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Underlying the corporate governance framework are the Australian Public Service (APS) and ABS values, which are the basis for the ethical standards for ABS employees.
As an APS agency, ABS employees are required to abide by the APS Values and Code of Conduct. In addition, the ABS Corporate Plan sets out values specific to the ABS, which are essential to the ABS’s role as a trusted and independent provider of statistical information for Australia.
These values are promoted through training courses and awareness raising. They are used as a reference for the actions and decisions of all ABS staff.
The ABS values are:
For more information on ABS’s values, see Chapter 12—Management of human resources.
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 2013–14 are outlined in Table 10.1.
Table 10.1: Senior management committees for 2013–14
The ABS mission statement and corporate plan provide the context for decision making on the ABS forward work program.
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:
. input from user consultations
. strategic directions the ABS has set for the next four years
. the cost imposed on respondents to collections, in terms of time and effort
. consideration of enterprise opportunities and risks
. prospective total resources available to the ABS within the next four years
. productivity gains that have been achieved, or which may be possible to achieve in the future with a particular focus on information transformation
. the contribution statistical activities make to meeting National Statistical Service objectives
. the extent to which particular statistical activities continue to be justified in relation to other work, with respect to user demand.
Aspects of the proposed forward work program, and resource estimates that emerge are considered by 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 at https://www.abs.gov.au
Audit and risk management
The ABS Risk Management Framework provides the basis for identifying, assessing and treating risks at all levels within the organisation and is supported by the ABS Risk Management Guidelines. The Framework and Guidelines undergo continuous review,
based on feedback from many sources including internal audits, external risk reviews, best practice guides, and the outcomes of the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking exercise.
The ABS has 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 are expected to identify key risks to their work programs. Significant risks identified at section level are elevated or integrated into business plans at the Branch and/or Division level to provide a more comprehensive and consistent picture of the ABS risk profile.
Each year the ABS reviews and identifies strategic risks that have the potential to significantly impact the organisation. These are known as enterprise risks. This annual review strengthens risk identification and analysis through a coordinated examination of organisational threats. For each of the enterprise risks, members of the ABS Executive are designated as Risk Owners and treatment strategies are determined. Each Risk Owner has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the identified risk controls. This approach provides clear ownership of risk treatment responsibilities and an opportunity for the Executive to review the success of risk treatment.
An annual program of internal audits is developed to address effectiveness and compliance risks. These internal audits are undertaken by an external audit provider and are developed from assessing all identified auditable areas.
In conjunction with, and to complement the audit program, the ABS runs an annual Internal Review Program. Internal reviews primarily focus on statistical programs to address issues including program effectiveness, efficiency and statistical quality.
Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines require the Australian Statistician to certify that the ABS has prepared appropriate fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans. The ABS is required to have in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures and processes that meet the specific needs of the ABS and comply with the guidelines.
The Australian Statistician released the 2012–14 ABS Fraud Control Plan in November 2012. The plan includes a number of mitigating actions to provide increased protection in some areas. The ABS monitors progress against these recommendations and reports regularly to the Audit Committee.
The ABS Fraud Control Plan is reviewed and updated biennially.
Security of premises
The ABS relies on the trust and confidence of data providers to enable it to operate effectively and fulfil its mission.
The security of ABS premises, and of the information technology environment, is a key aspect of maintaining that trust and confidence, and 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 physical security measures.
The ABS computer network has a secure gateway which allows connection to some Internet services only. The secure gateway has been 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 2013–14
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 his or her duties.
Included in the ABS audit plan is an ongoing program of security audits, and reviews of computer systems and the physical environment.
In May 2013 an ABS staff member was arrested for allegedly leaking sensitive information. Following this incident the ABS instigated an external review of security controls, which will be completed in 2014. The recommendations will then be incorporated into risk mitigation strategies.
There were no other significant developments in external scrutiny in 2013–2014, 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 examine the operations of the ABS. The ABS assisted in providing information to the Commonwealth Auditor-General and the Ombudsman during 2013–2014.
There were no adverse comments relating to the ABS from the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, Parliamentary Committees, or courts or tribunals during 2013–2014.
As an Australian Government agency, the ABS must comply with the Privacy Act 1988, including the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012, and the Australian Privacy Principles. These obligations govern the way personal information about staff, clients and respondents should be collected, stored, used and disclosed. Information provided by respondents also has the additional protection of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
The introduction of the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 included a new, harmonised set of privacy principles that regulate the collection, use, disclosure and other handling of personal information about ABS respondents and providers, ABS clients and stakeholders, and ABS staff.
These principles, called the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), supersede the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) that previously applied.
The ABS has a privacy officer who, providing the perspective of a privacy advocate, advises on privacy issues internally, 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 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 2013–14 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.
Submissions to parliamentary committees
Table 10.2: Submissions to parliamentary committees and inquiries, 2013–14
Documents tabled in Parliament
In accordance with section 6 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 the ABS tabled, in both Houses of Parliament, 41 proposals for the collection of information for statistical purposes. Details of the proposals are shown in Table 10.3.
Table 10.3: Tabling—proposals for the collection of information for statistical purposes, 2013–14
a) If the proposal was tabled on different dates in the two Houses of Parliament, the earlier of the dates is shown.
b) Unless otherwise indicated by the title, the statistical collection is a national project.
Disclosure of lists of names and addresses
In accordance with clause 6 of the Statistics Determination 1983 made under section 13 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, the ABS tables, in both Houses of Parliament, details of the disclosure of lists of names, addresses and other information provided to a specified department or authority. The information released is shown in Table 10.4.
Table 10.4: Tabling—disclosure of lists of names and addresses, 2013–2014
Freedom of Information requests
Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) requires the ABS to provide detail on the structure of the ABS, and how members of the public can gain access to information held by the ABS.
Detail on the structure of the ABS can be found in Section 1, Overview of the ABS.
The ABS is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and is 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. The ABS has developed a plan showing what
information is published in accordance with the IPS requirements, and this is available free of charge on our website.
Information held by the ABS
Table 10.5: Categories of documents in the possession of the ABS
ABS Freedom of Information activities
Matters relating to the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 within the ABS are the responsibility of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement, which is located in Central Office. Authority for decision making under this Act has been delegated to the Deputy Australian Statisticians, the First Assistant Statistician of the Methodology and Data Management Division, and the Assistant Statistician in the Office of the Statistician
and External Engagement.
A significant part of ABS information holdings is information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This information is exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Where to get information
Freedom of Information inquiries
All inquiries concerning access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 may be directed to the Freedom of Information Contact Officer, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Locked Bag 10, Belconnen, ACT, 2616; Phone 02 6252 7203;
The ABS offers an initial contact point for all information requests:
Telephone: 1300 135 070
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facsimile: 1300 135 211
Mail: Client Services, ABS, GPO Box 796, Sydney, NSW 2001
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