Governance and legislation
ABS corporate governance arrangements ensure transparency in decision making, operation and accountability by promoting strong leadership, sound management and effective planning and review processes.
The Office of the Statistician and External Engagement has a key role in leading and supporting ABS corporate governance. It ensures that the ABS operates within the scope of its authority and legislative basis, and manages strategic planning, audit, review and risk management activities.
Some of the key ABS corporate governance mechanisms are described below:
Four year planning and budgeting cycle
- a planning cycle to ensure that the ABS work program reflects current and emerging statistical priorities of users, and is consistent with the ABS mission and overall strategic directions
- senior management committees responsible for corporate/ABS policies and strategies, identifying priorities, driving change and monitoring the ABS’s performance
- advisory bodies and user groups, which enable the ABS to consult widely with the user community about the ABS work program
- a risk management framework to assist in identifying and managing risks at organisational, operational and project level
- an audit and review program covering different facets of ABS operations, overseen by the Audit Committee
- instructions and manuals to ensure staff have access to ABS policies and practices.
The four year planning and budgeting cycle clearly sets out the work program and total resources (including finances and staff) required to deliver the approved work program. This ensures a budget and planning process that is more rigorous and forward looking and aligns the work program with available budget. The ABS has an integrated framework for budgeting and planning which cascades from strategic priorities to divisional priorities and activities.
Strategic Finance and Investment Committee
The Strategic Finance and Investment Committee (SFIC) contributes to ABS planning and budgeting processes, by ensuring ABS funding is allocated to align with longer-term strategic directions. SFIC is responsible for working with the Chief Financial Officer in developing and executing an ABS capital plan that is aligned with strategic directions and approved by the ABS Management Meeting. SFIC also ensures the ABS has robust internal mechanisms for planning and managing capital assets and technology applications funding. The meetings are chaired by the ABS Chief Operating Officer and attended by the First Assistant Statisticians, two Regional Directors (on a rotating basis), Chief Financial Officer, and the Assistant Statistician of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement with other attendees as required for particular items. SFIC meet three times a year, and more frequently if required, at appropriate times in the budget cycle.
Senior management committees
Senior management committees are an important feature of ABS corporate governance. These committees 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 are as follows:
- ABS Management Meetings Management Meetings are the key forum for determining ABS strategic directions, priorities and resource allocations. These meetings are chaired by the Australian Statistician and attended by the Deputy Australian Statisticians, First Assistant Statisticians, Regional Directors, Chief Financial Officer, Assistant Statistician of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement, and Assistant Statistician of the Human Resources Branch. Management Meetings are held twice a year to decide on the ABS’s strategic priorities, budgeting and planning matters, and to discuss other issues of corporate importance.
- Executive Leadership Group Meetings Executive Leadership Group (ELG) meetings are held fortnightly and provide strategic oversight of the ABS and determine ABS policy. It focuses on strategic issues that affect the future of the organisation, including giving high-level focus to the National Statistical Service and strategic client engagement. ELG Meetings are chaired by the Australian Statistician and attended by the Deputy Australian Statisticians and the Assistant Statistician of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement.
- Senior Management Group Meetings Senior Management Group (SMG) meetings are held weekly to provide tactical management oversight of the ABS’s operations and to advise ELG on strategic and policy issues. It ensures the ABS is a well-run organisation with well formulated work programs that are reviewed appropriately and with proper consideration of cross-cutting issues. It will also address other issues, including information resource management, publishing and dissemination, human resources and accountability issues. SMG meetings are chaired by the ABS Chief Operating Officer and attended by First Assistant Statisticians, two Regional Directors (representing all Regional Directors), Chief Financial Officer, Assistant Statistician of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement, and the Assistant Statistician of the Human Resources Branch with other attendees as required for particular items. ELG and SMG meet jointly to discuss strategic and policy issues and to review Key Performance Indicators that have been defined to measure the main areas of organisational performance.
Audit, review and risk management
- Protective Security Management Committee The ABS maintains a comprehensive security framework, overseen by a Protective Security Management Committee chaired by a Deputy Australian Statistician. This security framework ensures that both physical and computer security are maintained. The committee is a key means of ensuring that the ABS meets its legal requirement not to divulge identifiable information and to make sure that there is policy to meet the security and privacy related requirements of legislation including the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, Census and Statistics Act 1905, Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, Privacy Act 1988 and Crimes Act 1914.
