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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Section 3: Corporate management and accountability

Photo of The Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, is greeted by Mr Mihai Sora, Third Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Honiara, upon her arrival in Solomon Islands in April 2012. Photo: Tom Perry

The Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, is greeted by Mr Mihai Sora, Third Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Honiara, upon her arrival in Solomon Islands in April 2012. Photo: Tom Perry

Photo of The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Tripoli, commemorating Australia's war dead. December 2011. Photo: Taha Jawashi

The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Tripoli, commemorating Australia's war dead. December 2011. Photo: Taha Jawashi

Photo of Ms Katina Clarke, Cultural Diplomacy Section, speaking at the flag raising ceremony for NAIDOC Week in July 2011.

Ms Katina Clarke, Cultural Diplomacy Section, speaking at the flag raising ceremony for NAIDOC Week in July 2011.

Overview

Flexible and efficient management of the department's financial and human resources was a corporate priority during 2011–12.

Australia's diplomatic presence was bolstered through the creation of 14 new Australia-based positions across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. Staff were also deployed overseas to advance the United Nations Security Council campaign; strengthen Australia's engagement with Africa; and support Australia's participation in the G20 in Los Cabos, and Yeosu Expo 2012 in the Republic of Korea. Support for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October 2011 was also a priority.

The department continued to offer a wide range of training and development opportunities with employees participating in over 286 courses, seminars and workshops. Language training featured prominently and 100 employees undertook long-term language training. The language training budget was $6 065 811, an increase of 33.8 per cent from 2010–11.

Corporate governance

The department's achievement of its performance outcomes is underpinned by a robust institutional governance framework.

The Executive

The Secretary oversaw all significant foreign and trade policy and corporate management issues and decided all placements of senior executive staff. The deputy secretaries supported the Secretary through management of the department's work units (see figure 1 on page 13 for the executive structure and the deputy secretaries' areas of responsibility). Members of the executive also represented the Government at meetings in Australia and overseas and chaired key corporate governance bodies.

Senior management committees and their roles

Portfolio coordination

As the lead agency in the foreign affairs and trade portfolio, the department worked closely with portfolio agencies to coordinate objectives and ensure consistency. In addition to routine consultation, weekly consultations were held with AusAID and Austrade through the Secretary's Policy Meeting.

Through the Development Effectiveness Steering Committee, a body chaired by the Director General of AusAID and charged with enhancing whole-of-government coordination of the aid program, the department worked with AusAID to support the Government's commitment to increase levels of development assistance to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2016–17. The department assisted in developing the Government's response to the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness.

Whole-of-government coordination

The Prime Minister's Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas sets out the department's role, including for the growing number of other government agency representatives attached to our diplomatic missions. The department worked closely with agencies to achieve whole-of-government objectives, including in hosting major international meetings, in responding to consular crises, in regional counter-terrorism cooperation, and in coordinating policy approaches to bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.

Management mechanisms and meetings

The Departmental Executive (DE), with membership from across senior levels of the department, met weekly to focus on strategic resource management and priorities, along with other matters requiring high-level attention.

The Secretary's Policy Meeting, which met weekly, discussed current, emerging and medium to long-term foreign and trade policy issues. Its membership included senior departmental staff and senior officers from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, portfolio agencies and the Office of National Assessments.

The Secretary also met division heads weekly to communicate the department's foreign and trade policy and corporate priorities. Further information was conveyed to staff through administrative circulars and the staff newsletter, both of which are on the intranet.

The Secretary holds a monthly forum open to all staff, to discuss policy and corporate issues. All Australia-based Senior Executive Service (SES) officers continued to meet on a six-monthly basis for professional development and to discuss and develop the department's strategic thinking.

The overseas network was informed of policy and corporate issues through:

  • regular formal and informal communication with divisions in Canberra
  • regional heads of mission/post meetings
  • regional management conferences
  • post liaison visits led by a deputy secretary.

Governance activities

In 2011–12 we continued to strengthen the department's business continuity planning processes at overseas posts, our state and territory offices (STOs), and in Canberra. The department's risk management practices were further embedded across the department and our delegations were updated. Revised processes for implementing organisational change in the department were introduced.

