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Governance Framework

As an executive agency within the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio, the NFRA’s governance framework includes operational policies and procedures supported by Accountable Authority Instructions, guidelines, human resource policies, processes and behaviours. These arrangements are designed to align closely with, or to apply, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (the department) policies and procedures in order to ensure rigorous conformity with obligations, accountabilities and transparency expectations.

The NFRA recognises the importance of its relationship with the department in enabling and supporting our successful delivery of the Australian Government’s 20-Year Faster Rail Plan. The agency has maintained a close working relationship with the department’s Executive and Infrastructure Investment Division with respect to program management and investment policy.

Similarly, the NFRA has worked closely with the department to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) arrangement for the provision of services to the NFRA by the department including accommodation, security, information management, financial management, human resource management, communications, audit and risk and parliamentary services. The MOU establishes and articulates the relationship between the two portfolio entities, roles and responsibilities of parties, governance and oversight arrangements and lines of accountability.

During the reporting period, the NFRA commissioned a review of its governance and accountability arrangements to assess the alignment of system, policy and procedural arrangements with Commonwealth Government legislative and regulatory requirements as well as industry best practice. Based on the outcomes of this review and its recommendations, the NFRA made several refinements to key governance and accountability documents to ensure the highest standards of governance and accountability. The risk management policy and framework, risk register, fraud and corruption control plan, fraud risk register, internal audit work program and stakeholder engagement strategy have been updated to ensure they best and most efficiently and effectively support the achievement of the agency’s purpose and conform with performance and accountability requirements.

Train on railway line Photo of NGR train on railway line from Brisbane to Gold Coast.
NGR train from Brisbane to Gold Coast

Corporate Plan

The NFRA’s 2019–20 to 2022–23 Corporate Plan is the agency’s principal planning document and is updated annually. Performance is measured and reported in the annual performance statement contained in this annual report. As detailed in the corporate plan, the NFRA will pursue its purpose through the following outcome:

  • Improved rail infrastructure between our capital cities and their surrounding regional centres by providing coordination, strategic advice and the identification of investments that improve reliability and travel speeds 1

The corporate plan details the agency’s operating environment and performance targets noting that:

  • Over the longer term, the NFRA’s success will be assessed against the achievement of the above outcome and in particular, reduced travel times and improved reliability for rail passengers on corridors selected by the Australian Government for faster rail investment.
  • In the short to medium term, including the planning horizon of the 2019–20 Corporate Plan (2019–20 to 2022–23), the NFRA’s performance will be assessed against the extent to which our advice supports the Australian Government’s 20-Year Faster Rail Plan.

Risk Management Framework

The NFRA’s risk management and oversight systems and procedures are contained in the agency’s Risk Management Policy and Framework, developed in accordance with the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy. The framework outlines our approach to designing, implementing, monitoring, reviewing and continually improving risk management to reflect the NFRA’s operating environment. This includes conducting strategic risk assessments to identify, prevent or mitigate the impact of uncertainty on the achievement of our purpose as stated in our corporate plan.

Within the risk management framework, the NFRA strives to promote a positive risk culture through a shared understanding of the risks facing the agency and a consistent approach to risk-based decision making, demonstrated through:

  • Strong leadership – executives champion risk through establishing and communicating the NFRA’s risk management framework. This includes the executive articulating risk expectations, appetite and tolerance and policy through to modelling what good risk behaviours look like.
  • Process and reporting – working together to embed the risk management framework in the NFRA’s systems and culture. This includes through a consistent suite of agency risk management tools as well as ensuring open channels for feedback from employees who wish to raise any concerns and ensuring any concerns are escalated and addressed at an appropriate level.
  • Training and communication – transparent communication, information sharing, training opportunities and raising awareness including roles and responsibilities for risk management.
  • Performance and review – clear accountability and ownership for managing risks integrated in performance reviews and evaluation processes including fortnightly agency governance meetings and annual review and endorsement of performance by the department’s Audit and Risk Committee.

Internal Audit

The NFRA’s internal audit work program is developed every two years using a risk-based approach to analysing, assessing and judging current and emerging risks. The work program is reviewed and endorsed by the department’s Audit and Risk Committee and subsequently approved by the NFRA’s CEO. The work program is actively monitored by the NFRA’s Executive Leadership team to ensure it remains focussed and addresses any emerging risks or changes in priorities as they develop.

In line with the internal audit work program, the NFRA engaged the services of an external consultant during 2019–20 to undertake a review of the agency’s key governance documents to ensure compliance with legislative requirements and better practice. As outlined above, the outcomes and recommendations of this review were used to refine and update these governance documents.

Audit and Risk Committee

The NFRA utilises the services of the department’s Audit and Risk Committee, established in accordance with section 45 of the PGPA Act and section 17 of the PGPA Rule. This arrangement ensures maximum oversight of the NFRA by a committee established at arm’s length of the agency while ensuring effective use of limited agency resources.

As detailed in the department’s Audit Committee Charter, the committee is responsible for providing independent advice and assurance on the NFRA’s corporate governance obligations and responsibilities, including:

  • financial reporting;
  • performance reporting;
  • systems of risk oversight and management; and
  • systems of internal control.

The Audit and Risk Committee charter is published on the department’s website at https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/about/audit-risk-committee-charter/

The committee met four times during the reporting period. Details of the committee membership and remuneration in relation to consideration of the NFRA matters is detailed in the tables below.

Table 1.1 Audit and Risk Committee members of the former Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development 2 1 July 2019 to 31 January 2020

Member name

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

No. of meetings attended / total no. of meetings

Total annual remuneration (GST excl)

Geoff Knuckey

Independent Chair

Independent Member Financial Statements Sub‑Committee (FSSC)

Mr Knuckey is a former Partner of Ernst & Young where he specialised in financial statements auditing and advised on internal audit, corporate governance, risk management, and financial statements auditing and reporting. Mr Knuckey is currently chair or non-executive director of several private-sector companies, and chair or independent member of Audit and Risk Committees for a number of government agencies.

