Annual Report 2013–14

Governance and accountability

Internal governance

Management committees

Five senior management, consultation and assurance committees guide AEC decision making, investment and business planning:

  • Executive Leadership Team
  • Executive Management Group
  • National Programme Management Forum
  • Investment and Strategies Committee
  • Business Assurance Committee.

Executive Leadership Team

The Executive Leadership Team’s role was formalised by the 2012–13 Review of Governance. The team comprises the Electoral Commissioner, the Deputy Electoral Commissioner and the two first assistant commissioners.

The Executive Leadership Team is responsible for ensuring that the AEC pursues its strategic direction. In 2013–14 the team considered major long-term issues as well as opportunities and risks to the AEC’s strategic intent and alignment. It examined many critical matters, including the AEC’s direction following the loss of ballot papers in Western Australia during the 2013 federal election, the resignation of the Electoral Commissioner, and the reform and change initiatives that resulted from those events.

Executive Management Group

The Executive Management Group is responsible for leadership, management and sound governance, and determines organisational priorities in line with the AEC’s three strategic themes of modernisation, collaboration and investing in our people. Members are the:

  • Electoral Commissioner (Chairperson)
  • Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson)
  • first assistant commissioners
  • assistant commissioners
  • state and territory managers
  • Chief Legal Officer
  • Chief Finance Officer.

In 2013–14 the Executive Management Group created business plans to align with the AEC’s strategic direction, oversaw operational management, monitored the achievement of organisational objectives and ensured that appropriate corporate governance practices were followed.

National Programme Management Forum

The National Programme Management Forum brings together state managers and national programme managers to deliver, review and monitor core programme business – enrolment, elections, education and communication.

In 2013–14, members of the forum met regularly to review and plan operational priorities and coordinate delivery of each programme.

Investment and Strategies Committee

The Investment and Strategies Committee assists the Electoral Commissioner to:

  • articulate the AEC’s strategic objectives, research and planning activities, innovation priorities, challenges and timeframes
  • ensure the overall integrity and coherence of the AEC portfolio so that it can deliver the AEC’s strategic objectives, contribute to the AEC’s bottom line and deliver value for money in all programmes and projects
  • allocate funding from the AEC’s investment pool to proposals that fit the AEC’s agreed strategic objectives, business priorities, budget, workforce capability, IT architecture and risk management framework
  • monitor project performance against key indicators, including budget, expenditure and performance against set milestones.

In 2013–14, the AEC was focused on election delivery and the committee did not formally operate. Its strategic functions were provided by the Executive Leadership Team.

Business Assurance Committee

Over 2013–14 the major focus of the Business Assurance Committee was on providing assurance frameworks for both the delivery of the 2013 federal election and the reforms announced by the Electoral Commissioner in response to the findings of Mr Mick Keelty AO in his report Inquiry into the 2013 WA Senate Election (the Keelty Report).

The committee bolstered the AEC’s assurance frameworks by:

  • adjusting the 2013–14 Internal Audit Plan to ensure that it aligned with the emerging risks and AEC priorities in an election year
  • promoting the development of a consistent approach to risk management across the AEC
  • revising the Internal Audit Charter, Internal Audit Protocols and 2013–14 Internal Audit Plan to improve the responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness of the internal audit function
  • developing the first AEC Assurance Plan (2014–15), including the Internal Audit Plan, to be integrated into the AEC’s governance frameworks.

In 2013–14 the committee reviewed its operational framework, resulting in amendments to the Business Assurance Committee Charter and Work Plan for 2013–14.

It is anticipated that the committee’s operational framework will require further amendments to incorporate the new rules for the operation of audit committees and fraud control under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which commenced on 1 July 2014.

The Business Assurance Committee held five meetings in 2013–14. Its members as at 30 June 2014 were:

  • Ms Jenny Morison, Chair and external member
  • Mr Kevin Kitson, member and Acting Deputy Electoral Commissioner
  • Mr Pablo Carpay, member and First Assistant Commissioner
  • Mr Tim Courtney, member and Acting First Assistant Commissioner
  • Ms Claire Witham, member and State Manager, South Australia
  • Mr Robert Pugsley, member and Acting State Manager, Queensland.

Figure 7: Planning, operating and reporting framework

figure 7: Planning, operating and reporting framework

Fraud Control Committee

The Fraud Control Committee advises the Business Assurance Committee on the appropriateness and effectiveness of the AEC’s fraud control plans, policies and procedures.

The committee held four meetings in 2013–14 and provided fraud control reports to the Business Assurance Committee.

At 30 June 2014, members of the Fraud Control Committee were:

  • Mr Pablo Carpay, Chair and First Assistant Commissioner
  • Mr Tim Courtney, member and Acting First Assistant Commissioner
  • Mr Robert Pugsley, member and Acting State Manager, Queensland
  • Ms Sandra Riordan, member and State Manager, Tasmania.