The department's Audit and Risk Committee provides independent assurance and assistance to the Secretary and the executive on the department's risk, control and compliance framework, and its external accountability responsibilities. The Committee is chaired by a deputy secretary and has two independent members as well as several departmental representatives. In 2011–12 the committee met five times.

The Ethics Committee met twice during 2011–12 to oversee and to make recommendations on the development and implementation of issues relating to the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and APS Code of Conduct. The Committee is chaired by a deputy secretary with representatives from various staffing levels and areas of the department. The department's Conduct and Ethics Manual, which is regularly updated following consultation with the Ethics Committee, is available on the departmental website. Key issues examined during 2011–12 were the development of e-learning options on Accountable and Ethical Decision-Making and revisions to the Conduct and Ethics Manual to bring it into line with amended advice issued by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) concerning the appropriate use of online social media.

The Workplace Relations Committee is the principal forum through which management consults with employees and their representatives about workplace matters. It is chaired by a deputy secretary. Membership includes representatives from management areas and elected staff representatives at each level. The Community and Public Sector Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Association of Foreign Affairs and Trade Employees, are also represented on the Committee. In 2011–12 the Committee met four times and focused on issues ranging from implementation of the 2011–14 Enterprise Agreement, parking, conditions of service, impact of the budget and efficiency dividend, and ICT reform.

Conduct and ethics

The department's Conduct and Ethics Unit (CEU) investigates allegations of fraud and misconduct and promotes the APS Values and APS Code of Conduct and the department's own Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. The CEU provides conduct and ethics and fraud awareness training to all staff.

The Conduct and Ethics Awareness program regularly reminded staff of their responsibilities in accordance with departmental guidelines and procedures that are contained within the Conduct and Ethics Manual. The program included group and individual training and briefings on overseas conduct and ethics issues for heads of mission, deputy heads of mission and senior administrative officers.

Countering fraud

The department's fraud prevention, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011. The department's Fraud Control Plan 2011 emphasizes the department's zero tolerance policy of dishonest or fraudulent behaviour committed by employees, contractors or clients, and underlines our strong commitment to reducing the risk and incidence of fraud across its operations both within Australia and overseas. Fraud risk assessments were conducted during 2011–12.

Scan of Fraud Control Certification Letter

Evaluation and planning

Our performance was regularly evaluated to ensure departmental resources were best directed to support the Government's foreign and trade policy goals.

Performance expectations and planned use of resources were outlined in our Portfolio Budget Statements. The department sharpened its Deliverables and Key Performance Indicators for the Portfolio Budget Statements 2012–13.

Divisional evaluation reviews, conducted annually in July–August, enable the executive to evaluate each division's performance and to determine or refine priorities and risk mitigation strategies for the year ahead.

The department evaluated the performance of posts and state and territory offices, on a rolling basis through a Post/Office Evaluation Review (PER/OER) process, with each post and office reviewed once approximately every 18 months. We continue to seek feedback from other agencies and departments on the performance of posts and state and territory offices as part of the review process. PERs and OERs are discussed at the regular Departmental Executive meeting where heads of mission and state directors are present.

In 2011–12 deputy secretaries led small teams to seven posts—Bali, Cairo, Dublin, Nauru, Yangon, Riyadh and Zagreb—to conduct post liaison visits to assess at first hand each post's performance against agreed objectives.

The Budget Allocation Review (BAR) and Capital Management Plan (CMP) are the primary mechanisms through which the executive considers and decides on budget allocation within the department. Work units in Australia and overseas are able to bid for funds annually and mid-term through these reviews. The reviews allow for strong budget planning and expenditure forecasting, and ensure internal processes align with the Government's Budget timetable. Mid-term BAR/CMP meetings were held in December 2011 for budget refinements; BAR/CMP meetings were held in June 2012 for 2012–13 budget allocations.

The base budgets for work areas is put to the DE as part of the June BAR/CMP process.

Risk management and business continuity planning

The department focused on further strengthening risk management practices at the working level. As part of this process, we held a series of training courses and convened a group of 'Risk Management Champions'—officers with risk management expertise from across the department—to provide input into the revised departmental Risk Management Handbook, share strategies and promote awareness within their respective areas. In the 2012 Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey, the department achieved its best result to date, and was ranked as the highest performing policy agency for business continuity and disaster recovery.

In 2011–12 we further strengthened aspects of the department's business continuity management (BCM) to take into account lessons learned from the August 2011 desktop scenario exercise of the RG Casey Building Business Continuity Plan (BCP). We signed MOUs on temporary relocation for business continuity purposes with AusAID and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. We conducted a small-scale exercise of the MOU with AusAID to test the temporary relocation of AusAID staff into the RG Casey Building and to confirm that AusAID's ICT systems would function during a BCP event. We improved staff awareness of the RG Casey Building BCP by making it available on our intranet and by including presentations on BCM in graduate trainees' and new starters' induction training. BCPs for all overseas posts and state and territory offices were exercised and updated. We worked closely with posts and STOs to ensure they incorporated new requirements related to ICT and security into their BCPs.

Internal audit

Internal audit forms an important part of the department's governance framework by contributing to governance, risk management and control. Internal audits presented to the Audit and Risk Committee in 2011–12 included:

  • 12 post compliance audits
  • reporting of inspections of accountable Cabinet documents (a quarterly requirement)
  • reporting of employer agency superannuation delegations (an annual requirement)
  • a performance audit of the Direct Aid Program
  • a recordkeeping audit on an aspect of Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) and/or functional records management in the department (annual requirement). This year the audit specifically reviewed the implementation of EDRMS against the business case requirements and the quality of records captured during the implementation.

Audits commenced in the latter part of the financial year will be finalised in early 2012–13. All recommendations arising from these audits were either satisfactorily addressed during the year or are in the process of being addressed.

External scrutiny

In 2011–12 the Auditor-General tabled in Parliament the following reports by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) related to the department's operations:

Report No.17: Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period ended 30 June 2011

Financial statement audits are an independent examination of the financial accounting and reporting of public sector entities. This report complements the interim phase report and provides a summary of the final results of the audits of the financial statements of all Australian Government entities, including the Consolidated Financial Statements for the Australian Government.

Report No. 29: Administration of the Australia Network

The objective of the audit was to report on the administration of the Australia Network tender process and to identify lessons learned from the conduct of the process to inform future procurement activities. The ANAO confirmed that in administering the process, the department implemented arrangements that were over and above the mandatory requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. In respect of concerns raised by ANAO, the department noted that tender documentation was handled in accordance with established mechanisms for highly classified, sensitive material, and that the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines neither suggested nor required that APS officers sign individual confidentiality undertakings for tender processes.

Report No. 31: Establishment and use of procurement panels

The department was one of three agencies selected for a performance audit on the establishment and use of procurement panels. The audit assessed the extent to which the three agencies' establishment and use of procurement panels supported value for money, efficiency and effectiveness in procurement. The ANAO reviewed six panels used by DFAT – four established by DFAT, one whole-of-government and one non-DFAT panel.

The department considered the report to be well targeted. It supports its recommendations, and has addressed them through updates to financial and procurement policies that were in train at the time of the audit.

Report No. 33: Management of e-Passports

The audit assessed the effectiveness of the department's implementation of biometric technology to meet international requirements for enhanced passport security.

The report recommended the department strengthen the management of its facial recognition system, and periodically review the need for further vulnerability testing of the e-Passport's electronic security features. The department agreed to both these recommendations.

The report acknowledged that DFAT had effectively implemented biometric technology and meets international requirements and standards for enhanced passport security. The report confirmed that the e-Passport's electronic security measures combined with the booklet's security features make the task of producing a fraudulent passport significantly more complex.

The department also provided input to a parallel performance audit of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Processing and Risk Assessing Incoming International Air Passengers (also see ANAO Report No. 50, 2011–12).

Report No. 51: The Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2012

The interim audit of agencies related to their financial reporting responsibilities was undertaken and included an examination of relevant internal controls, including information technology system controls.

Courts and administrative tribunals

The department was involved in a number of legal matters during the year. There were no decisions that had a significant legal impact on its operations. Details of matters in which it was involved are at Appendix 6.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman commenced 10 investigations with respect to the department's activities in 2011–12 and recorded no administrative deficiencies. No formal reports were issued.

Legislation

The process for all portfolio-related legislation has been managed effectively.

Amendments to the Australian Trade Commission Legislation Amendment Act 2006 made by the Statute Stocktake Act (No. 1) 2011 began on 16 September 2011. Amendments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987 made by the Nuclear Terrorism Legislation Amendment Act 2012 began on 20 April 2012. Amendments to the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 made by the Superannuation Legislation (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2011 began on 1 July 2011. The Acts Interpretation Amendment Act 2011 also made amendments to a number of Acts administered by the portfolio on 27 December 2011.

We facilitated the enactment and amendment of a number of legislative instruments within the portfolio. Among them were the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011, the Autonomous Sanctions (Sanction Law) Declaration 2012 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Amendment Regulations 2011 (No. 1).

The department provided input to legislation managed by agencies within the portfolio and contributed to the development of legislation initiated by other agencies that affected the foreign affairs and trade portfolio.

Privacy

No reports were served on the department under section 30 of the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act), nor were there any determinations made by the Privacy Commissioner relating to our actions under sections 52 or 53 of the Privacy Act.

No public interest determinations were sought from the Privacy Commissioner under section 72 of the Privacy Act. Three complaints were made directly to the department this year.

The Privacy Commissioner commenced conciliation processes with the department in relation to one complaint this year.

Parliamentary committees

The department made submissions and/or gave evidence to 13 parliamentary committee inquiries. In addition, departmental staff appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in relation to six proposed treaty actions (see Appendix 5 for further details).

This figure covers appearances by staff as witnesses in relation to DFAT-related treaties, but does not include occasions on which Treaties Secretariat staff attended the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) hearings in an observer/advisory capacity.

Compensation for detriment caused by defective administration

Thirty-seven new cases were lodged under the compensation scheme for detriment caused by defective administration. Twenty-two cases were resolved during the year (including cases from previous financial years). Of these, 17 payments were made from administered funds (including three from previous financial years). In five cases, compensation under the scheme was found not warranted. Eighteen cases remained in progress at the end of the financial year.

Management of human resources

The department managed its staff to respond flexibly and effectively to an evolving policy environment and to assist Australians overseas. Additional staff were deployed overseas to advance a range of foreign policy objectives including the United Nations Security Council campaign; increased engagement with Africa; Australia's participation in the G20; and the Yeosu Expo 2012. Departmental staff were also sent at short notice to provide consular assistance to Australians following the flooding in Fiji, as well as in response to the kidnapping of an Australian citizen in the Philippines and the detention of an Australian citizen in Libya.

Significant departmental resources were allocated to supporting Australia's hosting of CHOGM and associated meetings in Perth in October 2011. Departmental staff also made a key contribution to the work of the Australia in the Asian Century Taskforce, managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The department funded from existing resources 14 new Australia-based positions overseas, including in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. These positions strengthened the department's capacity to perform the full range of its responsibilities. Following the establishment of several new positions in Afghanistan in 2010–11, we continued to monitor the staffing situation there to ensure adequate and appropriate staffing levels.

Workforce planning, staff mobility and retention

Regular placements and postings rounds and a number of recruitment processes to ensure positions were filled with skilled staff were carried out in 2011–12. Almost $10 million was invested in training and development so that employees' skills and experience would allow them to move readily between positions in Canberra, state and territory offices, and overseas. In total 159 ongoing staff separated from the department in 2011–12.

Recruitment

The department completed five bulk recruitment rounds (including graduate recruitment), supplemented by 31 specialist rounds. Three SES selection processes were completed to fill the Senior Staff Counsellor and two ICT Branch Head positions.

The 2013 graduate recruitment program attracted 2468 applicants for the policy graduate intake and 426 applicants for the corporate intake.

Workplace diversity

The department is committed to ensuring that all employees are treated with respect in accordance with the APS Values. Major workplace diversity events that were celebrated by the department, both in Australia and throughout our overseas network, included NAIDOC week in July 2011; International Day of Disability in December 2011; International Women's Day in March 2012; and National Reconciliation Week in May 2012.

We continued our participation in APS-wide initiatives to promote workplace diversity, notably in terms of flexible working arrangements—access to flex/time off in lieu, permanent part-time work arrangements and teleworking (home-based work)—as reflected in the Enterprise Agreement 2011–14, which came into effect on 22 July 2011.

