Go to top of page

Chapter 4.1 Governance Structure

Committees supporting our business

Committees reporting to the Secretary

At 30 June 2020, our governance committee structure included the Executive Management Group and four supporting committees that provided advice and assurance to the Secretary on the administration and operation of the department.

Executive Management Group

The Executive Management Group is our most senior governance committee. This group comprises the Secretary as Chair and deputy secretaries as members. It provides the department with guidance on overall strategic direction, priorities, management, and performance; and oversees our financial position by allocating resources, monitoring performance and risks, as well as ensuring our accountability and regulatory requirements are met.

Audit and Assurance Committee

This committee provides independent assurance and advice to the Secretary on financial and performance reporting responsibilities, risk oversight and management, and our system of internal control. The Audit and Assurance Committee Charter provides further information. This committee has an independent Chair, three external experts and three internal members appointed by the Secretary. It meets up to six times a year.

For further information on the Audit and Assurance Committee Charter, go to dss.gov.au

Figure 4.1.1 PGPA Rule Section 17AG (2A)(b)-(e) - Audit and Assurance Committee

Member name

Qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience (include formal and informal as relevant)

Number of meetings attended / total number of meetings

Total annual remuneration

Mr Nick Baker

Bachelor of Arts in Computing Studies

Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting

Certificate IV Commonwealth Fraud Investigations

Fellow Certified Practising Accountant Australia

Member Australian Computer Society

Six of six


Ms Jenny Morrison

Bachelor of Economics

Fellow - Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Fellow the Australian Institute of Management

Specialist in government financial reforms, governance and consulting

Independent member and chair of Commonwealth audit and risk committees and financial statement sub-committees for large and small government entities

Five of six


Mr Ian McPhee

Bachelor of Business
Bachelor of Arts
Financial management and budget experience, Department of Finance
Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Fellow CPA Australia, and the Institute of Public Administration Australia

Financial statement and performance audit experience with Australian National Audit Office

Six of six


Ms Susan Page

Former Deputy Secretary for the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Finance

Five years’ experience with Audit and Assurance Committees

Member Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Audit and Assurance Committee

Six of six


Mr Michael Lye

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)

Master of Social Welfare Administration and Planning

Former Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Secretary for the Department of Social Services

Two of three (ceased membership November 2019)


Mr Matt Flavel

Master of Financial Management

Bachelor of Economics (Hons)

Previous experience as a Chief Operating Officer managing large complex budgets, audit, IT and security related issues

Two of two (new member March 2020)


Ms Flora Carapellucci

Graduate and member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Master of Public Policy

Special appropriations management and administered budgets

Six of six


Ms Chantelle Stratford

Master of Public Policy and Leadership

Risk management skills through project manager, project sponsor and program management roles

One of six (ceased membership June 2020)


Committees reporting to the Executive Management Group

Policy Committee

This committee considers major policy issues, including early stage consideration of strategic issues, specialist advice on significant social services initiatives, and rapidly evolving situations. The committee is responsible for preliminary discussions of items, during the early policy development phase, that are intended for subsequent consideration by the Executive Management Group. The Deputy Secretary, Social Security chairs the committee.

People and Culture Committee

This committee provides advice to the Secretary through the Executive Management Group. It is responsible for ensuring delivery of government requirements through improved oversight of our workforce. Its remit includes work health and safety, workforce strategy, diversity and inclusion, and other priorities as directed by the Executive Management Group. The Deputy Secretary, Families and Communities chairs the committee.

Implementation Committee

This committee provides advice to the Secretary through the Executive Management Group. It is responsible for ensuring effective design and delivery of government requirements through improved oversight of the department’s implementation activities. In the context of the Corporate Plan and Portfolio Budget Statements, the committee’s remit includes performance monitoring and reporting of election commitments, budget measures, enterprise risk management, and other priorities as directed by the Executive Management Group. The Chief Operating Officer chairs the committee.

Figure 4.1.2 Our governance structure as at 30 June 2020

Figure 4.1.2 The Secretary chairs the Executive Management Group. Four Committees report to the Executive Management Group. Audit and Assurance which has an external chair; Policy Committee, which is chaired by a Deputy Secretary; People and Culture Committee, chaired by a Deputy Secretary; Implementation Committee chaired by the Chief Operating Office. Two sub-committee assist the Audit and Assurance Committee. The Financial Statements and Performance Statements sub-committees both have an external chair.

Business planning and risk management

Strategic and business planning

Our planning process engages staff at all levels to understand how they contribute to delivering on required outcomes. There is a clear pathway from our key corporate documents through to each staff member’s individual performance plan.

Our Corporate Plan outlines our purpose, priorities, and performance objectives and guides the way in which we achieve results. For further information on our Corporate Plan, go to dss.gov.au

Risk management

Effective risk management is fundamental to ensuring we can deliver on government priorities. We base our approach to risk management on the Australian/New Zealand International Standard on Risk Management (AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018). It aligns with the nine elements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy 2014, meeting our obligations under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

In 2019–20, to demonstrate our commitment to enterprise risk management, we have continued to mature our risk management culture and capabilities by aligning our risks strategically with our corporate planning and embedding risk management principles into our everyday decision making.

Business continuity management

We are committed to managing business interruptions that may affect critical services and assets.