Risk management framework
The ABS has a robust risk management framework, which provides the basis for identifying, assessing and mitigating risks at all levels within the organisation. The framework is set out in the ABS’s Risk Management Strategy. The strategy and framework undergo continuous review, based on feedback from many sources, including internal audits, external risk reviews, better practice guides, and the outcomes of the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking exercise.
There continues to be a strong focus on the integration of risk identification and prioritisation within the ABS business planning cycle. In developing business plans, managers at all levels identify key risks to their work programs. Significant risks identified at section level are elevated or integrated into business plans at the Branch and Division levels to provide a more comprehensive and consistent picture of the ABS risk profile.
On an annual basis, the ABS reviews and identifies strategic risks that have the potential to significantly impact on the organisation. These are known as enterprise risks. The key benefit of this annual review is the strengthening of risk identification and analysis through a coordinated examination of organisational threats. For each of the enterprise risks, treatment strategies have been determined, and the Risk Owners (members of the ABS Executive) have been allocated responsibility for monitoring their implementation. This approach provides clear ownership of risk mitigation responsibilities and the opportunity for the Executive to review the success of risk mitigation.
The ABS conducts operational risk workshops to assist program managers to identify and manage risks that have the potential to impact upon program objectives.
The Internal Audit Program provides independent review, objective assurance and advisory services to the Australian Statistician and senior management. It allows for regular validation of components of the ABS control framework and it assists with the identification and mitigation of enterprise and operational risks facing the ABS.
The ABS’s Internal Review Program complements the ABS Internal Audit Program. Internal reviews primarily focus on statistical programs to address issues including program effectiveness, efficiency and statistical quality.
The Australian Statistician established the ABS Audit Committee in accordance with section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
The Audit Committee provides assurance to the Australian Statistician that the ABS has in place a comprehensive and effective framework for all its business systems. The Committee also examines the operation and management of
ABS systems and the procedures for generating externally published information to ensure the ABS complies with all legislative and other obligations.
The Audit Committee determines and monitors to operations of the Internal Audit Program, independent of ABS line management.
The Audit Committee is chaired by a Deputy Australian Statistician and comprises of four internal ABS staff and two external members. Appointment is based on personal attributes, experience and skills, and ability to demonstrate independence on matters before the Committee.
Authority and legislation
The principal legislation determining the functions and responsibilities of the ABS is contained in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (ABS Act) and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (C&S Act).
The functions of the ABS are defined in section 6 of the ABS Act as follows:
(a) to constitute the central statistical authority for the Australian government and, by arrangements with the governments of the states, provide statistical services for those governments
(b) to collect, compile, analyse and disseminate statistics and related information
(c) to ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics and related information, with particular regard to:
(i) the avoidance of duplication in the collection by official bodies of information for statistical purposes
(ii) the attainment of compatibility between, and the integration of, statistics compiled by official bodies, and
(iii) the maximum possible utilisation, for statistical purposes, of information, and means of collection of information, available to official bodies
(e) to provide advice and assistance to official bodies in relation to statistics, and
(f) to provide liaison between Australia, on the one hand, and other countries and international organisations, on the other hand, in relation to statistical matters.
The ABS Act also established the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC). The functions of ASAC are to advise the Minister and the Australian Statistician in relation to:
(a) the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia
(b) annual and longer-term priorities and programs of work that should be adopted in relation to major aspects of the provision of those statistical services, and
(c) any other matters relating generally to those statistical services.
All state and territory governments are represented on ASAC. The other Council members are chosen to represent a broad cross-section of perspectives, covering government, business, academic and community interests.
The C&S Act provides the Statistician with the authority to conduct statistical collections and, when necessary, to direct a person to provide statistical information. The Act imposes on the ABS obligations to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information, and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the Act.
The ABS Act requires that the Statistician prepares, for presentation to Parliament, an annual report on the operations of the ABS. The ABS Act also requires that ASAC prepares, and submits to the Minister for presentation to Parliament, an annual report relating to the matters connected with the operation of the Act.
Under the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956
, Commonwealth and State statistical services have been integrated since 1958 (since 1924 for Tasmania). Although not covered by legislation, similar arrangements apply in both territories. There is regular consultation with State and Territory Governments on statistical priorities.