The Department

5.1 Executive Direction

Table 33: Resources Summary for Sub-program 5.1

Figure 40: Executive Direction Program and Organisational Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objectives of sub-program 5.1 were to:

  • ensure the portfolio ministers and the Government receive timely and appropriate advice and support, including advice on the identification and development of policy options on new and emerging issues
  • direct and coordinate the Department’s activities in pursuit of the Department’s corporate goals and program objectives.

Description

The Senior Executive, comprising the Secretary and the four Deputy Secretaries, supported by the new Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch, administers the sub-program. EXB replaced the former Executive Branch in May. In addition to supporting the Senior Executive, EXB prepares advice on and implements activity in corporate planning, coordinating and overseeing evaluation activity and governance issues (previously the responsibility under sub-program 5.2, DFAT Corporate Services, of the Corporate Management Division) and, with CMD, accrual budgeting.

Photo: The Senior Executive: (left to right) Deputy Secretary John Dauth, Deputy Secretary David Spencer, Secretary Ashton Calvert, Deputy Secretary Joanna Hewitt, and Deputy Secretary Kim Jones. (photo: Michael Jensen)

The sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve all six of the Department’s corporate goals: to enhance Australia’s security; to promote Australia’s economic growth, jobs and standard of living; to help Australian travellers and Australians overseas; to strengthen global cooperation in ways which advance Australia’s interests; to promote public understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policy; and to provide clients with highly professional, efficient and effective services. These strategies include providing leadership and strategic guidance to the Department and ensuring that portfolio ministers and the Government receive timely and appropriate advice and support, including developing policy options on new and emerging issues.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the Department indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

  • satisfaction of ministers and the Government with the timeliness and quality of advice and support provided to them in achieving government foreign and trade policy objectives
  • achievement of program objectives and corporate goals as measured by program evaluation tools and audit outcomes
  • effective consultation and coordination across the Department
  • accurate and timely responses to emerging issues
  • effective consultation with departmental clients.

The following performance measure was formerly included under sub-program 5.2, DFAT Corporate Services:

  • strengthened performance management and evaluation through strategic corporate planning links between the White Paper on Foreign and Trade Policy, DFAT Corporate Plan, post evaluation reports and divisional business plans.

Performance Outcomes

Members of the Senior Executive ensured that ministers received timely and appropriate advice on key policy issues, including critical developments in East Asia. They provided leadership and coordination, focusing on key portfolio priorities and relationships, including through chairing officials’ meetings, representing the government at high-level meetings abroad and accompanying ministers and the Prime Minister on overseas visits. Members of the Senior Executive also played a leading role in building international support for Australian government initiatives and policies through high-level bilateral, regional and multilateral consultations, including meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum, APEC, the WTO and other international organisations, as well as bilateral political-military talks.

The Senior Executive ensured the Department kept a strong focus on Australia’s trade and investment goals, providing support and high-level policy advice to the Prime Minister and ministers at key international meetings and participating in major business events in Australia. The Senior Executive’s discussions with the private sector, state and territory governments and NGOs ensured a clear understanding of business and other interests in formulating Australia’s policies on international trade and economic issues.

The Senior Executive oversaw production of the first Australian Government White Paper on Foreign Affairs and Trade. Following its launch in August, the Senior Executive participated in briefing presentations in Australia and overseas on its main messages, improving understanding of Australia’s major foreign policy and trade objectives, and enhancing dialogue with regional countries.

The Senior Executive guided the Department through structural changes to better meet corporate goals and program objectives. Ministers welcomed the Department’s timely response to changing government priorities, reductions in its budget and the challenges of the new Public Service framework which required it to reorient its resources. As a result, the Department is better placed to meet its goals and be responsive.

The Senior Executive played a strong leadership role in concluding a Certified Agreement with staff, including coordinating consultations in Canberra, state and territory offices and overseas posts. The agreement was approved by staff in December and ratified in January, one of the first public sector agreements concluded. This was a major step in the Department’s corporate reform.

The Senior Executive improved departmental planning and evaluation mechanisms, and laid the groundwork for their further integration in the Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch. The Senior Executive directed evaluations of departmental performance against programs and corporate goals, and ensured an appropriate allocation of resources across the Department’s operations with all divisions, posts and state and territory offices formally evaluated. The Senior Executive conducted four in-depth inspections of post operations through post liaison visits, scheduling a revised and expanded program for the next review period.

The Senior Executive introduced revised departmental internal audit policy and procedures, enhancing the contribution of internal audit to corporate governance by drawing together major themes of APS reform, while recognising the Department’s particular operating environment. The revised procedures underpin the operation of the Department’s Audit Committee, which a member of the Senior Executive chairs. EXB conducted internal audits at 15 overseas posts and of assets management in the Information Management Branch in Canberra. EXB also conducted a performance audit of the Department’s handling of locally-engaged staff human resource management.

The Senior Executive further contributed to more effective corporate governance by directing the preparation of a departmental risk management plan. The plan constitutes the first acrossthe-board assessment of risks the Department faces in seeking to achieve its objectives; the Department will use it to inform its performance monitoring activities.

The Senior Executive expanded and strengthened departmental consultation and coordination mechanisms, including establishing fortnightly strategic planning meetings examining both policy and management issues. Members of the Senior Executive chaired regional meetings of Heads of Missions from the South Pacific, South East Asia and South Asia on strategic issues. They consulted key external clients, including other government agencies, through the post evaluation process; this examines operational and policy issues, improving the Department’s representation of wholeof-government interests overseas. Members of the Senior Executive discussed common operational and policy issues with foreign counterparts; this provided useful comparisons to assess and improve the effectiveness of the Department’s operations.

Mr Downer expressed satisfaction with the secretariat services for the Foreign Affairs Council which the Department provided. The Council— an advisory body chaired by Mr Downer comprising representatives from business, academia and the media— held its first meeting on 26 February. Council members are listed at Appendix 13. The Department also provided a hospitality service for ministers, the Senior Executive and other departmental functions.

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