The Workplace Diversity Contact Officer Network was expanded and we developed e-learning modules for workplace diversity generally, and for bullying and harassment.

The DFAT Families Network (a volunteer organisation) developed a number of proposals to assist families with the challenges of moving overseas and back to Australia, including through the provision of information resources, social events for DFAT families, a speaker program and liaison with management to raise and resolve issues of concern and interest to DFAT families.

Indigenous employment

The department has continued to work to increase Indigenous employee representation – as of 30 June 2012, 46 employees self-disclosed as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Our Indigenous Recruitment and Career Development Strategy 2011–15 (IRCDS) and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2011–15 map out the way ahead for the department, including through partnerships with higher education institutions with Indigenous programs. This year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Canberra.

Photo of Indigenous staff members at National Reconciliation Week in Canberra, May 2012.

Indigenous staff members at National Reconciliation Week in Canberra, May 2012.

Indigenous employees are making a strong contribution to our work in Australia and internationally, while gaining valuable skills and experience for their future careers. In 2011–12 the department's implementation of the IRCDS provided opportunities to three Indigenous employees under its International Skills Development Program (ISDP).

In May 2012 policy graduates, Nick Williams and Lara Hope, attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). There they gained valuable experience in multilateral diplomacy and increased their understanding of Australia's Indigenous policy priorities at the international level.

Photo of Lara Hope

"I have gained an important network of contacts in Australian and international Indigenous communities which I will be able to utilise during my career with the department." – Lara Hope

Nick and Lara's participation at the UNPFII was part of the department's broader objectives for reconciliation articulated in the Reconciliation Action Plan 2011–15. As a result of their successful participation, two Indigenous employees will attend the UNPFII on an annual basis.

Sarah Leary, an Indigenous Cadet, has been undertaking a three-month internship in New York and Washington, gaining valuable experience of the dynamic nature of the department's work overseas. Sarah worked on a number of significant public diplomacy events in New York and also participated in the UNPFII.

Sarah Leary

"The internship was a formative experience early in my DFAT career. The UNPFII was incredibly enlightening, underlining the commonality of issues experienced by Indigenous peoples globally. I came away from New York with a heightened understanding of our engagement and relationship with the United States." – Sarah Leary

Disability employment

In keeping with its commitment to be a leader on disability issues, the department implemented a range of activities to encourage employment and career opportunities for people with disability.

The department's Disability Champions worked to raise awareness of disability employment issues, particularly with senior managers. To support disability employees, awareness training was made available to staff. An audit of the department's website was also undertaken to ensure its accessibility for people with disability.

In partnership with the Australian Paralympic Committee, the department employs three Paralympians as part of a pilot employment program which balances university study and elite sports training commitments whilst providing valuable work experience in Canberra and/or STOs. Two of the Paralympians will be representing Australia at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. These staff members were also active in disability awareness-raising activities through the International Day of Disability and participated in the APSC's promotion of the As One – APS Disability Employment Strategy in May 2012.

On 30 June 2012 the department had 26 employees who had self-disclosed as having a disability, although internal staff surveys show there are many more employees with a disability. Encouraging more employees to self-disclose continues to be a challenge.

Photo of Mr Matt Alexander, 2011 Policy Graduate, speaks at a forum chaired by Chief Finance Officer and Disability Champion, Ms Ann Thorpe, for the International Day of People with Disability, 8 December 2011.

Mr Matt Alexander, 2011 Policy Graduate, speaks at a forum chaired by Chief Finance Officer and Disability Champion, Ms Ann Thorpe, for the International Day of People with Disability, 8 December 2011.

Disability reporting mechanisms

Details about disability reporting under the National Disability Strategy are available at www.fahcsia.gov.au. Information regarding other disability reporting mechanisms is available through the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin, at www.apsc.gov.au; and through the Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy found at www.socialinclusion.gov.au.

Training and development

The department continued to offer a wide range of training and development opportunities. In 2011–12 employees participated in over 286 courses, seminars and workshops.

