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12.2 Managing our assets

Physical assets

The department’s assets management policies and procedures cover whole‑of‑life asset management. Guidance and procedures are published for staff, and the department regularly confirms the existence, validity and valuation of its assets by undertaking:

  • a risk‑based rolling stocktake
  • a valuation of leasehold improvements, ICT assets, general plant and equipment, and data centre equipment
  • a quality assurance process across the major components of the assets base to ensure the integrity of the assets records
  • an assets impairment review in accordance with Australian Accounting Standard AASB 136—Impairment of assets.

The department’s physical assets base comprises mainly software, leasehold improvements and data centre equipment.


As at 30 June 2019, the department leased 418 commercial properties, covering 741,694 square metres.

The department also owned 36 residential properties and leased another one in remote locations. These properties provide accommodation for staff in places where it would otherwise be difficult to find suitable housing.

The department continually reviews its property portfolio to ensure that it meets business objectives and is as cost efficient as possible.

In 2018–19, expenditure on property operating expenses was $415.4 million, and the department spent a further $98.2 million on capital improvements. This included the program of works to maintain the customer engagement areas in Service Centres and sites to acceptable standards.

Information assets

As the government’s primary service delivery agency, the department collects, stores, creates, uses and releases vast amounts of data. This data is an important national asset and is used to inform decision-making in funding, management, planning, monitoring, improvement, research and evaluation of social welfare and health services in Australia.

The department has a responsibility to ensure that the data it collects is stored securely and used appropriately and effectively in accordance with the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement. The Customer Information Management Framework provides a unified vision for the use and management of customer information across the department and, more broadly, across government. This framework also supports the aims of the Public Sector Data Management Project and ensures that the department only provides data in ways that comply with legislation and safeguard customer privacy.

The department’s website at humanservices.gov.au provides statistical information and data and an option for stakeholders to request further information.

Managing data

During the 2018–19 reporting period, the department appointed a Chief Data Officer to lead the governance and use of data. The Chief Data Officer Division is working to build data and analytics capability across the department to improve evidence-based policy and decision making.

Data and Analytics Strategy

The department’s Data and Analytics Strategy sets out how the department will use better governance practices, new technologies and analytical advances to increase appropriate and lawful access to data. The department has also developed a strategy implementation roadmap using industry best practice as a baseline.

Corporate record keeping

The Australian Government’s Digital Continuity 2020 Policy promotes a consistent approach to information governance.

The department prefers to create and maintain administrative records digitally, thereby reducing reliance on paper records. This is in line with the goal of transitioning to a complete digital record‑keeping model, including converting incoming paper to digital records wherever possible. The continued focus on online and self service capabilities for customers further reduced the volume of paper received and stored in 2018–19.

Freedom of information

In 2018–19, the department received 6,193 freedom of information (FOI) requests. The department received 17 requests for amendment or annotation of personal records. Taking into account cases pending from previous years, the department finalised 6,204 FOI requests.

Of these requests:

  • 3,567 were withdrawn before decisions on access were made (in most cases because the department provided access by way of administrative release)
  • full access was granted in 845 cases
  • part access was granted in 1,231 cases
  • access was refused in 528 cases
  • 33 cases were transferred to other departments/agencies.

In 2018–19, the department received 111 FOI requests for internal review of access or amendment decisions. Taking into account requests pending from previous years, the department completed 104 of these reviews in 2018–19. Of the 104 completed decisions, 71 affirmed the original decision and 22 set aside the original decision and granted further access in full or in part. The remaining 11 requests for internal review were withdrawn or otherwise finalised.

Required FOI reporting—Information Publication Scheme

As required under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) the department has an Information Publication Scheme (IPS) Plan, which is available on its website at humanservices.gov.au

Information that must be published under the FOI Act is available in various documents on the website and can easily be identified by the IPS logo on the FOI page.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

In 2018–19, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner published 13 decisions on applications for review of the department’s FOI access decisions. Of these, two affirmed the department’s decision and 11 varied or set aside the department’s decision.

Personal information requests

The department offers various ways for people to access their own information, including through online services. The department also responds to requests to release personal information, with the individual’s consent, in the public interest or under specific legislative provisions.

In 2018–19, the department responded to 90,318 personal information requests.