The department is responsible for the provision of procedural, information and administrative services to members. As Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives, the Speaker’s role is in some ways analogous to that of a minister of state in relation to an executive government department. The Parliamentary Service Act 1999 restates the principles that the legislative arm of government is separate from the executive arm, and that its staff are responsible to the Australian Parliament rather than to the government of the day. The Speaker oversees administration of the department and is accountable to the House in respect of that role. The Clerk, who is responsible under the Parliamentary Service Act for leading the department and its day-to-day management, reports to and advises the Speaker on departmental matters.
The department’s corporate functions and staff provide critical support that enables the department to deliver programs and services. The department’s corporate area is focused on providing quality, timely services, and on being responsive to the changing policy and operational needs of the department. This section discusses our governance structure and support services, which provide a framework to ensure accountability and the overall effectiveness of the department.
The Parliamentary Service Act established the Australian Parliamentary Service, which includes the Department of the House of Representatives as one of the four parliamentary departments. The Act also provided for the independence of the Clerk in that person’s advisory functions; it created an office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and conferred responsibility for managing the department on the Clerk, under the Speaker.
The department’s operations are governed by the Parliamentary Service Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). Other legislation, including the Fair Work Act 2009, also applies to the operations of the department. Together, these Acts set out the Clerk’s formal responsibilities for managing the department.
Executive and senior management
During the reporting period there was an independent review of the non-ongoing SES Band 1 position of Clerk Assistant (Procedure) and Procedure Office that had been established for an initial 18-month period. The department supported the review’s conclusion that the creation of the Clerk Assistant (Procedure) position has strengthened the procedural support to members and departmental staff, and affirmed that making the role ongoing was justified.
As at 30 June 2018, the department’s Executive comprised the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and four SES Band 1 staff: the Clerk Assistant (Table), Clerk Assistant (Procedure), Clerk Assistant (Committees) and the Serjeant-at-Arms. Each SES Band 1 member is responsible for one or more of the department’s offices (see Figure 1 on page 7). The roles and responsibilities of the Executive are described on page 6.
The senior management of the department comprises the Executive and managers at the Executive Band 2 level.
Departmental management committees
In 2017–18, the department’s Executive held 13 formal meetings to consider a range of departmental management and administrative matters. As well as standing items on finance and people strategies, during the year, the Executive discussed:
- the 30th anniversary of the opening of Parliament House
- the department’s organisational structure
- asset management
- security and other building works
- a proposed biographical dictionary of the House of Representatives.
The department’s Audit Committee provides independent assurance to the Clerk on the department’s risk, control and compliance framework, and its external accountability responsibilities, with specific reference to the Clerk’s position of accountable authority under the PGPA Act.
During 2017–18, the position of chair of the Audit Committee was transferred from the Clerk Assistant (Procedure) to an independent chair, Mr Paul Groenewegen. The appointment by the Clerk of an independent chair demonstrates the department’s commitment to strengthening the committee’s actual and perceived independence. In addition to the Clerk Assistant (Procedure) and the independent chair, membership of the committee included another SES Band 1 officer—the Clerk Assistant (Table)—and two other independent members, ensuring a majority of independent members.
At 30 June 2018, the independent members were Mr Tim Courtney of the Australian Electoral Commission and Mr Dermot Walsh of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The independent members contributed a valuable mix of skills, expertise and experience, complemented by an enhanced understanding, over time, of the department’s operations and its operating environment. Guided by the Audit Committee’s charter, the members of the Audit Committee play an essential role in ensuring the integrity and transparency of the department’s reporting.
The committee met four times in 2017–18. It recommended to the Clerk that he sign the financial statements and management response letter and include the annual performance statement in the annual report. In addition, the committee reviewed the:
- Audit Committee charter
- Audit Committee work plan
- internal audit charter
- Audit Committee annual report.
The Serjeant-at-Arms—who manages the department’s corporate functions—attends committee meetings as an adviser, together with representatives of the Australian National Audit Office, the department’s internal audit team and the Chief Finance Officer.
During the reporting period, the department’s internal auditors, Bellchambers Barrett Pty Ltd, conducted the following:
- a review of asset management
- a review of travel arrangements
- a review of financial budgeting processes
- the development of a strategic internal audit plan for 2018–21.
As at 30 June 2018, a strategic internal audit plan for 2018–21 was in preparation. The plan will be provided to the Audit Committee for review.
Other departmental committees
The Consultative Committee is an important mechanism for communicating and consulting with staff on workplace issues. Chaired by the Deputy Clerk, the committee has four departmental representatives, two elected staff representatives and two union-nominated representatives. The committee met five times during 2017–18. Standing agenda items for the meetings are:
- implementation and monitoring of the enterprise agreement
- proposals for change and developments affecting staff
- reviews of implemented changes
- reports on departmental activities.
Other matters discussed in the reporting period included:
- changes to security arrangements
- proposed internal policies, including policies on rehabilitation management and conflict of interest
- proposed content in the staff survey
- updated terms of reference for the Consultative Committee, which were adopted.
Knowledge Management Steering Committee
The Knowledge Management Steering Committee is a forum to discuss issues in information and knowledge management, and advocate for the sharing of departmental knowledge and skills. The committee has an advisory and monitoring role, and it may also make recommendations to the Executive for decision and undertake roles as requested by the Executive. The committee serves as the department’s Information Governance Committee under the National Archives’ Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.
The committee is chaired by the Clerk Assistant (Table), and includes representatives from all areas of the department. In 2017–18 it met four times and discussed matters such as:
- protective marking guidelines and the information security policy
- finalisation of a project management toolkit
- the department’s response to the National Archives’ Digital Continuity 2020 Policy
- the introduction of a Chief Information Governance Officer
- redaction protocols
- the establishment of a policy register.
Inter-parliamentary departmental collaboration
Meetings of heads of parliamentary departments
In 2017–18, the Clerk, the Clerk of the Senate, the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) and the Parliamentary Budget Officer held four formal meetings. Matters discussed included:
- the Parliamentary Service Determination
- Parliament House Open Day and the 30th anniversary of Parliament House
- future directions for parliamentary information and communications technology (ICT)
- archiving and classification matters
- security capital works.
The parliamentary departments continue to work together under the Australian Parliament’s Strategic plan for parliamentary administration, which brings together the key priorities across the whole of the parliamentary administration, identifying shared goals and formalising a collaborative approach to achieving optimal outcomes in providing support and services for the parliament.
Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group
In 2017–18, the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group met four times to discuss matters of common interest across the parliamentary departments. Membership comprises the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod, an Assistant Secretary of DPS, and the Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer of the Corporate Strategy Branch of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Responsibility for chairing the group rotates annually.
Matters discussed over the reporting period included:
- work health and safety policies across the four parliamentary departments
- Parliament House building works
- proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Services Classification Rules
- management of parliamentary records
- access to building-wide policies.
Other inter-parliamentary departmental forums
In 2017–18, the department was active in a number of other inter-parliamentary department forums that considered matters of common interest, particularly ICT and security. Departmental representatives participated in meetings of the following groups:
- Parliamentary ICT Strategic Initiatives Steering Group—this group brings the parliamentary departments together to make decisions in relation to ICT strategic initiatives for the parliament. The group is chaired by the Chief Information Officer of DPS, and the department is represented by the Deputy Clerk.
- Joint Management Committee—this committee is responsible for oversight of ICT service delivery in accordance with formal agreements between the parliamentary departments. Responsibility for chairing the committee rotates on an annual basis, and the department is represented by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
- Joint Management Group—this group considers security-related matters. It is chaired by a senior representative from the Australian Federal Police, and the department is represented by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms.
- Incident Planning and Response Committee—this committee manages security and emergency incident planning and response operations. The committee is chaired by a senior representative from the Australian Federal Police, and the department is represented by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms.
The department recognises the importance of strengthening its corporate planning and performance reporting, to both comply with its statutory obligations and improve performance, transparency and accountability.
The corporate plan is the department’s primary planning document. As required under the PGPA Act, the department’s corporate plan for 2017–18 was published in August 2017. It covered 2017–18 and three forward years to 2020–21. The corporate plan sets out the department’s purpose, the activities undertaken to achieve that purpose, and the measures for assessing the department’s performance. It also describes the environment in which the department operates and the department’s risk management and oversight systems, and recognises the inter-relationships between these.
The department fosters a collegiate approach to preparing the corporate plan, with program areas and individual offices in the department invited to consider whether they would benefit from developing their own business plans with a more operational focus, to complement the corporate plan.
The department seeks to embed the corporate plan through its comprehensive work performance management framework that applies to all staff. On an annual basis, each staff member, together with their supervisor, identifies objectives for the next 12 months. The work objectives reflect not only the individual’s role in their work area, but also relate to any applicable program area or office business plan and, ultimately, to the corporate plan. Staff regularly report to supervisors against their identified objectives.
Departmental accountability and reporting
The department’s main formal external accountability mechanisms are the Portfolio Budget Statements and the annual report, prepared pursuant to section 65 of the Parliamentary Service Act. The annual report for 2016–17 provided an assessment of the department’s performance against the targets set in the 2016–17 Portfolio Budget Statements and the corporate plan, and presented the department’s financial statements.
The department’s annual report and Portfolio Budget Statements were provided to all members and published on the Parliament of Australia website.
Risk assessment and management
The department’s approach to risk and management of risk is underpinned by its Risk management policy and framework (2017) and Risk management plan 2017–19.
The risk management policy and framework details the department’s commitment to embedding systematic risk management into governance, management and planning processes. It outlines the department’s risk appetite and tolerance, and allocates responsibility for aspects of planning, mitigation, oversight and reporting to identified staff at various levels. The accompanying plan identifies the key strategic risks for the department and the treatments to be applied.
The policy and plan are available to all staff via the departmental intranet. The department has a monitoring and reporting framework that requires regular reporting on risk and risk treatment to the Executive, and annual reporting to the Audit Committee.
In 2018, the department completed the Comcover risk management benchmarking program survey. The survey assessed risk management capability using a six-state maturity model. Results from the 2018 survey indicate that the department achieved a risk maturity of ‘systematic’, which is consistent with the previous year’s level.
A departmental business continuity plan was in force throughout the reporting year, complemented by office-level business resumption plans. The plan is managed by the Serjeant-at-Arms and endorsed by the Clerk. The business continuity network, with representation from across the department, is responsible for business continuity governance and oversight.
The plan requires scenario-based exercises designed to test aspects of the department’s business continuity capability, with a new exercise developed each year. During 2017–18, the department’s scenario-based exercise involved the Committee Office. The exercise was facilitated and reviewed by the department’s internal auditors, who concluded that the Committee Office demonstrated an appropriate understanding of the department’s business continuity plan and an ability to adapt and apply the plan to a challenging scenario.
The department is committed to compliance with the provisions of section 10 of the PGPA Rule relating to preventing, detecting and dealing with fraud.
The department’s Fraud control plan 2017–19 outlines strategies and processes for preventing and detecting fraud, and for investigating and reporting instances of fraud should they occur. The plan is available to all staff on the department’s intranet, and all new staff are required to complete online training on financial management responsibilities and fraud control. The department’s monitoring and reporting framework requires regular reporting to the Executive and the Audit Committee. No losses of public money and no instances of fraud were identified during the year.
The internal auditors prepared the department’s fraud risk assessment 2017–19. It provides details of the approach and methodology used in assessing fraud risks within the department. It also details a range of processes and activities in terms of their potential fraud risks, and the controls in place that prevent, detect or deter the risks. This assessment was updated through a process of consultation with the departmental Executive and senior management, in which fraud risks were identified and assessed.
Statement of significant non-compliance with the finance law
The department did not identify any instances of significant non-compliance with the finance law during 2017–18. The finance law incorporates the PGPA Act, any rules and instruments created under the PGPA Act, and appropriation and supply Acts.
Ethical standards and behaviour
The Parliamentary Service Values and Code of Conduct, which are set out in the Parliamentary Service Act, provide staff with a framework for ethical conduct. The department promotes sound ethical behaviour.
During induction, all new staff are advised about what it means to work in a values-based environment, and how ethical standards apply to their day-to-day work.
Public interest disclosure
The Clerk, as the principal officer of the department for the purposes of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, has established procedures and appointed authorised officers for facilitating and dealing with public interest disclosures relating to the department, in accordance with that Act.
During 2017–18, the department continued to ensure that information on public interest disclosure procedures was available to all staff, and in 2017 an information session on the Act presented by the Commonwealth Ombudsman was open to all staff. During the year, four authorised officers were approved to handle public interest disclosures.
Ecologically sustainable development and environmental reporting
DPS is responsible for managing Parliament House and the parliamentary precincts. The department reports in accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in its annual report, which is available from the Parliament of Australia website.
Members in the House of Representatives Chamber. Image: David Foote, Auspic/DPS.