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Corporate governance

 

The RIC’s corporate governance framework provides a sound basis for decision making and supports the RIC in achieving our objectives. Our governance framework promotes accountability, transparency, ensures risks are managed and supports key stakeholder relationships.

Our governance framework includes:

  • The legislative foundation provided by the RIC Act, detailed directions set out in the Regional Investment Corporation Operating Mandate Direction 2018 and the PGPA Act;
  • two responsible Ministers, a Board and CEO;
  • a planning, performance and reporting framework;
  • risk management and fraud control strategies; and
  • an Audit Committee and internal audit function to provide independent advice and assurance on the RIC’s activities.

RIC Board

The RIC Board is the Accountable Authority under the PGPA Act. The Board decides the RIC’s objectives and strategic direction and ensures that it fulfils its statutory functions. In accordance with the RIC Act, the Board must meet at least four times per year. In the reporting period it met on nine occasions and provided leadership across a number of areas including:

  • A lowering of interest rates throughout the year, with NWILF starting the 2019-20 period at 3.12% and finishing on 1.46%, and Farm Business Loans starting at 3.58% and finishing at 1.92%.
  • Overseeing all guidelines associated with new and changed loan products.
  • Attended a planning day with staff to help RIC determine its strategic objectives and priorities for the year.
  • Received regular updates from, and reviewed the Charter of, the RIC Audit Committee on matters of governance.
  • Monitored corporate governance matters such as enterprise risk, finances, people and culture.
  • Provided leadership and government liaison during a significant period of change at the RIC.

On 19 September 2019, the RIC’s then Chair, David Foster, announced his resignation from the RIC Board to our Responsible Ministers. The resignation took effect from 3 October 2019. On 25 March 2020, our Responsible Ministers appointed Karen Smith-Pomeroy as the new RIC Board Chair. In the intervening period, the Chair role was filled in an acting capacity by Board members Prue Bondfield and Lucia Cade.

Board composition at 30 June 2020

 

 Ms Karen Smith-Pomeroy (Chair), Ms Prue Bondfield (Member), Ms Lucia Cade (Member), Mr Mark Lewis (Member), Ms Sharon Starick (Member)

 

Appendix 1 Details of Accountable Authority & Audit Committee provides details of the Accountable Authority during the reporting period.

RIC Audit Committee

The Audit Committee is a subcommittee of the Board and was established in July 2018. The committee consists of two Board members— Lucia Cade and Mark Lewis—and two independent members—Tim Youngberry (Chair) and Emily Canning.

The Audit Committee’s Charter (available at ric.gov.au/about) outlines its role in providing independent assurance to the Board on financial and performance reporting, systems of risk oversight and management and systems of internal control.

During the reporting period the Committee met three times as per its Charter and played an important role in overseeing the RIC’s internal audit program and financial statements audit process. The Committee also ensured it kept abreast of changes relating to the Independent Review of the PGPA Act and Rule as they pertained to the effectiveness of Audit Committees.

Membership of the Audit Committee remained constant during the reporting period and Appendix 1 Details of Accountable Authority & Audit Committee provides details of the Audit Committee membership.

Approach to risk management

The RIC has established a Risk Management Framework which follows best practice principles and aligns with the requirements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management—Principles and Guidelines. Our Risk Management Framework is integrated with our planning, monitoring and reporting processes. Risk reporting is also embedded into our integrated business planning, which enables risk-based decision making and supports a positive risk culture across the RIC.

In 2019-20, we focused on improving our internal risk management processes by developing a practical risk management procedure to provide operational guidance and support informed decision making in managing risk across the RIC.

The RIC also focused on improving our strategic risk reporting to our Board and Audit Committee by completing an enterprise risk assessment through a facilitated risk management workshop which identified seven key enterprise risks which are interrelated and align to our purpose.

Fraud control

The RIC takes our exposure to fraud seriously and has a zero-tolerance approach. We take all reasonable measures to control fraud and properly manage public resources in a way that assures the integrity of the RIC’s activities while maximising benefits for the Australian people.

Our staff are expected to demonstrate high standards of professionalism, integrity and ethics. Fraud awareness forms part of the RIC’s mandatory training requirements. All current staff have undertaken training on understanding, recognising and reporting fraud and corruption. This training is included in the RIC’s new starter induction arrangements.

Our Fraud Control Plan is informed by fraud and risk assessments and provides a comprehensive framework for identifying, deterring, investigating and reporting fraud and corruption and meets the requirements of the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework.

External scrutiny

In 2019-20, the RIC was not subject to any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals or the Information Commissioner.

The RIC has not been subject to any significant non-compliances with finance laws, or any parliamentary inquiries outside of attendance at Senate Estimates hearings.

The Australian National Audit Office published one performance audit report that involved our participation in 2019-20. The report on the Design and Establishment of the Regional Investment Corporation was tabled in Parliament on 17 June 2020.

Directors and Officers indemnities and insurance

In 2019-20, the RIC held Directors and Officers Liability Insurance and premiums were paid up to date. There have been no claims against the liability insurance for the reporting period.

Environmental sustainability

In the 2019-20 financial year, the RIC delivered its loan programs which can enable farmers to invest in their farm businesses to improve their adaptability and resilience to changing climatic conditions through the Drought Loan and Farm Investment Loan. The Farm Investment Loan also supports farmers to reduce their environmental impact through productive technology and increased water efficiency within their operations.

At the RIC’s Orange NSW-based headquarters, our cloud-based technology systems enable us to operate in a largely paper-free environment. The adaptability of our workforce, supported by our technology systems, also enabled the RIC to transition quickly to a working from home environment as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, without any additional environmental impacts.

In May 2019, the RIC commenced a project in partnership with the Australian National University to investigate how the RIC can deliver an effective loan program to encourage farmers to take up climate-smart farming practices and technologies. This work was temporarily put on hold during the 2019-20 financial year while the RIC responded to demand for its drought-related loans as Australian farmers battled prolonged drought conditions and will be revisited in the near future.

Sustainability is also at the heart of the RIC’s NWILF which is designed to improve Australia’s regional water security. The RIC will take a sustainable approach to its assessment decisions requiring that relevant project environmental approvals have been or will be obtained. A project’s environmental impact assessment will also be taken into account in assessing NWILF loan applications.

Work health and safety

There were no notifiable incidents recorded during the 2019-20 period.

The RIC rolled out a number of Health, Safety and Wellbeing initiatives over the 2019-20 period including:

  • A flu vaccination program, which had a positive 66.6% participation rate.
  • Continued provision and promotion of full access to the RIC’s Employee.

Assistance Program including a number of new health and wellbeing resources being offered as part of that service.

  • Creation of the COVID-19 response team and the associated initiatives and promotions co-ordinated by that team, which resulted in a strong compliance across the RIC for COVID-19 related restrictions and protocols.
  • A number of WHS-oriented training courses were attended during the period.

Advertising and market research

Section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 requires Australian Government departments and agencies to set out in their annual reports details of amounts greater than $13,800 (inclusive of GST) paid by or on behalf of them during the year to advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations and media advertising organisations.

During 2019-20, the RIC conducted market research to understand customer experience and satisfaction and engaged advertising services to communicate key messages for loan programs and generate awareness.

The amounts that the RIC paid to media and advertising organisations in 2019-20 are as follows.

Organisation

Purpose

Amount

Isentia Pty Ltd (Media Monitors)

Media monitoring services

$25,210.90

News Pty Ltd

National advertising loan program key benefits and updates

$49,400.00