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MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
SENIOR MANAGEMENT COMMITTEES
An important feature of ABS corporate governance is the role played by senior management committees which are active in developing policies and strategies, identifying ABS priorities, assessing and responding to risks and opportunities, and monitoring ABS performance. The major senior management committees in place during 2014-15 are outlined in Table 6.1
Table 6.1: Senior management committees for 2014-15
While much of the work program remains constant from year to year, each year the ABS examines the external environment to assess the likely statistical needs for the next four years.
The annual planning cycle comprises a series of high-level meetings and forums, where senior managers consider the relative priorities and competing resource requirements of program components. In doing this, particular attention is given to:
Aspects of the proposed forward work program, and resource estimates that emerge, are considered by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC). The statistical work program is then finalised, taking into consideration the advice provided by ASAC.
The Forward Work Program is available on the ABS website.
The ABS has a Fraud Control Plan to provide the framework and associated guidance for fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures and processes that meet the specific needs of the ABS and broader government obligations. It is supported by a fraud risk assessment which documents identified fraud risks, treatment strategies, responsibilities, dates for implementation and reporting obligations.
The ABS Fraud Control Plan is reviewed and updated biennially. The fraud risk assessment is reviewed biannually or more frequently where the ABS has identified significant changes to fraud risk exposure.
The Audit Committee has oversight of ABS fraud control activity.
SECURITY OF PREMISES
The ABS relies on the trust and confidence of data providers to enable it to operate effectively and fulfil its vision.
The security of ABS premises, and of the information technology environment, is a key aspect of maintaining that trust and confidence, and is essential to minimising risks in a number of areas, including fraud.
All ABS premises are physically secured against unauthorised access. Entry is through electronically controlled access systems, activated by individually coded access cards and monitored by closed circuit television. Areas of the ABS producing particularly sensitive data, such as main economic indicators, are subject to further protective security measures.
The ABS computer network has a secure gateway, which allows connection to some internet services only. The secure gateway was established in accordance with Australian Government guidelines and is subject to an annual compliance review by an accredited independent assessor. Internal access to ABS computing systems is based on personal identifiers that are password protected. Databases are accessible only by approved users. The computer systems are regularly monitored and usage audited. There were no unauthorised access incidents into ABS computing systems during 2014-15.
2013 Australian Public Service Commission Capability Review
The findings of the 2013 Australian Public Service Commission Capability Review (APSC Review), undertaken by Mr Tony Cole AO, Mr John Ombler and Ms Carmel McGregor, were released in December 2014. The review called for the ABS to make fundamental changes and identified significant organisational opportunities. It reiterated that the ABS is a world class statistical organisation with a strong foundation and highly skilled, engaged and committed staff. However, it also clearly reaffirmed the need for the ABS to transform not only systems and infrastructure, but also culture, attitudes, and ways of operating. The report from the review is available on the APSC website: www.apsc.gov.au
The ABS welcomed the review’s findings and the opportunity they bring to strengthen the organisation. The Capability Action Plan (CAP) is the ABS’s response to the APSC Review.
The CAP outlines strategies and actions for implementation in response to the review and focuses on five key priority areas:
Review of ABS sensitive information controls
A former ABS staff member was arrested for a range of offences relating to the disclosure of sensitive statistics in May 2014. Following this the ABS contracted Belinda Gibson, a former Deputy Chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to conduct a review. The review assessed the ABS system of controls relating to the unauthorised disclosure of market sensitive information. It involved an assessment of ABS policies and processes, interviews with ABS staff, and benchmarking of the ABS controls against other Australian Government and various international statistical organisations.
The review found that the ABS operates with a coherent scheme of controls to protect against unauthorised disclosure, which is broadly consistent with similar government agencies. The review confirmed the strong value the ABS places in maintaining the security of information entrusted to the agency. The review found no systemic issues with the way the ABS handles confidential personal and market sensitive information, or with ABS's general security policies and practices.
The review identified four areas for improvement, with specific recommendations in each of these:
The report from the review is available on the ABS website: www.abs.gov.au
Independent technical review into the Labour Force Survey
The ABS commissioned a review with independent external input to develop an appropriate method for seasonally adjusting October 2014 and following months’ estimates.
The review concluded that changes to the timing of the supplementary surveys were the main contributing factor to recent volatility in the seasonally adjusted estimates. The review therefore recommended modifying the seasonal adjustment process to adjust for the impact of supplementary surveys.
The ABS implemented this key recommendation in the October 2014 Labour Force estimates, released on 6 November 2014, and will continue to apply this method to future estimates.
The ABS accepted all the recommendations from the report and has either implemented a change to its process or included the recommendation in future work programs as appropriate.
