External scrutiny

In 2012–13, the Auditor-General tabled in Parliament the following reports by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) related to the department's operations:

Report No. 16: Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period ended 30 June 2012

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. 51: The Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2013

The interim audit of agencies related to their financial reporting responsibilities was undertaken and included an examination of internal controls, governance arrangements, information systems and other control procedures.

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Report No. 431

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Ausdit (JCPAA) released Report No. 431, Review of Auditor-General's Reports Nos. 24–32 (2011–12). The department participated in Auditor-General's Report No. 31, Establishment and Use of Procurement Panels.

The department responded to two recommendations made in the JCPAA report: that the department report to the committee on the evaluation of the use and effectiveness of panels; and the specific role and interactions of its Central Procurement Unit.

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 19 investigations with respect to the department's activities in 2012–13 and recorded no administrative deficiencies. No formal reports were issued.

Legislation

The process for all portfolio-related legislation was managed effectively.

The department facilitated the enactment of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Finance) Act 2013 that entered into force on 31 March 2013 and the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Act 2013 that entered into force on 28 May 2013.

The department facilitated the passage of amendments to the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 to establish a legislative basis for the enactment of Regulations conferring privileges and immunities on the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Criminal Court. The amendments are expected to receive Royal Assent on 1 July 2013. This will allow implementation of the government's memorandum of understanding with the ICRC and enables the government to take steps to accede to the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court.

The department facilitated the enactment and amendment of a number of legislative instruments within the portfolio. Among them were the Charter of the United Nations (Sanctions – the Taliban) Regulation 2013, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Regulations 1987 and the Australian Passports Determination 2005.

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. One complaint was made directly to the department this year.

The Privacy Commissioner has not investigated any complaints made concerning the department this year.

Parliamentary committees of enquiry

The department made submissions and/or gave evidence to five parliamentary committee inquiries. This figure covers appearances by staff as witnesses before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) in relation to six proposed treaty actions but does not include occasions on which Treaties Secretariat staff attended JSCOT hearings in an observer/advisory capacity. (See Appendix 5 for further details)

Compensation for detriment caused by defective administration

Eleven new cases were lodged under the compensation scheme for detriment caused by defective administration. Twenty-five cases were resolved during the year (including cases from previous financial years). Of these, 15 payments were made from administered funds (including nine from previous financial years). In four cases, compensation under the scheme was found not warranted and three cases were subsequently withdrawn. Three cases remained in progress at the end of the financial year.