Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Financial performance and future operations



Corporate governance

Updated: 17 December 2010


The AEC's governance framework is based on the fundamental principles of clear lines of accountability, decision making and reporting, as well as well-defined planning and performance management. The AEC employs strategies that:

  • deliver the outputs for which funding is appropriated
  • ensure accountability to the Parliament of Australia and other stakeholders for key performance indicators
  • identify responsibility for the management of resources
  • develop, maintain and use information on the full accrual costs and values created in the delivery of outputs.


The AEC is an independent statutory agency, governed by a Commission comprising:

  • a part-time chairperson, who is a judge or retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia
  • the Electoral Commissioner, who is the full-time head and Chief Executive Officer of the AEC under the Public Service Act 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997
  • a part-time non-judicial member, who is an agency head as defined in the Public Service Act.

All three members of the Commission are engaged under the Electoral Act and are appointed by the Governor-General. The membership of the current Commission is noted in the 'Overview' section of this report.

The Electoral Commissioner is assisted by a senior executive team comprising the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, two first assistant commissioners, five assistant commissioners, the Chief Finance Officer and the Chief Legal Officer. State managers, who hold the statutory appointment of Australian Electoral Officer for each state and the Northern Territory, assist the Electoral Commissioner to manage electoral activities in their respective jurisdictions.

The organisational structure is outlined in Figure 2 in the 'Overview' section.

Figure 11: Planning, operating and reporting framework

Figure 11: Planning, operating and reporting framework

Senior management committees

The AEC's senior management committees are directly responsible to the Electoral Commissioner in his role as Chief Executive Officer. The leadership and management framework at 30 June 2009 is set out in Table 26.

Table 26 Leadership and management framework
Australian Electoral Commission
Electoral Commissioner
Accountable for corporate governance and overall performance
Executive Management Group Business Investment Committee Business Assurance Committee
Assists the Electoral Commissioner by providing high-level focus on emerging strategic issues and operational matters Prioritises the AEC's investment in projects and improves project delivery discipline Reviews risk and assurance issues
Electoral Commissioner (Chair)

Deputy Electoral Commissioner

Two first assistant commissioners

Assistant commissioners

State managers

Chief Legal Officer

Chief Finance Officer

Director, International Services
Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chair)

First Assistant Commissioner

Assistant Commissioner Elections

Assistant Commissioner Roll Management

State Manager Queensland
Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chair)

Two first assistant commissioners

Assistant Commissioner
Communications and Information Strategy

Assistant Commissioner People and Performance

Chief Finance Officer

State Manager Western Australia

State Manager Tasmania

External member

Executive Management Group

The Executive Management Group (EMG) supports the Electoral Commissioner in:

  • setting the AEC's strategic directions and organisational priorities
  • ensuring objectives are achieved
  • assisting with the strategic leadership and operational management of the AEC
  • ensuring the AEC follows good corporate governance practices and manages risks appropriately.

During 2008–09, the EMG met monthly by teleconference to discuss operational matters, and quarterly face-to-face to discuss strategic issues.

Business Investment Committee

The AEC recognised the need for more discipline around project management, and established the Business Investment Committe to assist the Electoral Commissioner in:

  • prioritising the AEC's investment in projects which build the long term capability for the AEC
  • improving discipline around project delivery to ensure that projects are consistent with broad strategic direction and align with the AEC's future business architecture.

The Business Investment Committee was established in May 2009 and has met regularly. The project management framework includes supporting tools, templates, coaching mechanisms and training. The work of the committee will grow significantly during 2009–10.

Business Assurance Committee

The Business Assurance Committee assists the Electoral Commissioner in meeting his statutory responsibilities under s. 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. The committee:

  • reviews and monitors the AEC's risk assurance, audit, fraud and internal controls functions
  • ensures the objectivity and reliability of the AEC's published financial information.

The Business Assurance Committee meets at least four times a year.

Corporate and business plans

Reshaping the governance framework to better meet the needs of the AEC, in terms of both strategic and operational requirements, was a priority for 2008-09. One avenue of improvement was a restructure of the business planning framework that underpins the work of the governance committees. The framework is an essential component of the decision-making process to address the AEC's longer term goals.

