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.
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 2020, 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 10). The roles and responsibilities of the Executive are described on page 11.
The senior management of the department comprises the Executive and managers at the Executive Band 2 level.
Departmental management committees
In 2019–20, the department’s Executive held 11 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 management
- arrangements for the 28th Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum
- COVID-19 responses and planning
- areas of cooperation with the other parliamentary departments
- information and communications technology (ICT) projects and security
- workforce and succession planning initiatives
- various departmental policies and strategies.
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 (available at www.aph.gov.au/dhr/AuditCharter), the members of the Audit Committee play an essential role in ensuring the integrity and transparency of the department’s reporting.
Mr Paul Groenewegen joined as chair of the department’s Audit Committee in early 2018. Mr Groenewegen is an experienced executive and consultant with a background in fiscal management; governance practice; strategy development and implementation; compliance and risk activities; and government operations involving regulation and policy.
Mr Groenewegen’s current and previous roles include governance and review work with government and industry organisations, executive roles with Defence Housing Australia, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Private Health Insurance Administration Council (PHIAC), and several financial management roles involving a range of functions from the oversight of whole-of-government payments through to the financial management of complex multi-program organisations. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance and is a certified practising accountant and graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mr Tim Courtney joined the committee as an independent member in 2015. Mr Courtney is a First Assistant Commissioner at the Australian Electoral Commission, a position he has held since 2014.
As head of the Capability Division he oversees the information technology, finance and business services, legal services and funding and disclosure functions within the Australian Electoral Commission. In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, Mr Courtney led the Senate Reform Program to implement the most comprehensive Senate voting reforms in 30 years, one of a number of major projects he has led. From 2010 to 2013, Mr Courtney was the Chief Information Officer for the Australian Electoral Commission and oversaw key advances in the use of technology by the agency, including the development of online enrolment services, electronic certified lists at polling places and the use of cloud services for the election results system.
Mr Courtney has held membership on a number of Commonwealth agency audit committees, and is a full member of the British Computer Society and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mr Dermot Walsh joined the committee as an independent member in 2015. At 30 June 2020, Mr Walsh was Senior Assistant Ombudsman at the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. He is an experienced executive and has had roles in both the Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Public Service, in a diverse range of organisations including the ACT Land Development Agency, ACT Economic Development Directorate, Comcare, the National Gallery of Australia, the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Mr Walsh has significant experience in government financial management, governance and risk management, human resource management, project management, ICT and program delivery. He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree, and is a certified practising accountant and member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mr Peter Banson has been a member of the committee since 2017 and is the Clerk Assistant (Table) in the Department of the House of Representatives. He is responsible for the areas of the department that provide programming, procedural and legislative support to the Chamber and Federation Chamber of the House, as well as the parliament’s international program. He acts as Clerk-at-the-Table of the House of Representatives.
Mr Banson has worked in the Department of the House of Representatives for 19 years in various roles including in the Procedure Office, Table Office and Speaker’s Office and as a committee secretary and Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms. He has a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University and an Executive Master of Public Administration through the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
Ms Catherine Cornish has worked in the Department of the House of Representatives since 1994. Her roles have included Clerk Assistant (Procedure); Clerk Assistant (Table); Director, Chamber Research Office; and Director, Clerk’s Office. Ms Cornish was also a committee secretary for many years. She has degrees in law and public administration from the Australian National University.
Ms Cornish was appointed Deputy Clerk of the House of Representatives in September 2019, and subsequently resigned from the committee.
Mr Stuart Woodley joined the committee in September 2019 and is the Clerk Assistant (Committees) in the Department of the House of Representatives. He is responsible for the committee support area of the department which provides a range of support services to House of Representatives committees and some joint committees.
Mr Woodley has worked in the department for seven years in various roles in the Committee Office, Clerk’s and Speaker’s offices, and Procedure Office. Prior to this he worked for the Attorney-General’s Department, and as a solicitor in general practice. He has degrees in law and political science from the University of New England and an Executive Master of Public Administration through the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
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.
Audit committee meeting attendance
Audit committee remuneration
In 2019–20, the chair of the Audit Committee, Mr Paul Groenewegen, was paid $12,156 for his services. No other committee members received remuneration for their work on the committee.
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’s membership includes three other representatives from the department’s Executive, two elected staff representatives, and two union-nominated representatives. The committee met six times during 2019–20.
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:
- the department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- the new enterprise agreement bargaining process
- appointment of workplace equity and harassment contact officers, and work health and safety representatives
- various policies and guidelines, including the managing underperformance policy and the bullying and harassment policy
- the establishment on an SMS alert service for business continuity events
- progress of the Department of Parliamentary Services’ (DPS’s) proposed Corporate Business Operations Centre
- the 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. The committee met twice in the period and discussed the:
- results of the department’s assessment of information systems against ISO 16175
- department’s review of its Digital Operating Model
- Australian Parliament Digital Strategy 2019–2022
- planned migration to Windows 10 and Office 365, including potential use cases for Microsoft Teams
- review of the department’s Records Authority
- development of a policy for access requests made for committee records.