Our Business Continuity Management Framework ensures we can deliver our critical work in the event of a disruption. We review and test business continuity plans to ensure the safety, security, and wellbeing of staff during the event of an emergency or disaster.

In 2019–20, we activated key measures from our Business Continuity Plan and Pandemic Action Plan as part of our response to the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internal audit assurance activities

Internal Audit is an important component of our governance arrangements.

Internal Audit provides assurance services, including reasonable assurance engagements as defined in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, Resource Management Guide 210.

Internal Audit is an independent assurance and advisory function designed to strengthen accountability of the department’s activities and functions and improve risk-based, decision-making across our operations.

The 2019–20 Audit Work Plan considered our risk profile and was approved by the Secretary following consideration by the Audit and Assurance Committee. Over the year, 19 audits were undertaken across our policy, program, and enabling activities.

The Head of Internal Audit is independent from the department’s policy and program management activities. To strengthen accountability, the Head of Internal Audit provides the Audit and Assurance Committee with all internal audit findings and advises them on progress towards implementing audit recommendations. The independence of the Head of Internal Audit allows the position to provide objective insights into the state of our governance, performance, risk management and internal controls, systems, policies, processes, and practices.

Compliance framework

We promote a strong compliance culture which enables us to deliver outcomes effectively and achieve high levels of performance.

Our Enterprise Compliance Framework establishes a foundation for a strong compliance culture enabling us to deliver outcomes effectively and achieve high levels of performance in a manner consistent with relevant legal and policy obligations. It forms part of a broader, coordinated approach to promote good governance underpinned by principles such as accountability, transparency, integrity, efficiency, and leadership.

This framework complements other key governance frameworks, including those addressing security, risk, and fraud.

Fraud and corruption control

Under section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (the Fraud Rule) we are required to have in place mechanisms to prevent, detect, and deal with fraud.

We are committed to preventing fraud against the department, our programs, and operations.

We manage fraud through a number of strategies, including:

  • educating our employees on risk management
  • identifying and mitigating our fraud, compliance, security, and privacy risks
  • making our employees aware of their fraud control responsibilities
  • integrating fraud prevention, detection and investigation arrangements and using data analysis to identify trends and issues
  • ensuring fraud reporting is transparent and accountable.

We review our Fraud Control Framework regularly to ensure its continued effectiveness.

We undertake regular assessment of fraud risks to improve understanding of our fraud exposure. These risk assessments involve identifying areas where fraud could be committed, evaluating existing risk mitigation strategies, and identifying possible new or emerging risks that may require treatment. These fraud risk assessments form an integral part of our overall risk assessment framework.

Fraud and compliance awareness

In 2019–20, online fraud awareness training was made mandatory for all staff. Face-to-face fraud and compliance awareness presentations were also facilitated with staff.

Throughout the year, we communicated a series of messages on fraud and corruption to encourage staff to learn about fraud and report suspicious behaviour.

Fraud investigation

In 2019–20, we assessed 35 suspected internal and external fraud incidents through established referral mechanisms in accordance with paragraph (d) of the Fraud Rule. These mechanisms allow officials, clients, and members of the public to confidentially report incidents of suspected fraud. Nine briefs of evidence were submitted to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration. Following an investigation, we also referred seven matters of criminal offending to a state law enforcement body.

In circumstances where there was not sufficient evidence of criminal offending, there were appropriate referrals to relevant entities or programs for consideration of compliance and/or other preventive actions.

In 2019–20, we worked in partnership with other agencies to initiate information sharing to improve inter-agency responses to fraud. The development of these partnerships aligns with the aims of managing risk and incidents of fraud across the department and the Commonwealth.

We undertake all criminal investigations in accordance with the Australian Government Investigation Standards and all departmental investigators have at least the minimum qualifications stipulated in the standards.

In 2019–20, we became a participating member of the Australian Federal Police hosted Operation Ashiba, which was formed following the closure of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre.

Agreements with third parties

To enable effective delivery of outcomes, the department enters into a range of agreements with third parties, including other Australian Government entities, state and territory government entities and external organisations. These agreements govern the way in which one party delivers programs, payments, and services on behalf of the other.

Ethical standards

To enable effective delivery of outcomes, the department enters into a range of agreements with third parties, including other Australian Government entities, state and territory government entities and external organisations. These agreements govern the way in which one party delivers programs, payments, and services on behalf of the other.

Service Charter

Our Service Charter sets out the standards of service our clients can expect and ways to help us improve our customer service. The Charter also helps our staff understand their roles and responsibilities.

For further information on our Service Charter, go to dss.gov.au

Complaints management

We value feedback on the experiences the public has with our department or department-funded service providers. This enables us to improve our quality of service to all Australians.

In 2019–20, 1,197 formal complaints were received through our Feedback Management System.

The top three areas of complaint were about:

  • Social Security Payments
  • the National Redress Scheme
  • the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

Freedom of information

We are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and we comply with the requirement to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. To view the department prepared IPS agency plan, go to dss.gov.au


Our privacy framework is guided by our privacy policy. The privacy policy guides how we deal with personal information in respect of our functions and activities. For further information on our privacy policy, go to dss.gov.au

The Privacy Commissioner may investigate a privacy issue, including breach notifications and complaints, and issue a report or determination.

The Privacy Commissioner made inquiries in relation to one privacy breach and one privacy complaint in 2019–20. No reports or determinations relating to these matters were made.