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ABS corporate governance arrangements ensure transparency in decision making, operation and accountability to stakeholders by promoting strong leadership, sound management and effective planning and review. The operations and performance of the ABS are subject to both internal and external scrutiny. The results of this scrutiny inform senior management discussion. The scope of internal management and review and external advisory and review bodies is described below.
Internal scrutiny takes the form of:
During 2003-04, the ABS finalised and implemented its Risk Management Framework and Risk Management Guidelines. The goals behind implementing a formal risk management framework into the ABS are: to provide an assurance that the organisation has identified its highest risk exposures and has taken steps to properly manage them; to ensure that the ABS' business planning processes include a focus on areas where risk management is needed; to establish a process across the ABS that will integrate the various risk control measures that are already in place; and to provide a framework/mechanism for monitoring and identifying shifts in the risk exposure and the emergence of 'new' risks. A program of facilitated workshops has commenced with a number of key operational areas in order to ensure that the risk assessments for these areas are applied consistently and given priority.
During the year, a fraud risk assessment and fraud control plan were completed for the ABS with the assistance of an external provider. The fraud risk assessment concluded that overall there is a low fraud risk exposure for the ABS and the number of fraud risks identified within the ABS is small when compared to other organisations of similar size, however a range of treatment strategies identified in the risk assessment and fraud control plan are being implemented to further minimise the risks. The fraud risk assessment and fraud control plan have been prepared to comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.
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, ensuring appropriate planning and implementation to address those priorities and effective monitoring of ABS activities. The major senior management committees are as follows:
ABS Management Meetings
ABS Management Meetings involve the Australian Statistician, the Deputy Australian Statisticians, First Assistant Statisticians and Regional Directors. Expert advisers are also called as required. The Management Meetings play a major role in determining ABS strategic directions, priorities and resource allocations. The meetings occur at least twice a year. Among other things, the Management Meeting agrees on the ABS forward work program which is presented to ASAC for consideration and advice before finalisation.
Executive Meetings are held weekly and involve the Australian Statistician, the Deputy Australian Statisticians and all First Assistant Statisticians. Regional Directors also provide written input to each meeting. Each Assistant Statistician and Regional Director in the ABS reports to the Executive Meeting in respect of their area of functional responsibility. Their reports cover matters such as significant achievements, indicators of performance, emerging issues, strategies adopted to manage them and resource management. In addition, the meetings address emerging corporate issues.
Protective Security Management Committee
The ABS maintains a comprehensive security framework, overseen by a Protective Security Management Committee chaired by the Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group.
The ABS Audit Committee is chaired by a Deputy Australian Statistician and includes senior management representatives from the corporate, technology and statistical areas of the ABS. The Committee includes an experienced external, independent member (Mr Len Early). The Committee sets a work program for reviews drawing on the outcomes of risk assessments, fraud control plan, recommendations from ABS managers and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The work program is undertaken by external audit contractors and covers compliance and risk management issues. A broader review program, involving internal and external reviewers, looks at other issues of efficiency and effectiveness. The Committee meets four times a year and reports to the Executive Meetings as appropriate.
Internal audits undertaken during 2003-04 included reviews of: Computer Assisted Interviewing Infrastructure; Logical Information Technology Security; Encryption of Pre-release Main Economic Indicator Publications; Subscriptions Redevelopment; Fringe Benefits Tax; and Internal Budgeting.
Information Resources Management Committee
The Information Resources Management Committee is chaired by the Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group and consists of the Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group, all First Assistant Statisticians, a nominated Regional Director and appropriate Assistant Statisticians. The Committee considers matters of strategic significance concerning data and information management and related policy, and major issues relating to the application of information and communication technology in the ABS. It also has responsibility for the strategic management of cost recovery activities of the information technology and technology services areas of the ABS. The Committee meets a number of times each year, and reports to each Management Meeting and the Executive Meeting as appropriate.
Human Resource Strategy Committee
The Human Resource Strategy Committee is chaired by the First Assistant Statistician, Corporate Services Division. The Committee involves all First Assistant Statisticians, a nominated Regional Director and the Assistant Statistician, Business Strategies Branch. This Committee provides the ABS with high level guidance on key human resource issues. Policy issues that are considered by this Committee include work force planning, staff development and training, remuneration, occupational health and safety and workplace diversity. The Committee meets several times each year, and reports to each Management Meeting and the Executive Meeting as appropriate.
