Chapter eight - Geoscience Australia Management and Accountability

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Corporate governance

Geoscience Australia’s corporate governance arrangements and practices guide its management and operations to improve overall performance and strengthen accountability.

Geoscience Australia’s governance framework includes advisory bodies and committees, as well as Accountable Authority Instructions, policies and procedures and guidelines.

The Chief Executive Officer is supported by an Advisory Board and Portfolio Board. The Advisory Board comprises Senior Executive Service officials, plus four staff from the Executive Level (EL) and Australian Public Service (APS) classifications. The Board’s EL and APS staff members have even female and male representation. The Advisory Board is supported by five committees—the Audit and Risk Committee; Security Committee; ICT Strategy Committee; Work Health and Safety Committee; and Workplace Relations Committee—and the Cultural Reference Group. The Portfolio Board comprises Senior Executive Service officials and advises the Chief Executive Officer on investment priorities and organisation resource allocation.

Geoscience Australia’s corporate plan is reviewed and updated annually to ensure that the organisation’s portfolio of work reflects current Australian Government priorities and policy requirements. The corporate plan is implemented through more detailed annual work plans.

Geoscience Australia’s governance practices comply with all statutory requirements and are reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.

Fraud control

Geoscience Australia’s fraud control framework is consistent with better practice and provides assurance that the organisation’s fraud control strategies are robust. Ongoing fraud awareness training is provided for all staff. As required by the Fraud Rule and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy, Geoscience Australia reviews and updates its fraud control plan biennially. The plan details fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures. The current plan was reviewed by an external expert.

Compliance with finance law

There were no significant issues of non-compliance with the finance law reported to the responsible minister as part of the entity’s internal compliance reporting process for 2016–17.

External scrutiny

In 2016–17, no judicial or administrative tribunal decisions were relevant to Geoscience Australia. No investigations into the organisation’s operations were conducted by the Commonwealth Ombudsman or by any parliamentary committee.

Geoscience Australia appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Economics for Senate estimates hearings once in 2016–17, on 2 March 2017. Geoscience Australia was not required by the committee to attend the supplementary budget estimates hearing in October 2016 or the budget estimates hearing in May–June 2017.

Geoscience Australia appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 31 March 2017 in relation to the refurbishment of their Symonston offices.

Information Publication Scheme

Under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, Geoscience Australia is required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. A plan showing the information Geoscience Australia publishes in accordance with the scheme is available on Geoscience Australia’s website.

Management of human resources

Key people management activities undertaken during 2016–17 included the development of a new Geoscience Australia People Strategy 2017–2022, which was launched in June 2017. The People Strategy includes a range of actions to be implemented which focus on five key areas: culture; workforce alignment; leadership and management; careers and performance; and learning and recognition. The Geoscience Australia Cultural Reference Group continued to drive the Inclusive Culture Program to improve opportunities for employee diversity and inclusiveness. The implementation of actions under the Geoscience Australia Gender Strategy and Indigenous Employment Strategy, which were launched in 2015–16, progressed well during 2016–17.

Geoscience Australia supported and developed employees through study scholarships, study leave and financial assistance, development grants for high-performing employees and in-house learning and development programs. The Geoscience Australia graduate program continued. Eight graduates successfully completed the 2016 program and moved into employment positions in January 2017. Nine new graduates commenced the 2017 program, seven in science disciplines and two in ICT. Geoscience Australia’s workforce statistics tables are in Appendix B3.

In 2016–17 one employee received a performance payment. To avoid disclosing personal information performance bonus figures have not been published.

Work health and safety

Geoscience Australia is committed to a system-based approach to ensuring the health, safety and wellness of workers and visitors. This approach is championed by the Chief Executive Officer through all levels of the organisation.

During 2016–17, the wellbeing program continued Geoscience Australia’s investment in employee health and wellness. Key initiatives undertaken included:

  • redeveloping work health and safety (WHS) policies and procedures to ensure clarity of the Geoscience Australia WHS system and associated roles and responsibilities
  • redeveloping the rehabilitation management system, including drafting policies and procedures and conducting capability assessments for the rehabilitation case managers
  • conducting an external audit of the rehabilitation management system, resulting in 92 per cent compliance, an improvement of 22 percentage points compared to the previous audit in 2015–16
  • offering influenza virus vaccinations to all employees, resulting in 52 per cent of employees being vaccinated, an increase of nine percentage points compared to 2015–‍16
  • engaging a new employee assistance program provider and promoting the program and the tools provided
  • conducting a pilot resilience training program aimed at providing employees and managers with the tools to manage and respond to change effectively.

During 2016–17, Geoscience Australia reported three notifiable incidents to Comcare. Two required no further action; one required formal investigation that resulted in the issuing of one Comcare statutory notice. Of the three notifications, one related to electrical-related incidents, one to a motor vehicle related incident and one to exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Disability reporting mechanisms

Disability reporting is included in the Australian Public Service Commission’s annual State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available on the Australian Public Service Commission’s website.

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level two-yearly report tracks progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and presents a picture of how people with a disability are faring. Reports are available on the Department of Social Services website.

Purchasing

During 2016–17, Geoscience Australia undertook its procurements in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the requirements of its Accountable Authority Instructions.

Geoscience Australia supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and medium enterprise and small enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website.

Geoscience Australia recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury’s website.

Consultants

During 2016–17, Geoscience Australia entered into 13 new consultancy contracts; total consultancy expenditure was $0.532 million (GST exclusive). No ongoing consultancy contracts were active during 2016–17.

Geoscience Australia’s policy on selecting and engaging consultants and approving expenditure takes into account all relevant legislation, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and Geoscience Australia’s Accountable Authority Instructions.

The procurement method is determined having regard to the cost, value for money and nature of the work involved.

Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website.

The Chief Executive Officer did not exempt any contract let during 2016–17 from publication on AusTender on the basis that it would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

All contracts valued at $100 000 or more (GST inclusive) let during 2016–17 allowed for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

Grant programs

Information on grants awarded by Geoscience Australia during 2016–17 is available on the organisation’s website.

Advertising and market research

During 2016–17, Geoscience Australia did not pay advertising agencies or marketing, polling or direct mail organisations above the reporting threshold of $13 000 per payment (GST inclusive).