The second year of the Executive Training and Development Program, aimed at SES and Executive Level 2 (EL2) levels, was delivered, with participants attending a range of high-level programs in Australia and overseas, such as the Kennedy School at Harvard University and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. The Leadership and Management Development Program and Professional Skills Program for non-SES officers were also delivered with strong participation rates. In total, the department spent nearly $500 000 on Leadership and Management courses in 2011–12.

In addition, employees attended training and development programs with the National Security College, the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University (ANU), the Australian Public Service Commission, Australian and New Zealand School of Government and the Lowy Institute for International Policy. Sixty-five employees attended a series of seminars on economics run for the first time by the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU. Departmental officers also participated in training courses provided by other public service organisations, such as the National Intelligence Committee and human rights training with the Attorney-General's Department.

Under the International Skills Development Program, 60 employees were provided with learning and development opportunities at international seminars, conferences and short-term missions at overseas posts.

Trainee programs

In February 2012, 41 policy graduates, one New Zealand exchange officer and 11 corporate graduates commenced the department's two-year graduate training program. The program provides policy graduates with placements in bilateral, trade, multilateral and corporate policy areas. As well as being given placements in a range of corporate policy areas, corporate graduates are also given the opportunity to improve their business management and/or accounting qualifications.

Graduates also receive a mix of formal training and in 2011–12 the department increased its training focus on Australia's strategic interests and the history of Australian foreign policy.

2011 saw an increase from 18 to 24 in the number of international participants who joined graduates for two months during the core part of their training program. Five junior diplomats from South America and four from African countries joined the ranks of junior diplomats from other developing countries in Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Middle East, with funding provided though AusAID's Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships, the Australia–Africa Partnerships Facility program and the
Australia–Malaysia Institute.

The two-year Administrative Development Program develops skilled officers at the APS4 to EL1 levels to fill administrative positions at our overseas posts. In 2011–12 the program provided six new administrative officers with six to eight rotations in key corporate areas, as well as short term placements in our overseas missions and STOs.

In 2011–12 we employed an additional two Indigenous tertiary students on our Indigenous Cadetship Program, bringing our total in 2012 to six. The program helps promising Indigenous tertiary students gain practical experience in the department while completing their studies before possibly moving into the department's pool of policy officers. In February 2012 one cadet finished her studies and was successfully recruited through our 2012 graduate program as a policy graduate.

In March 2012 two new staff joined the department under the Indigenous Traineeship Program. The program provides skills development in a range of corporate areas as well as the opportunity to gain a Certificate IV in Government. This brings the total number of Indigenous trainees in the department to four.

In 2011–12 we employed two apprentices to train as entry-level ICT officers under a two year ICT Apprenticeship Program. The program provides skills development as well as the opportunity to gain a Certificate IV in Information Technology, IT Networking, Programming, Systems Analysis and Design and IT Testing.

In February 2012 two tertiary students joined the department under a new ICT Cadetship Program. The program supports promising ICT tertiary students to gain practical experience in the department while completing their studies before moving into the department's pool of skilled ICT officers.

Studies assistance

The department continued to support employees undertaking part-time tertiary study through its Studybank scheme. Financial assistance and leave was provided to 55 employees.

Language training

The department is committed to training in 27 languages that reflect Australia's foreign and trade policy interests, and consular priorities. In 2011–12, 100 employees undertook long-term language training in Australia and overseas. A further 71 employees undertook short-term survival language training.

The department encourages staff to maintain language proficiency through financial incentives (language proficiency allowance), immersion courses and lunch-time discussion classes. In 2012 the department began introductory classes in Japanese and Arabic, providing employees with no previous knowledge of these languages with a combination of e-learning and tutoring.

The Language Studies Unit budget for 2011–12 was $6 065 811, an increase of 33.8 per cent from 2010–11.

Performance management

Performance appraisal of employees is an important component of the department's human resource strategy. The department's performance management cycle runs for 12 months from April to March. During this time, employees receive ongoing informal performance feedback, a formal mid-term appraisal and an end-of-cycle performance review. The system aims to:

  • provide employees with a clear understanding of their role and what is expected of them
  • provide incentives for improved performance through salary advancement or performance bonus payment
  • identify personal training and development needs.