Collaboration across parliamentary departments
Meetings of heads of parliamentary departments
In 2019–20, the Clerk, the Clerk of the Senate, the secretary of DPS and the Parliamentary Budget Officer held four formal meetings. Matters discussed included:
- business continuity arrangements for the summer bushfire smoke and COVID-19 pandemic response and planning
- ICT governance arrangements and the structure of ICT service delivery areas
- security-related capital works
- the parliamentary reconciliation action plan.
The parliamentary departments continued to work together under the Australian Parliament’s Strategic plan for parliamentary administration, which brought together 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. The development of a replacement document — the Strategic framework for the parliamentary service — was a focus for the year. The Clerk took over responsibility for chairing the group in 2020.
Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group
In 2019–20, 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. The Serjeant-at-Arms became chair of the group in 2020.
Matters discussed over the reporting period included:
- work health and safety policies across the four parliamentary departments
- progress on possible shared services arrangements for the parliamentary departments
- proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Service Classification Rules
- the strategic framework for the parliamentary service
- registers of gifts and benefits.
Other inter-parliamentary department forums
In 2019–20, the department was active in a number of other inter-parliamentary department forums that considered matters of common interest, particularly ICT and security. During the period, ICT governance arrangements changed substantially, and the department now participates in a number of new forums. Departmental representatives participated in meetings of the following groups:
- 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.
- Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group — this group is the governing body responsible for the parliamentary service’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2019–2022. The department is represented by its Reconciliation Action Plan Champion Mr Stuart Woodley, the Clerk Assistant (Committees).
- Emergency Management Working Group — this group develops, coordinates and facilitates security exercises at Parliament House. The group is chaired by a representative from the Australian Federal Police, and the department is represented by an Assistant Serjeant-at-Arms.
- ICT Portfolio Board — this board makes the key decisions to ensure the effective delivery of prioritised and funded ICT projects. It is chaired by the DPS Chief Information Officer and the department is represented by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
- Product Family Boards — these boards prioritise, approve and oversee ICT projects related to their areas of focus. The department is represented on the following boards: Parliamentary Business Systems; Corporate Systems; Research, Modelling and Policy; Internal User Experience; Public User Experience; and Platforms and Cyber Security.
- Strategic ICT Group — this group is the strategic ICT committee for the parliamentary departments. It provides strategic advice on priorities for ICT projects and initiatives, and considers issues relating to ICT strategy, policy and risk. It is chaired by the DPS Chief Information Officer and the department is represented by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
- Service Delivery Working Group — this group is responsible for operational oversight of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between parliamentary departments in relation to the provision of Information and Communication Technology Services. It provides advice to the Strategic ICT Group, and the department is represented by the Director, Parliamentary and Business Information Services.
- Information Security Working Group — this group is a forum to progress information security initiatives which require input from all parliamentary departments. The group is responsible for providing feedback and advice to the DPS Director of Cyber Security, to ensure a consistent and effective approach to information security across the parliamentary service. The department is represented by the Director, Parliamentary and Business Information Services.
- Continuity Coordination Group — this group was established by DPS to coordinate that department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Serjeant-at-Arms was invited to attend meetings of the group to ensure consistency in coordination and communication.
The department recognises the importance of continuing to strengthen 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 2019–20 was published in August 2019.
It covered 2019–20 and three forward years to 2022–23. 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, planned capability initiatives, and the department’s risk management and oversight systems.
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.
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 2018–19 provided an assessment of the department’s performance against the targets set in the 2018–19 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. The department’s annual report was also published on the Commonwealth Transparency Portal.
Risk assessment and management
The department’s approach to risk and management of risk is underpinned by its Risk management policy and framework 2019–21 and Risk management plan 2019–21.
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 risk management plan identifies the key strategic risks for the department and the treatments to be applied, and is accompanied by separate operational risk management plans for specific business areas or subject matter.
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.
During the year, much of the department’s risk management focus was on the 2019–20 bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the development and implementation of specific risk assessments and management plans.
The Comcover risk management benchmarking program survey is now conducted biennially, with the next survey planned for 2021. The most recent survey in 2019 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’).
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 2019–20, the department’s scenario-based exercise involved the Procedure Office. The exercise was facilitated and reviewed by the department’s internal auditors, who concluded the Procedure Office demonstrated an ability to effectively respond to a range of sudden disruptions, and made several recommendations that were accepted by the department.
In 2020, the business continuity network met to discuss responses to the bushfire season and COVID-19 pandemic. The department established an opt-in SMS alert service to quickly advise staff in the event of a business continuity disruption. The service is intended to complement existing communication plans for each office and enable staff to be notified of any changes.
In response to COVID-19, the department established a secure, external website to enable staff working from home without access to the parliamentary computing network to stay informed of developments.
Internal audit services are provided to the department by BellchambersBarrett. 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, BellchambersBarrett conducted the following reviews:
- ICT security arrangements
- recruitment and onboarding processes
- procurement and contract management
- arrangements of international delegations and capacity-building activities.
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 2019–21 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 2019–21. 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 previous reporting period, through a process of consultation with the departmental Executive and senior management, in which fraud risks were identified and assessed.
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 2019–20. 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 2019–20, 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.
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 and Commonwealth Transparency Portal.