Go to top of page

Corporate governance

The department is responsible for the provision of procedural, information and administrative services to members, the House, and the broader parliament. 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 the department’s governance structure and support services, which provide a framework to ensure accountability and the overall effectiveness of the department.

Governance structure


The Australian Parliamentary Service, established by the Parliamentary Service Act, includes the Department of the House of Representatives as one of the four parliamentary departments. The Act also provides for the independence of the Clerk in that person’s advisory functions; it establishes an office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives; and it confers 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

As at 30 June 2019, the department’s Executive comprised the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and four Senior Executive Service (SES) Band 1 staff: the Clerk Assistant (Table), Clerk Assistant (Procedure), Clerk Assistant (Committees), and the Serjeant-at-Arms. Each SES Band 1 officer is responsible for one or more of the department’s offices (see Figure 1 on page 9). The roles and responsibilities of the Executive are described on page 10.

The senior management of the department comprises the Executive and managers at the Executive Band 2 level.

Departmental management committees


In 2018–19, the department’s Executive held 12 formal meetings to consider and take decisions on a range of departmental management and administrative matters. As well as standing items relating to finance and people strategies, during the year the Executive discussed:

  • matters arising out of the departmental and Executive planning sessions
  • corporate planning, risk management, and information governance frameworks
  • areas of cooperation with the other parliamentary departments
  • arrangements for the 2018 Parliament House Open Day
  • information and communications technology (ICT) projects and security
  • protective security and building works
  • various departmental policies and strategies.
Audit Committee

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. 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 2018–19 reporting period was the first full year of the Audit Committee operating under an independent chair, Mr Paul Groenewegen. The committee’s membership includes two other independent members, and two of the department’s SES Band 1 officers, ensuring a majority of the committee’s membership is independent of the department. The appointment of an independent chair continues to strengthen the committee’s actual and perceived independence. The combination of internal and external members provides a valuable mix of skills, expertise and experience, and an understanding of the department’s operations and environment.

At 30 June 2019, the independent members were Mr Tim Courtney of the Australian Electoral Commission and Mr Dermot Walsh of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The two internal members were Mr Peter Banson, Clerk Assistant (Table), and Ms Catherine Cornish, Clerk Assistant (Procedure).

The Serjeant-at-Arms, Mr James Catchpole—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.

The committee met four times in 2018–19. 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.

Other departmental committees

Consultative Committee

The Consultative Committee is an important mechanism for communicating and consulting with staff on workplace issues. Chaired by the Deputy Clerk, the committee’s membership includes three other representatives from the department’s Executive, two elected staff representatives, and two union-nominated representatives. The committee met seven times during 2018–19. 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:

  • proposals for training opportunities
  • the possible impacts of DPS’s Corporate Business Operations Centre
  • staff suggestions and queries relating to amenities, parking and training opportunities
  • the remit, role and composition of the committee
  • proposed structure and results of the annual staff survey.

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 2018–19 it met twice and discussed matters such as:

  • the remaking of the Archives (Records of the Parliament) Regulations
  • the department’s information system register, including an audit against ISO 16175
  • changes to protective markings guidelines
  • the department’s new Information Governance Policy and Framework
  • ICT project priorities for 2018–19
  • the establishment of a central ‘lessons learnt’ register.

Collaboration across parliamentary departments

Meetings of heads of parliamentary departments

In 2018–19, 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 Parliament House accommodation review
  • Parliament House Open Day and the 30th anniversary of Parliament House
  • the Australian Parliament digital strategy
  • archives regulations and the management of parliamentary records
  • security-related capital works
  • the parliamentary reconciliation action plan.

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 to the parliament.

Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group

In 2018–19, the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group met five 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 from 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
  • possible shared services arrangements for the parliamentary departments
  • proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Services Classification Rules
  • Code of Conduct determinations
  • breastfeeding-friendly workplace re-accreditation for Parliament House.

Other inter-parliamentary department forums

In 2018–19, 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.

Departmental planning

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 2018–19 was published in August 2018. It covered 2018–19 and three forward years to 2021–22. 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, and some program areas and individual offices in the department develop 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, as well as through regular reporting sessions to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk and the broader department.

Staff attending departmental planning day.
A member of staff presenting to colleagues at the department’s annual planning day, November 2018. Image: Department of the House of Representatives.

Staff attending departmental planning day.
Departmental staff at a plenary session during the department’s annual planning day, November 2018. Image: Department of the House of Representatives

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 2017–18 provided an assessment of the department’s performance against the targets set in the 2017–18 Portfolio Budget Statements and corporate plan, and presented the department’s financial statements.

The department’s annual report and Portfolio Budget Statements were made available to all members and published on the department’s website.

Managing risk

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.

During 2018–19 the department carried out its biennial review of its strategic and fraud risk documents, which involved active involvement from members of the Executive and Executive Band 2 staff from across the department. Updated policy, framework and plan documents were approved for 2019–21.

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 to the Audit Committee.

Comcover benchmarking

In the first half of 2019, the department completed the Comcover risk management benchmarking program survey. The survey assessed the maturity of the department’s risk management capability against the nine elements of the Commonwealth risk management policy. Based on the results of the 2019 survey, the department achieved a risk maturity level of ‘advanced’, which is higher than the previous year’s assessed level of ‘systematic’ and higher than the average maturity state of all survey participants (‘integrated’).

Business continuity

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 2018–19, the department’s scenario-based exercise involved the International and Parliamentary Relations Office (IPRO) and the Parliamentary Skills Centre (PSC). The exercise was facilitated and reviewed by the department’s internal auditors, who concluded that IPRO and the PSC demonstrated an ability to effectively respond to a range of sudden disruptions.

Internal audit

Internal audit services are provided to the department by Bellchambers Barrett. A strategic internal audit plan is prepared for the department every three years, and an annual audit plan prepared in consultation with senior management. The strategic internal audit plan 2018–21 addresses strategic, fraud and security risks identified in the department’s various risk management plans, as well as emerging strategic and operational priorities identified by management.

During the reporting period, Bellchambers Barrett conducted the following:

  • a review of security and the Protective Security Policy Framework
  • a review of compliance with work health and safety requirements
  • a review of the department’s Transport Office
  • the development of strategic and fraud risk assessments and management plans.

Preventing fraud

The department is committed to compliance with the provisions of section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (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. 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 significant instances of fraud were identified or reported to the Speaker 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 during the reporting period, through a process of consultation with the departmental Executive and senior management, in which fraud risks were identified and assessed. The fraud risk assessment and fraud control plan have been updated and approved for 2019–21.

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.

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 2018–19. The finance law incorporates the PGPA Act, any rules and instruments created under the PGPA Act, and appropriation and supply Acts.

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 2018–19, the department continued to ensure that information on public interest disclosure procedures was available to all staff. During the year, four authorised officers were approved to handle public interest disclosures.


Although not an entity to which the Privacy Act 1988 applies, the department abides by the principles of the legislation in its dealings with employees and the handling of their records. It has adopted a departmental privacy policy that is consistent with the Act.

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental reporting

DPS is responsible for managing Parliament House and the parliamentary precincts. That 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.