A number of changes to the performance management system were implemented through the Enterprise Agreement 2011–14. The key changes were designed to better focus the appraisal process on training and development outcomes and to streamline formal underperformance procedures. Training workshops were held in Canberra and at state and territory offices to explain the changes and teach best practice feedback methods. Training materials were provided to all posts.

Locally engaged staff

The department's performance at overseas posts is significantly enhanced by locally engaged staff (LES). Under the Prime Minister's Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas, the department manages the appointment, termination, salary and conditions of service of all LES, except those engaged by Austrade and AusAID, in accordance with contemporary Commonwealth management principles, local labour and other relevant laws and good employer practice. In 2011–12 the department was the legal employer of 3194 LES, 1506 of whom were employed on behalf of other government agencies.

Workplace arrangements

Consistent with the Government's workplace relations framework, the terms and conditions of employment for non-SES employees were governed by the department's Enterprise Agreement 2011–14. This provides for an annual salary increase of 3 per cent over the life of the agreement. Staff are entitled to a range of non-salary benefits, including performance-based bonuses and a range of flexible and family-friendly working practices. Allowances for overseas service are a non-salary benefit available to compensate staff posted overseas for the costs and, in some cases, conditions associated with a hardship posting.

There were no Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFAs), common law contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) in place during 2011–12.

The department's Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 and workplace determinations continued to promote productivity through a strong performance-based culture.

Remuneration of senior executives

All Senior Executive Service (SES) staff are employed under the terms of a determination made by the Secretary under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Executive remuneration is set out in Note 11 of the financial statements on pages 299-302.

Staff welfare

The Medical Unit, Staff Counselling Office (SCO) and Family Liaison Officer provide welfare and support services to staff. In addition to providing advice to the department and individual employees on health-related issues, the Medical Unit, in conjunction with the Family Liaison Officer, managed 55 medical evacuations during 2011–12. Over the past 12 months, the SCO has provided counselling to over 650 Australia-based staff, their families and LES at post and in Canberra. Additionally, the SCO has conducted 61 training sessions on topics ranging from leadership to self-care and visited a total of 24 posts. The SCO continues to provide immediate support to posts following critical incidents, selection and screening for high-threat posts and routine guidance to supervisors on performance, mental health support and other organisational concerns.

Personal Profile:

Jake Barhonein

Photo of Jake Barhonein

Jake joined the department in February 2012 as a corporate graduate. During his first six months at DFAT, Jake completed placements in the Budget Development Section and the Financial Performance Section of the Corporate Management Division. He contributed to work on a wide range of the department's corporate, financial and strategic priorities, including the development of the 2012 Portfolio Budget Statements and the 2012 Financial Statements.

The two-year graduate training program is undertaken by both corporate and policy Graduates and aims to prepare graduates for overseas postings and a career with the department. While on the program, Jake will undertake placements that will provide him with on-the-job training across the core areas of the department's agenda. The program includes a range of intensive professional skills training, academic short courses and practical case study exercises. This training will prepare Jake to assist in the management of our overseas missions' financial, human and property resources and to provide consular assistance to Australians overseas.

Prior to joining DFAT, Jake was a financial and policy analyst at the Victorian Treasury, where he played a key role in developing the Victorian State Budget. Jake is fluent in Arabic and French and is currently learning Spanish while completing his Certified Practicing Accountant professional qualification.

"I am thankful for the opportunities presented by DFAT's graduate program. It has been an extremely rewarding experience, and the department ensures its graduates have access to very high-calibre training and support. I look forward to using these skills and experience at an overseas mission, representing and serving Australia's interests overseas!"

The Family Liaison Officer worked with the Community Liaison Officer network at overseas posts to assist employees and their families on issues such as spouse recognition and employment, educational needs of children, cultural adjustment and general living conditions at post.

Management of financial resources

The department's operations in Australia and overseas are underpinned by a sound and prudent financial resource management framework, which includes effective internal controls and regular budgeting performance reports.

In the ANAO's Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2012, the ANAO acknowledged that the department has effective internal controls to ensure good financial management and a sound financial reporting framework. The ANAO found no audit issues of a significant nature in our financial statements.

In the 2011–12 Budget, the Government provided additional funding for consular services, regional initiatives to prevent people smuggling, and transition to a full civilian-based security presence at the Australian Embassy in Baghdad.