Updates on the ABS's implementation of the recommendations from the review were provided regularly in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) during 2014-15, with updates provided in the March 2015 issue, the May 2015 issue and the June 2015 issue.
Dr Martin Parkinson PSM, previous Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, chaired a review in parallel with the independent review into the Labour Force Survey that reported to the Treasurer.
There were no other significant developments in external scrutiny in 2014–15, with no reports issued by the Attorney-General, Parliament or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. There were no individual or administrative review decisions of relevance to the ABS.
A range of Australian Government bodies examined the operations of the ABS. The ABS assisted in providing information to the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman during 2014-15.
There were no adverse comments relating to the ABS from the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, Parliamentary Committees, or courts or tribunals during 2014-15.
The ABS has a privacy officer who, providing the perspective of a privacy advocate, advises on privacy issues internally, investigates allegations of misuse or unauthorised disclosures regarding personal information, and monitors the external environment to keep up-to-date on privacy issues that could impact upon ABS operations.
The ABS maintains a close relationship with the Australian Privacy Commissioner through the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, advising the Commissioner regularly of the ABS’s forward work program, providing documents pertaining to surveys collecting personal information and seeking advice on any new ABS initiatives about which privacy advocates may have concerns.
During 2014-15 the ABS was a partner of Privacy Awareness Week, which is an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum to promote awareness of privacy issues and the importance of the protection of personal information.
For the 2014-15 Privacy Awareness Week, the ABS communicated important information to staff based on the themes of maintaining a strong security culture and preserving privacy in everyday life.
Submissions to parliamentary committees
Table 6.2: ABS submissions to parliamentary committees in 2014-15
Information Publication Scheme
Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display a plan on its website showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements.
The ABS's IPS plan is available on the ABS website.
The total value of assets is $112.7 million. Most of the assets are intangible (internally generated software), and these were valued at $70.0 million in 2014-15. Tangible assets (property, plant and equipment) formed the remainder, and these were valued at $32.8 million with other non-financial assets (prepayments and accrued revenue) valued at $9.9 million. Tangible assets are valued with the assistance of an independent assessor.
The ABS undertakes a wide variety of procurement and contracting activities, with the majority of purchases classed as low value and low complexity.
The ABS conducts its procurement and contracting activities in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Policy Framework, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, and Accountable Authority Instructions. The ABS advertises an annual procurement plan on AusTender, and the plan is reviewed and updated as required throughout the year.
The ABS has a centralised area of expertise, which provides procurement and contracting support to operational areas, as well as providing direct involvement for more complex procurement projects. Information on procurement policy and practices is available to staff through an internal procurement portal.
The ABS continues to invest in developing procurement skills and reviewing processes to ensure that efficiency and value-for-money outcomes are achieved.
Procurement initiatives to support small business
The ABS supports small business participation in the Australian Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprise and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance website
Commonwealth Indigenous Procurement Policy
The ABS has implemented the Commonwealth Indigenous Procurement Policy in its procurement processes and is working closely with other Australian Government entities within the Treasury portfolio to ensure the requirements of the policy are met. The policy is available on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website
During the 2014-15 financial year, the ABS did not exempt any contracts from publication on AusTender on the basis that they would disclose exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
The ABS engages consultants where specialist skills are required that are not available in-house or when independent research, review or assessment is required. Consultants are typically engaged to investigate or diagnose an identified issue or problem, carry out defined reviews or evaluations, or provide independent advice to assist in ABS decision-making.
Before engaging consultants, the ABS takes into account the skills and resources required for the task, the skills available internally, and the cost-effectiveness of engaging external expertise. The decision to engage a consultant is made in accordance with the PGPA Act and related regulations including the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and relevant internal policies.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website
During 2014-15, 21 new consultancy contracts were entered into, involving total actual expenditure of $0.9 million. In addition, nine ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the 2014-15 year, involving total actual expenditure of $0.3 million.
Advertising and public relations
The ABS has paid $0.2 million for advertising (non-campaign) placed by Mitchells Adcorp Alliance (Dentsu Mitchell and Adcorp Australia) through the Australian Government's Central Advertising System, administered by the Department of Finance.
ABS non-campaign advertising includes, but is not limited to:
The ABS paid $0.1 million for public relations consultancies, provided by Landor Associates and Fenton Strategic Communications.
The ABS paid $0.4 million for market research services. Market research expenditure incurred in 2014-15 was in relation to preparations for the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. The organisations supplying these services included the CSIRO and Hall & Partners Open Mind Pty Ltd.
The Social Research Centre was engaged to conduct the Community Trust in the ABS Statistics survey to measure the level of trust the Australian community and the statistical user community have in the ABS and ABS statistics. A similar survey was conducted in 2010. Results from the 2015 survey are expected to be available in October 2015.
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