During 2008–09, the AEC developed a new Strategic Plan covering 2009 to 2014. The Strategic Plan incorporates the National Business Plan for 2009-10, which highlights the first-year priorities and activities of the Strategic Plan and provides a link to branch, state and division business plans. The National Business Plan will be revised annually during the life of the Strategic Plan 2009-14.

The EMG was extensively involved in developing the strategic and business plans. The content of the plans was approved in June 2009 to be applied from 1 July 2009.

The new five-year Strategic Plan, combined with the annual National Business Plan, will address immediate and mid-term strategic priorities, while branch, state and division plans continue to focus on business priorities, as well as targeted requirements and individual performance plans.

The AEC also has a number of supporting plans that address specific business functions, as summarised in Table 27.

Table 27 Corporate and business planning documents
Plan Purpose Reviewed
Business Sets out business strategies and objectives at the state office or national office levels Annually
Business continuity Applies risk management techniques and principles to the planning, administration and delivery of projects and policies Every three years
Corporate fraud control Identifies areas of corporate fraud risk and sets out strategies to prevent or minimise the incidence of corporate fraud Every three years
Corporate IT Provides direction for IT development Every three years
Disability Action Plan Assists the AEC to meet its responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy Every three years
Election Preparation Program Sets out and monitors the program of activity required to achieve election readiness Every two years
Electoral fraud control Sets out strategies to prevent or minimise electoral offences that may affect the result of elections Every three years
Health and Safety Action Plan Sets out the activities that underpin the AEC's Health and Safety Management Arrangements Every three years
Property Provides direction for the long-term management of leased property Annually
Risk Identifies areas of business risk and specifies how risks will be managed Annually
Security Sets out strategies to protect staff and visitors, security classification information, equipment and premises against harm, loss, interference and compromise Annually
Strategic internal audit Sets out the program of compliance and performance audits for the financial year Annually
Workplace Diversity Plan Sets out a program of activities to enable recognition and valuing of individual differences in the workplace Every four years

Service charter

The AEC Service Charter includes information about the AEC's functions, values and commitment to electors. The charter may be accessed through the AEC website, and printed copies are available on request. Poster versions of the charter are displayed in all AEC offices.

The charter encourages members of the public to provide feedback to the organisation. The AEC listens carefully to customer feedback, and responds to suggestions to improve its services. The charter will be reviewed in 2009–10 to ensure consistency with the Strategic Plan 2009–2014.

Customer satisfaction

The AEC takes many opportunities to engage with customers and seek their input on the delivery of services and the level of satisfaction with the AEC's services. Examples are included in the reports on performance for Outcomes 1, 2 and 3.

Customer inquiries, issues and complaints

During 2008–09, the AEC continued with the protocol for the escalation of certain inquiries, issues and complaints.

A summary of escalated inquiries, issues and complaints handled by the national office in 2008–09 is shown in Table 28.

Other than electoral offences, the issues handled by national office in 2008–09 covered:

  • access to and use of roll information
  • enrolment
  • various topics, including elections, voting and political advertising.

Fifty-one per cent of the general escalated issues and complaints handled by national office were resolved within 10 days.

Table 28 Escalated inquiries, issues and complaints received by the national office, 2007–08 and 2008–09
General Alleged electoral offences
2007–08 2008–09 2007–08 2008–09
628 43 283 32

Internal audit

AEC internal audit is an independent function reporting directly to the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, who in turn reports on the audit program to the AEC's Business Assurance Committee. As shown in Table 26, the committee includes an independent member with broad public sector experience of relevant functions. The inclusion of an external member strengthens the independence of the Business Assurance Committee. The member is unencumbered by any management responsibilities and provides the opportunity for the Electoral Commissioner to receive advice and assurance from an independent perspective.

The AEC's internal audit program is conducted through an external service provider. WalterTurnbull was the service provider from July 2008 until March 2009, when the AEC transitioned to a new provider, KPMG.

During 2008–09, representatives of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the internal auditors attended meetings of the Business Assurance Committee to report on the AEC's external and internal audit programs and other relevant matters. Further information on the external audit program is in the 'External scrutiny' section of the annual report.

