Go to top of page

Internal and external scrutiny

Internal scrutiny is undertaken via regular meetings of councillors (see above) and through the Council’s Audit Committee (Audit Committee).

Mechanisms for external scrutiny include: formal reviews of the National Access Regime and the NGL, and the role of the Council; legal mechanisms (courts and tribunals) for reviewing Ministers’ decisions following Council recommendations; and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Council is subject to external scrutiny more generally through its published recommendations to governments and through its processes for engaging with stakeholders.

Audit Committee

The functions of the Council’s Audit Committee are to review and report to the Council on the appropriateness of the Council’s financial reporting, performance reporting, risk oversight and management, and systems of internal control. The Audit Committee Charter, which determines the audit committee’s membership and functions, is published on the Council’s website.

During 2019-20, the Audit Committee comprised Councillor Martin Wallace (Chair of the Audit Committee) and independent members Chris Ramsden and Philip Mason (see Box 3-2). Martin Wallace and Philip Mason perform their roles on the Audit Committee on a voluntary basis whereas Chris Ramsden serves as an independent, non-APS member of the Audit Committee.

Chris Ramsden is appointed on a yearly (contractual) basis and is renumerated $1 100 for each Audit Committee meeting he attends. During 2019-20, Chris Ramsden was paid $2 200 for his attendance at two Audit Committee meetings.

Box 3-2 Audit committee members’ profiles

Martin Wallace – Chair

Mr Martin Wallace was appointed as Chair of the Council’s Audit Committee in December 2017 for a period of three years.

See ‘Box 3-1 Councillors’ profiles’ for Mr Wallace’s full biography.

Philip Mason – committee member

Mr Philip Mason was appointed to the Council Audit Committee in June 2015.

Mr Mason is an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Mr Mason has over 30 years’ experience in public administration at the Commonwealth level, with a particular focus on telecommunications policy, including competition, universal service, consumer protection, technical regulation and international matters. His experience includes the development and administration of legislation, regulations, programs and grants as well as policy.

Mr Mason holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Diploma in Education from the University of Newcastle.

Chris Ramsden – committee member

Mr Chris Ramsden was appointed to the Council Audit Committee in August 2015. Following his resignation from the Public Service in February 2019, Mr Ramsden has been re-appointed as an independent, non-APS member of the Council Audit Committee, on a yearly (contractual) basis.

Mr Ramsden serves as a member of Audit and Risk Committees for several Commonwealth agencies. Chris is a former Senior Executive in the Australian Public Service, has been the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of several government agencies and has held leadership roles in finance, human resources, ICT, project management, governance, internal audit and risk management.

Mr Ramsden is a Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA), a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD), a Certified Executive Coach and holds a Bachelor Degree in Business (Accounting/Finance).

Audit Committee meetings

The Audit Committee met on two occasions during 2019-20. On 2 September 2019, the Audit Committee considered and recommended that the Council adopt the audited financial statements for 2018-19. The Audit Committee received a report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in relation to its audit of these financial statements.

On 21 May 2020, the Audit Committee considered the financial audit process for 2019-20, and reviewed the Council’s performance against its risk management plan and fraud control plan. For the first time, the Audit Committee also considered and reviewed the appropriateness of the Accountable Authority’s Systems of Internal Control for the Council.[1]

[1] In December 2018, the Department of Finance introduced this new requirement in December 2018 with the release of a new guideline - Resource Management guide No. 22 – a guide for non-corporate Commonwealth entities on the role of audit committees. In May 2019, the Audit Committee agreed that a first review of Council’s Systems of Internal Control should occur at the first Audit Committee meeting in 2020. The Audit Committee also agreed that this document will be reviewed every two years.

Legal mechanisms for reviewing National Competition Council decisions

Under both Part IIIA of the CCA and the NGL, an applicant or service provider may seek review of decisions (made in response to a recommendation from the Council) by the designated Commonwealth Minister or a state premier or a territory chief minister. The Australian Competition Tribunal is the review body for decisions on declaration and certification under Part IIIA of the CCA.[1]

Chapter 2 reports on the Council’s work relating to Part IIIA and the NGL, including any review proceedings.

[1] Due to the amendments from the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Abolition of Limited Merits Review) Act 2017, the Tribunal can no longer review certain regulatory decisions made under the national energy laws. These include coverage decisions, and decisions in relation to the making and revoking of light regulation determinations under the NGL.

Engagement with stakeholders

The Council’s third party access work requires it to engage with interested parties through a public consultation process. The Council maintains a website to assist this purpose. The Council’s actions to assist stakeholders are discussed in chapter 2.