’s global property portfolio comprises 150 properties—10 onshore and 140 offshore.
In accordance with the Property Services Coordinated Procurement arrangements, Austrade works with its property service provider to deliver onshore leasing and facilities management services. The initial term of this arrangement runs to 30 June 2021.
Austrade’s offshore property management functions, including residential and office accommodation, are managed centrally by Overseas Property Office and Services in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Austrade’s offshore property footprint includes 61 DFAT-leased properties, 33 DFAT-owned properties and 46 Austrade-leased properties. Austrade works with DFAT to optimise the efficiency of our property portfolio, including rightsizing tenancies where appropriate and negotiating the best available commercial terms with landlords.
During 2019–20, Austrade maintained the business resilience levels of its domestic and international offices and the agency’s incident response mechanisms. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, all Austrade offices and business units reviewed their individual business continuity plans and responses.
Austrade continued to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure a consistent approach to crisis management, especially in response to the pandemic. Austrade is reviewing its crisis management framework and responses to the pandemic and documenting the lessons learned. Overall, Austrade’s business continuity and crisis management framework has proven effective in meeting the challenges presented by the major incidents that occurred during 2019–20.
Austrade’s internal legal team provides legal services to Austrade’s business units and offshore network, with support from external law firms when required. This model allows Austrade to maintain a small team of experienced in-house lawyers, led by the Chief Legal Counsel, to cover most commercial transactions and provide advice to assist the program administration of Austrade’s business units. External legal firms are contracted on agreed terms and at competitive rates as the need arises.
Under arrangements administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, through the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC), Austrade has access to a legal services panel of prequalified law firms in Australia. The same standards that apply to Austrade’s domestic legal service providers under the OLSC arrangements are applied by Austrade when engaging overseas legal firms to provide specialist local advice in labour claims, property negotiations and commercial disputes that arise at Austrade posts.
The main areas of Austrade’s demand for legal services in 2019–20 included:
- advice on service proposals, property leases and unique provider agreements, such as those required for the ongoing International Freight Assistance Mechanism, significant procurements and intellectual property ownership
- due diligence on clients and participants in Austrade-managed events
- sensitive personnel issues arising from labour claims, determination of entitlements and advice on separations
- appeals under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, mainly involving appeals against determinations made under the Export Market Development Grants scheme
- privacy advice and training—significant changes to privacy law in Australia included introduction of mandatory breach reporting and the Australian Government Agencies Privacy Code, and international changes included the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation
- advice on insurance, legislation and Austrade partner arrangements
- assistance to continue streamlining Austrade’s procurement process.
Austrade’s approach to procuring goods and services, including consultancies, is consistent with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. These rules are applied to activities through the Chief Executive Instructions, supporting operational guidelines and Austrade’s procurement framework.
No contracts of $100,000 or more were let during 2019–20 that did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.
No contracts in excess of $10,000 (inclusive of GST) or standing offers were exempted by the CEO from being published on AusTender on the basis that they would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Information on publicly available business opportunities with an estimated value of $80,000 or more, and that were expected to be undertaken in 2019–20, were published in Austrade’s annual procurement plan, and are available from the AusTender website at tenders.gov.au.
Austrade engages consultants when specialist expertise or independent research, review, advice or assessment is required. Decisions to engage consultants during 2019–20 were made in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and related rules, including the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Furthermore, internal policies require Senior Executive Service– level endorsement for all proposed consultancies to ensure consistency and accountability.
During 2019–20, 27 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $2,547,011. In addition, 11 ongoing consultancy contracts were active during 2019–20, involving total actual expenditure of $5,487,798. Table 4 provides trend information on Austrade’s consultancy contracts over the past four years. The majority of the increase from 2018–19 was caused by a contract with the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Australian Tourism Satellite Account.
Table 4: Trends in consultancies, 2016–17 to 2019–20
Number of existing consultancies
Number of new consultancies
Total expenditure ($)
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website at tenders.gov.au.
PROCUREMENT INITIATIVES TO SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES
Austrade supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Statistics on the participation in procurement contracts of small to medium-sized enterprises (fewer than 200 employees) and small enterprises (fewer than 20 employees) are available on the Department of Finance’s website, finance.gov.au.
Austrade recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the survey of Australian Government payments to small business are available on the Treasury’s website, treasury.gov.au.
Austrade’s support for small business includes using the Commonwealth Contracting Suite for onshore procurements under $200,000. Austrade also supports the goals of the Indigenous Procurement Policy. The performance of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio in achieving its 2019–20 target can be viewed on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website, pmc.gov.au.