Internal audits for 2008–09 focused on providing assurance to senior management on the effectiveness of controls in corporate and IT areas and reviewing high-risk core business activities.

Risk management and business continuity

The AEC's risk management policy and toolkit provide a formal framework for identifying, managing and monitoring strategic risks as an integrated part of business planning.

In April 2009, the AEC commissioned KPMG to conduct an enterprise-wide risk assessment of its strategic and electoral risks. The review is expected to be completed in December 2009.

Fraud control

The Electoral Commissioner's certification of the AEC's fraud control arrangements is at Appendix K.

The AEC's Fraud Control Committee is a subcommittee of the Business Assurance Committee and is responsible for overseeing fraud prevention, detection and investigations. The Fraud Control Committee meets prior to each Business Assurance Committee meeting, and provides that committee with a report on matters considered and recommendations as required.

In May 2009, the AEC developed and implemented an online awareness package for staff. It is a question-and-answer style tool designed to provide staff with awareness of what constitutes fraud, their obligation to report fraud, and how to attain assistance if they suspect fraud is occurring.

Ethical standards

The AEC's Code of Conduct procedures provide direction about general expectations for the behaviour of AEC employees, and incorporate and reinforce the APS Values and Code of Conduct. See the 'Overview' section of this report for a detailed statement of the AEC's values.

Through the AEC Collective Agreement 2007-10 and the Corporate Plan 2008–09, the AEC and its staff made a commitment to work cooperatively to embed the APS and AEC values in all aspects of the organisation's work.

The AEC's Performance Management Program includes an assessment tool on values and behaviours, which contributes to the overall performance rating for each employee.

In addition, the AEC has been exploring ways to better integrate ethical decision making into ongoing learning and development activities. In February 2009, the AEC developed and piloted a 'management fundamentals' program for AEC staff at the APS 6 and Executive Level 1 levels. One area of study involved decision making and covered issues such as the valid exercise of delegation and ethical dilemmas faced by decision makers in government agencies.

Senior executive remuneration

Remuneration for the Electoral Commissioner is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973. Other statutory appointees are part of the Principal Executive Officer structure under that Act; remuneration and conditions for those appointees are determined by the Electoral Commissioner within parameters set by the Remuneration Tribunal.

The Electoral Commissioner also determines performance pay for the AEC's Principal Executive Officers and other senior executive staff, as described in the 'Management of our people' section of this report.

Table 29 lists base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff of the AEC.

Table 29 Base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff, 30 June 2009
Staff (no.) Remuneration band ($) Staff (no.) Remuneration band ($)
1 220 000–234 999 6 145 000–159 999
0 205 000–219 999 4 130 000–144 999
0 190 000–204 999 6 115 000–129 999
1 175 000–189 999 2 100 000–114 999
1 160 000–174 999    

Note: These bands do not represent total remuneration; that is, they include superannuable salary but do not include other components of salary packaging such as cars and superannuation. Performance pay information is provided in the section on human resources. This data includes staff acting in positions at 30 June 2009.

Social justice and equity

The AEC develops its products and services to meet the needs of its audiences and stakeholders. The AEC produces information in a variety of formats, including audio, large print and braille, and in a wide range of languages, including Indigenous languages. The AEC also provides a free telephone inquiry service and access to an interpreter service.

AEC staff conduct school and community visits to present electoral education and information sessions. A module of the AEC's suite of presentations was developed specifically for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences.

The AEC aims to enable as many eligible electors as possible to participate fully in federal elections. For electoral divisions with significant numbers of Indigenous voters or voters who speak a language other than English at home, the AEC recruits staff with Indigenous and other language skills to provide assistance on election day.

In 2009–10, the AEC will launch a major project to help close the gap in areas of Indigenous disadvantage by improving the electoral enrolment and participation levels of Indigenous Australians. For more information, refer to the 'Objectives for 2009-10' section in Outcome 3.

See the 'Providing access for people with disabilities' section of this report for more details of the AEC's consultative process and activities to ensure equitable access to electoral information and voting entitlements during 2008–09.