4Managing the AEC
The AEC retains both in-house and external legal services. Activities encompass legal action, commercial law, responding to human rights matters, and overseeing internal and external compliance processes related to administrative, judicial and parliamentary scrutiny. We also seek and provide advice on the operation and effect of provisions in the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act.
Internal audit is a key accountability mechanism for effective governance and business improvement. The AEC’s internal audit function provides independent and objective assurance and review of operations, functions, processes, and systems. It also provides the Electoral Commissioner, through the Business Assurance Committee, with professional advice on improving effectiveness of risk management, control and governance.
Internal Audit Plan
The 2015–16 Internal Audit Plan continued to focus on the emerging risks and priorities leading to an election year. The Business Assurance Committee adopted methodical processes to close audit recommendations, particularly in relation to the Keelty Report, and previous ANAO audits. Internal audit subjects for 2015–16 covered contract management, internal communications, election funding and party registration, work health safety, election recruitment and corporate performance reporting.
In addition, a review of the AEC compliance and assurance mechanisms was undertaken to identify priority gaps leading into the 2016 federal election.
In July 2013 the AEC appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers and McGrath Nicol to provide audit and assurance services for an initial three-year period. The 2015–16 AEC Audit Charter defines the scope, responsibilities and independence requirements for audit functions. The 2015–16 AEC Internal Audit Plan was endorsed by the Business Assurance Committee.
The AEC conducted a comprehensive review of its fraud control function early in the financial year. The review demonstrated the AEC’s commitment to full compliance with fraud control requirements under the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework, including section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014, the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy and associated Fraud Guidance.
A new 2015–17 Fraud Control Plan highlights the AEC’s zero tolerance approach to corporate and electoral fraud. Prevention strategies are the focus of the plan, which also outlines how to detect and respond to external and internal fraud.
A comprehensive fraud risk assessment was conducted during 2015–16. A fresh fraud risk assessment was subsequently conducted, after the passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 2016 in March 2016.
Prior to the delivery of the 2016 federal election, all AEC staff, including contractors and the temporary election workforce, were required to participate in fraud awareness training as part of the fraud prevention program. In particular, the focus of the training was to raise awareness of key risk areas and individual employee responsibilities in preventing and detecting fraud.
AEC staff and members of the public can report allegations of suspected fraud to the AEC online, by telephone via a dedicated hotline, or by mail. The AEC’s fraud webpage was updated in 2015–16 to clarify what is considered fraud, including electoral fraud. The update also provided further guidance on how to report suspected fraud.
In 2015–16 the AEC took all reasonable measures to deal with fraud allegations. The AEC fraud unit received and examined 95 allegations of suspected fraud. Of these, 91 matters came from external sources and 4 were received from internal sources. All allegations were related to electoral matters. There were no allegations of corporate fraud.
Fraud Control Committee
The Fraud Control Committee is a sub-committee of the Business Assurance Committee (see list of AEC management committees earlier in this chapter). It oversees the appropriateness and effectiveness of the AEC’s fraud control plans, policies, procedures and systems to identify and investigate fraud-related matters.
The Fraud Control Committee held four meetings in 2015–16 and provided reports to the Business Assurance Committee after each meeting.
Freedom of Information
Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish a broad range of information for the public on their websites as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This replaces a previous requirement to publish a statement in the agency’s annual report.
In addition, agencies must publish information that has been released in response to each FOI access request, subject to certain exceptions. This publication is known as a ‘disclosure log’.
Information Publication Scheme and FOI Disclosure Log
The AEC’s IPS entry and FOI Disclosure Log are published on our website, highlighted with icons developed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).
In accordance with FOI Act requirements, the IPS page on the AEC website displays the following:
- an outline of the IPS and its requirements
- the AEC Agency Plan (which includes invitations for the public to comment on the AEC Agency Plan)
- details of the AEC’s structure and functions (including a link to the AEC’s organisation chart and a list of statutory appointments under the Electoral Act)
- the AEC’s reports and responses to the Australian Parliament
- annual reports dating back to 1998
- routinely requested information
- contact details for further queries.
The AEC website also features operational information that assists us in making decisions or recommendations that affect members of the public, such as the AEC’s rules, guidelines, practices and precedents relating to former decisions and recommendations. These include: