1006.0 - Forward Work Program, 2013-14 to 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2013   
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Contents >> General Information >> Governance framework


The ABS governance framework has two broad components:

  • External governance, which includes the governance arrangements that establish the ABS as a statutory authority, provide the ABS and the Australian Statistician (Statistician) with appropriate direction and powers, and hold the ABS and the Statistician to account.
  • Internal governance, which includes the mechanisms set up by the ABS to ensure that the organisation operates efficiently and effectively, within the constraints of the direction and powers provided externally.


The ABS provides the information required to maintain a fair electoral system and inform other important aspects of Australia's democracy. The external governance arrangements balance the need for independence to allow the ABS to effectively deliver on these responsibilities, while also ensuring the ABS operates responsibly and meets the needs of governments.

The Statistician is accountable to the Australian Parliament and the Minister responsible for the ABS. The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) provides advice to both the Australian Statistician and the Minister 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. Other Council members are appointed to ensure representation across a broad cross-section of perspectives covering government, business, academic and community interests.

Along with the legislation governing all statutory authorities, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act, 1975 (ABS Act) and the Census and Statistics Act, 1905 (C&S Act) govern the ABS. The functions of the ABS are summarised in the ABS Act:
    (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.
    (d) to formulate, and ensure compliance with, standards for the carrying out by official bodies of operations for statistical purposes
    (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 C&S Act provides the Statistician with the authority to conduct statistical collections and, when necessary, to direct a person to provide statistical information. It also imposes obligations to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information, and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the C&S Act.

The Australian Statistician and the ABS are held to account through Australian Government accountability mechanisms including Senate Estimates and annual reporting processes.


ABS internal governance mechanisms include planning, control, and risk management frameworks that together ensure the ABS remains relevant and responsive and continues to meet the requirements and expectations of its stakeholders. Internal governance forums deliver and oversee key elements of the ABS's planning cycles, control mechanisms and risk management. The audit and review program provides advice to the Statistician regarding controls, risks and operations.


The ABS is underpinned by the foundations of its legislated role and functions, and its enduring mission statement and values (presented on page 5 of this publication). To ensure the ABS continues to meet its responsibilities as its operating environment changes, periodic strategy reviews and planning processes are undertaken.

The ABS Corporate Plan presents the future directions of the ABS and is developed in close consultation with staff. The ABS Corporate Plan has a 5-10 year horizon and is reviewed approximately every four years.

To complement this longer-term view, ABS senior managers undertake an annual strategy review process. This incorporates environmental scanning, risk identification and direction setting with a four year horizon. This enables the review of resource allocation and a definitive prioritisation of the work program. The ABS-level strategy review interacts with divisional strategy through business planning processes and consultation programs.


Controls ensure that ABS staff are able to undertake their responsibilities effectively, within the constraints of the law and ABS values, in a way that meets community expectations of public accountability, probity and openness. Mechanisms include policies, delegations, fraud prevention and identification, role statements and procedures.

Risk management

The ABS reviews and identifies strategic risks that have the potential to significantly impact on the organisation. The management of these enterprise risks is fundamental to the long term viability of the ABS. Reflecting their importance, these risks are assessed and managed by the ABS Executive.

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.

Internal governance forums

The ABS has a number of corporate governance forums to develop policies and strategies, identify ABS priorities, assess and respond to risks and opportunities, and monitor ABS performance. These include:
    ABS Management Meetings
    ABS Management Meetings are the key forum for determining ABS strategic directions, priorities and resource allocations. Meetings are chaired by the Statistician and attended by the Deputy Australian Statisticians, First Assistant Statisticians, Regional Directors, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Assistant Statisticians of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement, and the Human Resources Branch.

    Executive Leadership Group Meetings
    The Executive Leadership Group (ELG) provides strategic oversight of the ABS and determines ABS policy. ELG is chaired by the Statistician and membership includes the Deputy Australian Statisticians. The Assistant Statistician of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement provides secretariat support. ELG provides high-level focus to the National Statistical Service and strategic client engagement.

    Strategic Finance and Investment Committee
    The Strategic Finance and Investment Committee (SFIC) ensures that the ABS's major investments are aligned with the key goals of the ABS and are appropriately funded. SFIC is responsible for the development of the ABS Strategic Investment Plan which is approved by the ABS Management Meeting. SFIC is chaired by the Chief Operating Officer and membership includes the Deputy Australian Statistician responsible for the ABS 2017 Group, two First Assistant Statisticians, a Regional Director, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Assistant Statisticians of the Program Management Office and the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement.

    Senior Management Group Meetings
    The Senior Management Group (SMG) focuses on cross-cutting issues to ensure effective delivery of the work program, including ensuring that the work program is delivered on time, within budget and to an appropriate quality. SMG meetings are chaired by the Chief Operating Officer and attended by all First Assistant Statisticians, two Regional Directors, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Assistant Statisticians of the Office of the Statistician and External Engagement, and the Human Resources Branch. ELG and SMG jointly meet periodically to discuss strategic issues and to review organisational performance.

    Protective Security Management Committee
    The Protective Security Management Committee oversees the ABS's comprehensive security framework, ensuring that both protective and IT 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.
      Audit and review

      ABS's internal audit and review programs provide independent assessment, objective assurance and advisory services to the Statistician and senior management.

      These services assure the Statistician that controls are adequate and meet public accountability requirements and other better practice guidelines; and assist the Statistician and senior management to improve operations and reduce risks.

      The audit and review programs are overseen by the Audit Committee, established in accordance with section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997 22C(1) and 22C (2).

      The objectives of the Audit Committee are to provide assurance to the Statistician that the ABS has in place a comprehensive control framework for its business systems, including those used to support: statistical activities; risk management processes/activities; external accountability responsibilities; and legislative obligations. The Committee also provides assurance that the control framework is working effectively. The Committee may also identify significant issues of concern or non-compliance for the attention of the Statistician.

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