Planning, operating and reporting framework

Strategic Plan

The AEC’s Strategic Plan sets out the themes for the AEC’s work programmes and performance:

  • modernisation of products and services, and the organisation
  • collaboration with stakeholders
  • investing in our people.

The Strategic Plan guides the AEC’s standard business activities and change programmes and is at the centre of the AEC’s planning and operating framework.

In 2013–14 the AEC began to develop a new strategic plan for 2015–2020.

Business Planning

The 2013–14 National Business Plan assists the Executive Leadership Team to guide and manage the work and performance of branches and state and territory offices.

Local corporate and business planning documents complement the AEC Strategic Plan and National Business Plan. They address specific operational or functional requirements and ensure that strategic planning informs local work and individual performance plans, as shown in Table 20.

Risk management

The AEC continued to strengthen its planning processes in 2013–14. This year, to ensure that planning is better integrated and of a higher quality, the AEC combined its guidance material and timeframes for risk management and general business planning.

Enterprise risk register

The AEC’s enterprise risk register provides a central view of identified risks and management strategies.

The register underpins a structured and transparent process for risk management. It helps staff to quickly identify and resolve or mitigate risks by providing targeted communication to key stakeholders. The AEC also uses the risk register to produce quarterly enterprise-wide risk profiles and reports.

Business continuity management

The AEC continued to strengthen its business continuity management practices. In preparation for election delivery, election-critical business continuity plans were reviewed and updated. These plans help to ensure continuity of critical operations in the event of major disruption.

The AEC also tested incident management and business continuity plans and is currently completing an agency-wide business impact assessment.

Fraud Control Plan

In August 2013 the Electoral Commissioner approved a revised Fraud Control Plan 2013–2015. For the first time, the plan now includes a definition of ‘electoral fraud’. It provides guidance and a framework for preventing, detecting and responding to fraud and includes processes for monitoring, reporting on and evaluating the fraud framework itself.

On 1 May 2014 the Fraud Control Plan 2013–2015 was further enhanced by:

  • articulating zero tolerance for fraud and clarifying AEC risk management and staff obligations for fraud control to contribute to this outcome
  • introducing a refined three-step procedure for reporting suspected fraud
  • establishing better processes for reporting and assessing fraud allegations.

In March 2014 the AEC made improvements to its website to make it easier for the public to report suspected fraud. The website now includes a definition of ‘electoral fraud’:

‘A breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 or related legislation with intent to obtain a benefit for which the person is not otherwise entitled to or to cause detriment to the Commonwealth.’

Under this definition, only instances where electoral legislation is intentionally breached to obtain a benefit or cause detriment are considered electoral fraud.

Typically the following offences under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 may constitute electoral fraud:

  • multiple voting/impersonation
  • bribery (where the intention is to affect an election result)
  • false enrolment.

While there was an increase in the number of suspected electoral fraud matters reported to the AEC in 2013–14, most of these reports were assessed as electoral complaints and none had progressed to a prosecution by 30 June 2014.

Ethical standards

The AEC values, outlined in the AEC Strategic Plan, are the cornerstone of the agency’s ethical standards. These values emphasise political neutrality, transparency and accountability, and service to clients and stakeholders. The AEC values are reinforced by the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct and the Australian Public Service Commission’s REFLECT decision-making model. More information on the AEC values is provided in ‘About the AEC’.

The AEC Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 highlights the APS Values and Code of Conduct. The AEC also actively promotes the Australian Public Service Commission’s Ethics Advisory Service to staff so that they can discuss, seek advice and make sound decisions on ethical issues in the workplace.

In 2013–14, in accordance with the recent Public Service Act 1999 amendments, the AEC reviewed and updated related policies, guidelines and e-learning material in response to recommendations from the Advisory Group on the Reform of Australian Government Administration. The AEC also enhanced integrity processes for employing polling officials, updated online ethical behaviour training materials, and updated the AEC Fraud Control Plan.

Reporting

Balanced scorecard

The AEC regularly reports performance to senior managers using a ‘balanced scorecard’ approach. The AEC balanced scorecard is a strategic management tool linked to targets and outcomes in AEC business plans. It provides consistent and structured reporting on budgets and expenditure, staffing, AEC services, and programme outcomes such as enrolment numbers.

Internal audit

In 2013–14 the Internal Audit Plan was adjusted to respond to the emerging risks and priorities of an election year. Nine audit activities were completed, including audits of federal direct enrolment and update, business continuity management, complaints handling, election operations and contract management.

On 28 October 2013 a revised Internal Audit Charter and associated protocols were introduced to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the AEC’s audit function, including by establishing indicative timeframes for key audit processes.

On 1 July 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers and McGrath Nicol began an initial three-year period as the contracted internal auditors for the AEC.