Mr Knuckey holds a Bachelor of Economics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, a Registered Company Auditor, Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a member of the Australian Institute of Internal Auditors.

2/2

4/4 FSSC meetings

$810

Susan Page PSM

Independent Member

Ms Page previously held senior positions in the public sector including deputy secretary positions with responsibility for infrastructure investment, regional services, territories, safety investigations, deregulation and best practice regulation.

Ms Page holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and is an independent member on one other government agency Audit and Risk Committee.

2/2

1/1 FSSC meeting

$486

Gayle Ginnane

Independent Member

Ms Ginnane has previously held senior positions in the public sector with responsibility for regulation of the private health industry as well as chair and directorship roles in both the public and private sector.

Ms Ginnane is currently chair or non-executive director of several private-sector companies, and chair or independent member of Audit and Risk Committees for a number of government agencies.

Ms Ginnane holds a Bachelor of Arts (Mathematics and Statistics), Bachelor of Economics, Master of Defence Studies and a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies.

2/2

1/1 FSSC meeting

$460

Ruth Wall

Departmental Member

Ms Wall, Acting First Assistant Secretary of the Department, National Water Grid Authority.

2/2

1/1 FSSC meeting

$0

Dr Rachel Bacon

Departmental Member

Dr Bacon, Deputy Secretary of the department, responsible for Regional and Territories.

Dr Bacon’s appointment ceased on 5 November 2019 and was eligible to attend one meeting during the reporting period for which Dr Bacon was an apology.

0/2

1/1 FSSC meeting

$0

Brendan McRandle PSM

Departmental Member

Mr McRandle, Deputy Secretary of the department, responsible for Aviation Futures Planning and Chief Executive Officer of the National Water Grid Authority.

Mr McRandle’s appointment commenced on 6 November 2019 and was eligible to attend one meeting during the reporting period.

1/2

$0

Table 1.2 Audit and Risk Committee members of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications [3] 1 February 2020 – 30 June 2020

Member name

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

No. of meetings attended / total no. of meetings

Total annual remuneration (GST excl)

Geoff Knuckey

Independent Chair
Member of FFSC

Mr Knuckey is a former Partner of Ernst & Young where he specialised in financial statements auditing and advised on internal audit, corporate governance, risk management, and financial statements auditing and reporting. Mr Knuckey is currently chair or non-executive director of several private-sector companies, and chair or independent member of Audit and Risk Committees for a number of government agencies.

Mr Knuckey holds a Bachelor of Economics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, a Registered Company Auditor, Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a member of the Australian Institute of Internal Auditors.

2/2

1/1 FSSC

$1,350

Ian McPhee AO PSM

Independent Member

Chair FSSC

Mr McPhee was the Auditor General for Australia from 2005 to 2015 and was a former Deputy Secretary of the Financial Management Group at the Department of Finance.

Mr McPhee is a non-executive director of several boards, and chair and independent member of Audit and Risk Committees for a number of government agencies.

Mr McPhee holds a Bachelor of Business (Accountancy) and a Bachelor of Arts (Computing Studies). Mr McPhee is a Fellow of CPA Australia and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

1/2*

1/1 FSSC

$218

Gayle Ginnane

Independent Member

Ms Ginnane has previously held senior positions in the public sector with responsibility for regulation of the private health industry as well as chair and directorship roles in both the public and private sector.

Ms Ginnane is currently chair or non-executive director of several private-sector companies, and chair or independent member of Audit and Risk Committees for a number of government agencies.

Ms Ginnane holds a Bachelor of Arts (Mathematics and Statistics), Bachelor of Economics, Master of Defence Studies and a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies.

2/2

$561

Carl Murphy

Independent Member

Mr Murphy has previously held senior positions in the public sector including as the Chief Operating Officer at the former Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

Mr Murphy holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours). Mr Murphy is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a CPA.

1/2*

$104

Susan Page PSM

Independent Member

Ms Page previously held senior positions in the public sector including deputy secretary positions with responsibility for infrastructure investment, regional services, territories, safety investigations, deregulation and best practice regulation.

Ms Page holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and is an independent member on one other government agency Audit and Risk Committee.

2/2

$288

* Non-attendance at the 17 March 2020 meeting was due to the appointment not being confirmed until 13 March 2020.

External Scrutiny

The NFRA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee on 21 October 2019 and 2 March 2020. On 23 June 2020, the NFRA officials appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Inquiry into options for financing faster rail.

Details on the reports of parliamentary committee inquiries and senate estimates transcripts are available at www.aph.gov.au.

Other than for the audit of its financial statements under section 43 of the PGPA Act, the NFRA was not subject to any reports on the operations of the entity by the Auditor-General, judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals or by the Australian Information Commissioner that may have a significant effect on the operations of the agency. The NFRA was not subject to any reports by a Parliamentary Committee or the Commonwealth Ombudsman or any agency capability reviews.

Information Publication Scheme

Under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the NFRA publishes information in accordance with the Information Publication Scheme. The NFRA’s Freedom of information (FOI) disclosure log is published on the NFRA website at https://www.nfra.gov.au/reports/ freedom-of-information.

The NFRA did not receive any FOI requests during 2019–20.

Footnotes

  1. NFRA was not included in the 2019-20 Portfolio Budget Statements as the agency was not established at that time.
  2. The NFRA utilised the services of the department's Audit and Risk Committee during the reporting period.
  3. The NFRA utilised the services of the department's Audit and Risk Committee during the reporting period.