External scrutiny takes the form of:
Information on Freedom of Information is provided in Appendix 11. Information on inquiries by Parliamentary Committees and reports by the Auditor General are provided in Appendix 12. Information on documents tabled in parliament is provided in Appendix 13.
The Australian Statistics Advisory Council
As described above, ASAC was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 to assist the ABS to fulfil its role. The Council is the key advisory body to the ABS and provides valuable input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program and reports annually to parliament. ASAC meets twice a year.
The current Chairperson of ASAC is Professor Sandra Harding who is Deputy Vice Chancellor (International and Development) at the Queensland University of Technology. During 2003-04 two new appointments to ASAC were made. These were Mr George Tomlins and Dr Adam Graycar the state/territory government representatives for the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia, respectively.
More details regarding ASAC can be found in the ASAC Annual Report, which is available on the ABS web site or on request.
The provision of a high quality national statistical service is a complex management exercise because of the diverse nature of user requirements and, in most instances, the lead time required to develop statistical collections. While the ABS recognises that it is impossible to satisfy all demands, in order to maintain relevance it seeks to react positively and responsibly to the demonstrated needs of its users. At the same time, the ABS is conscious of the constraints on public spending and on the workload placed on providers of information for its collections. Continued effort is made to review and, where possible, reduce provider load.
The ABS maintains a three-year forward work program which is rolled forward on an annual basis. The program is based on the set of components described in Appendix 1. Work programs are developed, resources are allocated and performance indicators are established at these and lower levels.
Each year relative priorities and competing resource requirements of all program components are formally and extensively considered by senior management. Particular attention is given to:
Proposals from managers of program components are considered by senior management, generally following consultation with major users. The proposed forward work program and resource estimates which emerge are then considered by ASAC. The work program is finalised in the light of ASAC advice.
The culmination of the year's planning cycle is a comprehensive document, the ABS Forward Work Program, which describes for each ABS program, the outputs, clients and uses of the statistical information and the main medium term developments. The document is available for public scrutiny and comment. A copy can be located on the ABS web site or is available on request.
The ABS would not be able to operate effectively without the trust and confidence of data providers. The legal requirement not to divulge identifiable information, and the strong confidentiality and security ethos which permeates the attitudes of ABS staff, are the most important elements of the ABS security screen. They are reinforced by a range of measures relating to the perimeter security of all offices, the security measures protecting the computing environment from any external access and the security measures implemented for individual data holdings.
Some features of the major elements of the security framework are described below.
Undertakings of Fidelity and Secrecy Under the Census and Statistics Act 1905
The Census and Statistics Act 1905 obliges ABS staff to maintain the secrecy and security of all data reported to, and held by, the ABS. Staff sign an undertaking of fidelity and secrecy under the terms of the Act. The personal responsibility of all staff is a crucial element of ABS culture. It is the foundation upon which the security of ABS data holdings is built.
The ABS has an enviable reputation for the preservation of the secrecy of reported information, and for the protection of its statistical data holdings from unauthorised release. There have been no known cases of any ABS officer breaching the undertaking of fidelity and secrecy.
All ABS premises are physically secure against unauthorised access. Entry is through electronically controlled access systems activated by individually coded access cards and monitored by closed circuit television. Anyone entering ABS premises, apart from reception or defined public access areas, is required to wear an identity pass. Particularly sensitive output data are subject to further physical security measures, including additional access control, supervision and secure storage.
Access to ABS computing systems is based on personal identifiers that are password protected. The computer systems are regularly monitored and usage audited.
Additional access control systems are used to protect any data designated 'sensitive'. Access to sensitive data is only granted under the authority of area line management (the 'owners' of the data) on the basis that access is required by the staff member to carry out their duties.
The ABS computer network has a secure gateway which allows connection to some Internet services. The secure gateway has been established in accordance with Commonwealth guidelines and is subject to annual accreditation by the national communications and computer security advisory authority, Defence Signals Directorate.
Included in the ABS strategic audit plan is an ongoing program of security audits and reviews of computer systems and the physical environment.