Annual Report 2003-2004
 

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External scrutiny

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

The Auditor-General tabled in Parliament a number of audit reports of relevance to departmental operations: one audit examining the department's administration of consular services and ten cross-agency audits requiring departmental response. The department provided six-monthly reports to the Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) on follow-up action taken in response to these ANAO reports.

Report No. 16: Administration of Consular Services Follow-Up Audit

This was a follow-up audit to assess the department's implementation of the six recommendations made by the ANAO in its audit of consular services in 2001. It focused on management processes and supporting systems for the delivery of consular services, and reviewed the department's implementation of recommendations of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee that were outstanding from the previous audit. The department accepted both recommendations of the audit. We have made significant progress in implementing the first recommendation about the development of the Consular Management Information System, and have fully implemented the second recommendation about contingency planning.

The relevant cross-agency ANAO reports requiring responses from the department were:

Report No. 3: Management of Risk and Insurance

The audit evaluated the adequacy and effectiveness of: the development and application of risk management and insurance frameworks and plans within Commonwealth organisations; organisations' records for the determination of risk treatments, including insurance cover; and procedures, and their application, for actively managing risk exposures and insurance experience. The department has processes in place that respond to the audit recommendations, and is continuing to monitor the progress of its management of risk and insurance.

Report No. 7: Record keeping in Large Commonwealth Organisations

The audit reviewed the record keeping frameworks of four large Commonwealth organisations. It assessed whether record keeping policies, systems and procedures were in accordance with relevant Government policies, legislation, accepted standards and record keeping principles, and applicable organisational controls. We anticipate being able to implement fully the first nine recommendations by December 2004.

Report No. 11: Annual Performance Reporting

The audit reviewed the 2001–02 annual reports of the departments of: Communications, Technology and the Arts; Education, Science and Training; Employment and Workplace Relations; Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Customs Service. The audit assessed whether agencies had: established a sound annual reporting performance information framework; developed arrangements to ensure performance information was accurate and coherent; and appropriately analysed performance information in their annual reports. The department is currently in the process of implementing the audit's two recommendations.

Report No. 14: Survey of Fraud Control Arrangements in APS Agencies

The survey of fraud control arrangements in APS agencies was conducted to identify improvements made by agencies since the 1999 survey, and in response to the revised Commonwealth fraud control guidelines released in May 2002. Its objective was to assess the key aspects of fraud control arrangements in place across the APS against the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2002. This information is assisting the department in the continuing development of its fraud control processes.

Report No. 19: Property Management

The audit assessed whether the property management function, including the management of leases, was being performed efficiently and was providing an effective level of support for the delivery of the organisation's services (outputs). The audit evaluated property management policies and practices across the following dimensions: planning and control; business processes and practices; and information and performance management. The department has existing processes in place that address the audit's four recommendations and is currently assessing all elements of the report before providing a detailed response to its recommendations.

Report No. 24: Agency Management of Special Accounts

The audit examined the establishment, management and abolition of Special Accounts by Commonwealth agencies, as well as compliance with legal requirements. The department has implemented four of the audit's recommendations and is currently reviewing its processes before finalising its response to the remaining five recommendations relevant to the department.

Report No. 25: Intellectual Property Policies and Practices in Commonwealth Agencies

The audit examined agency approaches to the management of intellectual property, and identified themes common to the management of all types of intellectual property. The audit objectives were: to form an opinion on whether Commonwealth agencies have systems in place to efficiently, effectively and ethically manage their intellectual property assets; and identify areas for better practice in intellectual property management by those agencies. The department agreed with the report's recommendation and has begun action to formulate a department-wide approach to policy on intellectual property.

Report No. 30: Quality Internet Services for Government Clients—Monitoring and Evaluation by Government Agencies

The objective of the audit was to form an opinion on the adequacy of selected agencies' approaches to monitoring and evaluation of government programs and services delivered on the Internet, and to identify better practices and opportunities for improvement. In order to achieve this objective, the audit examined the websites and Internet-delivered services of five agencies. The department has existing processes in place that fully address four of the report's recommendations, and we have substantially implemented the fifth recommendation.

Report No. 35: Compensation Payment and Debt Relief in Special Circumstances

This audit covered a number of the discretionary compensation and debt relief mechanisms available to Commonwealth agencies, where individuals or entities have been disadvantaged by legislation, or actions by agencies or staff, or some other negative circumstances. The audit assessed whether the management of claims for compensation and debt relief in special circumstances was in accordance with relevant legislative requirements and Commonwealth guidelines, and whether the current administrative policies and procedures were adequate. Of the six audit recommendations relevant to the department, we have implemented three; noted two and one is in the process of being implemented.

Report No. 42: Financial Delegations for the Expenditure of Public Monies in FMA Agencies

The audit evaluated whether financial delegations associated with the expenditure of public monies were determined, applied and managed in accordance with applicable legislation, Government policy and applicable internal controls; identified better practices and recommended improvements to current practices. The report included eleven recommendations that the department is reviewing.

The department is examining the recommendations contained in the following three cross-agency reports tabled in May–June 2004:

Courts and administrative tribunals

Fifteen legal matters were resolved during the reporting period. Of these, ten were resolved in favour of the department, one was decided against the department, two were settled and two were withdrawn by the applicants. Details of these and other matters currently before the courts and administrative tribunals are at Appendix 7.

Parliamentary committees

The department made submissions or gave evidence to 13 parliamentary committee inquiries. In addition, departmental staff appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on 9 occasions in relation to proposed treaty actions. See Appendix 6 for further details.

Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated 45 issues with respect to the department's activities in 2003–04 and arrived at four negative findings (one of these findings is under review). No formal reports were issued.

Legislation

The department managed effectively the process for the adoption of all portfolio-related legislation. The US Free Trade Agreement Implementation Bill 2004 and the US Free Trade Agreement Implementation (Customs Tariff) Bill 2004 were introduced into Parliament on 23 June 2004 to implement Australia's obligations under the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement. The Australian Passports Bill 2004, the Australian Passports (Application Fees) Bill 2004 and the Australian Passports (Transitionals and Consequentials) Bill 2004 were introduced into Parliament on 24 June 2004. The Australian Passports Bill 2004 will replace the existing Passports Act 1938. It contains, among other things, increased penalties for passport fraud, measures to solve the problem of lost and stolen passports. It provides for the introduction of facial biometric technology (see output 2.1 for more information). The Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2004 was introduced into Parliament on 13 May 2004. The Intelligence Services Amendment Act 2004 was assented to on 27 April 2004.

We facilitated the enactment and variation of several regulations including changes to the Passports Regulations 1939, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Amendment Regulations 2003 (No. 1) and the Inter-American Development Bank (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 2003.

We contributed to the development of legislation by other portfolios that affected the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.

Compensation for detriment caused by defective administration

Six cases were lodged under the compensation scheme for detriment caused by defective administration. Five cases were satisfactorily resolved and one case remained in progress at the end of the financial year. Of the three cases lodged in the previous financial year two were satisfactorily resolved and the third was not pursued by the claimant. The department made six payments from administered funds.

      

 

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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