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Corporate Governance

In 2017–18 the department’s corporate governance agenda ensured a more agile, responsive and accountable organisation better able to deliver the Australian Government’s international policy priorities.

Portfolio and whole-of-government coordination

Whole-of-government engagement is vital to the successful implementation of the White Paper. The department’s executive has ensured the White Paper is the main frame of reference for the government’s international engagement. Immediately after the White Paper launch, the Secretary led a forum attended by more than 500 people from across the APS to discuss the White Paper policy framework. The Secretary and members of the executive meet regularly with their portfolio and other government agency counterparts to support cohesive responses to current and emerging policy matters. The department chairs the high-level inter-agency White Paper Board, responsible for overseeing White Paper implementation and reporting regularly to ministers on progress.

Senior management committees and their roles

The department’s key corporate governance committees are:

The Departmental Executive—comprising the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries and other senior officers—is the department’s primary governance body. It meets regularly to make decisions about strategic policy and resource allocation in the department, sets priorities, promotes an ethical leadership and organisational culture and monitors the performance of overseas posts, departmental divisions and state/territory offices.

The Audit and Risk Committee provides independent assurance and advice to the Secretary on risk management and fraud control, internal control and compliance frameworks and external accountability responsibilities. It has three departmental members and four independent external members. Other designated departmental officers and representatives from the Australian National Audit Office attend as observers. In 2018 the department appointed its first independent chair.

The Ethics Committee oversees and makes recommendations on the department’s conduct and ethics policies and promotes high standards of probity, professionalism, accountability and conduct.

The Workplace Relations Committee, with its elected staff, union and management representatives, is our principal forum for consulting staff about conditions, and exchanging views on the workforce.

The Indigenous Taskforce shapes the department’s strategic policy on Indigenous matters and provides a forum for the Indigenous Employees Network to influence policy priorities. It monitored the implementation of the Indigenous Recruitment and Career Development Strategy and Indigenous Peoples Strategy.

The Aid Governance Board was established in December, replacing the Aid Investment Committee and the Development Policy Committee. It provides policy advice and risk and performance oversight, supporting the Secretary, the Departmental Executive and PGPA delegates on country, regional or multilateral aid program decisions. The Board also assesses high risk and high value investments for alignment with bilateral, regional and multilateral priorities, development impact and value for money.

The ICT Steering Committee, in consultation with business areas, sets the strategic direction for ICT services across the department and evaluates progress against the strategy.

The Departmental Security Committee considers key security risks and mitigations and makes decisions regarding residual risks across the network.

Internal audit

The department’s Internal Audit Branch, under the direction of the Chief Auditor, focused on improving the quality, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the functions and processes used to develop and implement foreign, trade and investment, and development policy.

Office of Development Effectiveness

The department’s Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) monitors the quality and assesses the impact of the Australian aid program and is overseen by the Independent Evaluation Committee (see p.143). An assessment of the ODE’s activities and performance is provided in the section on delivering an innovative aid program (p. 55).

Risk governance

The Departmental Executive agreed a new critical risk list that captures key risks with a direct impact on our core strategic and corporate goals. This includes staff capability, cybersecurity, aid governance and the safety and security of staff, as well as strategic risks in the trade, aid and foreign policy areas. It identifies specific, appropriate controls and proposed treatments and is updated every six months.

Countering fraud

Consistent with previous years, the department has maintained appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures. We have a policy of zero tolerance towards fraudulent and corrupt activity or behaviour by staff and external parties that receive Australian Government funds, including through the Australian aid program.

The department’s Fraud Control and Anti-Corruption Plan sets out the arrangements for the management of fraud and corruption risks in accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework 2014. It provides policies, tools and guidance on how to prevent, detect and respond to fraud and corruption risks faced by the department. The department enhances fraud awareness among staff and its funding recipients through various mechanisms, including a fraud e-learning module.

The department periodically reviews its fraud control arrangements to take into account changes in its operating environment. We undertook a new Fraud Risk Assessment in 2017–18 and will release a new Fraud Control Plan in 2018–19.

Business continuity planning

The department continued to refine its business continuity planning, to ensure the availability of essential business services during and after a major disruption to key organisational capabilities. All posts and state and territory offices have up-to-date individual business continuity plans (BCP), which are reviewed regularly to ensure their effectiveness.

We held two desktop exercises to test and validate the Canberra BCP, in November and May. The November exercise tested our response to a cyber-intrusion while the May exercise tested the continuity response to a large-scale security incident, with both cyber and physical security aspects.

These exercises confirmed that the BCP would ensure effective management of a major disruption to operations across our global network. We will continue to refine and test our planning and communication approaches to ensure our BCP capability continues to be robust into the future