At the 2011–12 Additional Estimates, additional funding was provided as a contribution toward the purchase of land for a Bali Peace Park and for the Yeosu Expo. An increase in passport funding was also provided to reflect the increase in passports issued.

The 2011–12 Supplementary Additional Estimates provided additional funding for the expansion of the department's overseas network and for a grant to the Australia and New Zealand School of Government China Advanced Leadership Program.

The department was also required to find additional savings consistent with those applying to all other Commonwealth agencies.

Financial management information system

The department commenced a two-year programme in 2012 to enhance the functionality of its financial management information system. The program will standardise business processes across Australia and overseas and deliver improved procurement processing, cash management, financial reporting and budget planning.

Assets management

A rigorous capital funding process ensures work units provide well-argued business cases to seek capital funds. Capital funding bids are assessed twice-yearly by the executive as part of the department's Capital Management Plan. The executive, in addition to receiving monthly budget reports, reviews the progress of previously approved projects. Work areas review and update their asset purchasing and disposal needs as part of a five-year asset plan.

The department operates a rolling cycle for asset revaluations whereby each asset class is revalued every five years. The only exceptions are land and buildings, which are revalued annually. Informal reviews and impairment testing of asset classes are conducted annually to ensure asset values are fairly stated in the end-of-year accounts. In 2011–12 the property, plant and equipment asset class was formally revalued under the rolling cycle.

Competitive tendering and contracting

The department updated guidance on procurement and contract governance to further strengthen our procurement policies and procedures.

Purchasing performance

Our procurement policies and practices reflect the principles set out in the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The department applies the guidelines to all its activities through the Chief Executive Instructions and supporting operational guidelines.

All competitive tendering and contracts of $100 000 or more (inclusive of GST) let during 2011–12 provide access for the Auditor-General to the contractors' premises.

Whole-of-Australia Government Travel Management Services

Following a competitive tender process, Carlson Wagonlit Travel was appointed as the department's travel service provider under a Whole-of-Australian-Government contract from July 2011 until 30 April 2013.

Exempt contracts

There were no contracts or standing offers in excess of $10 000 (including GST) exempted from publication in the Purchasing and Disposal Gazette (AusTender) on the basis that publication would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Consultancy services

During 2011–12, 12 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $1 133 653. In addition, four ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the 2011–12 year, involving total actual expenditure of $293 312.

Table 12. Consultancy expenditure

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
Expenditure on new consultancy contracts
2 031 090
328 114
1 133 653
Expenditure on ongoing consultancy contracts
1 470 798
1 133 010
293 312
Total
3 501 888
1 461 124
1 426 965

The department engages consultants where it lacks specialist expertise or when independent research, review or assessment is required. Consultants are typically engaged to investigate or diagnose a defined issue or problem; carry out defined reviews or evaluations; or provide independent advice, information or creative solutions to assist in the department's decision-making.

Prior to engaging consultants, the department takes into account the skills and resources required for the task, the skills available internally, and the cost-effectiveness of engaging external expertise. The decision to engage a consultant is made in accordance with the FMA Act and related regulations including the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and relevant internal policies.

Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies to the value of $10 000 or more (including GST) is on the AusTender website at www.tenders.gov.au.

Overseas property–leased estate

See Program 3.2 Overseas Property

Domestic property

Office accommodation for the department's operations in Australia is provided through commercially-leased premises in Canberra and each state capital, Darwin and Newcastle. The department also owns a residence on Thursday Island for the head of the Torres Strait Treaty Liaison Office.

Outlook

The budgetary framework set out in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and the broader APS-wide cuts in the May 2012 Budget will demand a pragmatic approach to managing the department's resources. An internal review of the department's future operations, covering resourcing and structures and work practices, has been initiated and the results of this review will help shape the way the department delivers its policy objectives.

A priority in the coming year will be the expansion of the department's overseas network with the establishment of new posts in Chengdu, China and Dakar, Senegal.

Managing the department's diplomatic and civilian presence in Afghanistan and Baghdad will remain core priorities. It will be important that the department maintains a close working relationship with portfolio agencies to deliver coherent and cost effective policy responses.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade