Chapter 8 External Scrutiny
This chapter provides a report on the key external scrutiny mechanisms to which the ARC is subject as an entity of the Australian Public Service, including any developments during 2014–15.
The mechanisms include:
- activities of Parliamentary Committees
- activities of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)
- reporting requirements imposed by legislation and other government policies (including mandatory reporting requirements which must be dealt with in annual reports).
During the year the ARC:
- participated in senate estimates hearings in October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015
- continued to monitor recommendations from relevant ANAO audit reports (that is, those dealing with cross-portfolio issues)
- had no complaints or investigations about it referred to external bodies
- continued to address the range of mandatory reporting requirements placed on public service agencies.
There were no significant changes in the ARC's operating context in relation to external scrutiny.
The ARC appeared before the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee at estimates hearings held in October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015.
The ARC responded to 21 Questions on Notice arising from these hearings. It also provided input to 72 Questions on Notice directed to the ARC's portfolio department, the Department of Education and Training (previously titled the Department of Education), during 2014–15.
In March 2015 the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee released its report on annual reports for the agencies for which it is responsible (Annual reports—No. 1 of 2015). The committee assessed the ARC Annual Report 2013–14 to be satisfactory—in terms of timeliness of presentation and compliance with relevant reporting requirements [as specified under section 63 of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act), the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Australian Research Council Act 2001].
Australian National Audit Office
ANAO audited the ARC's annual financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2015. The report for this audit can be found in Part 4.
During 2014–15 the ARC reviewed and considered the recommendations made within a number of cross-portfolio ANAO audit reports, including:
- Fraud Control Arrangements, No. 3 tabled on 30 October 2014
- Business Continuity Management, No. 6 tabled on 6 November 2014
- Limited Tender Procurement, No. 48 tabled on 10 June 2015
In 2014–15 the ANAO released three Better Practice Guides relevant to ARC activities:
- Successful Implementation of Policy Initiatives (October 2014)
- Public Sector Audit Committee: Independent assurance and advice for Accountable Authorities (March 2015)
- Public Sector Financial Statements: High-quality reporting through good governance and processes (March 2015).
Other external bodies
- the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office did not initiate any investigations about ARC business
- no complaints about the ARC were referred to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
- the ARC received no claims under the Compensation for Detriment for Defective Administration scheme (which allows people adversely affected by the maladministration of an Australian Government agency to receive compensation when they have no legal redress)
- there were no requests from the office of the Australian Information Commissioner to review ARC freedom of information decisions
- one matter before the Federal Court was finalised.
There were no judicial decisions involving the ARC under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (which provides for judicial review of most administrative decisions made under the Commonwealth enactments on grounds relating to legality, rather than merits, of decisions).
In accordance with specific legislative requirements, annual reports must include matters in relation to:
- work health and safety (Schedule 2, Part 4 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011)
- advertising and market research (section 311A, Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918)
- ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance (section 516A, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)
- compliance with the agency's obligations under the Carer Recognition Act 2010.
In this annual report, information on the first three requirements is included in the following locations:
- work health and safety—Part 3, Chapter 9 (People management)
- advertising and market research—Part 5, Appendix 7
- ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance—Part 5, Appendix 8.
The ARC does not have any obligations with regard to the Carer Recognition Act 2010; that is, it is not an agency as defined in the PS Act that is responsible for the development, implementation, provision of evaluation of policies, programmes or services directed to carers or the persons for whom they care.
The ARC administers a number of research funding schemes under the National Competitive Grants Programme. A full list of these schemes is in Part 5, Appendices 2 and 3. Further information on the grants awarded by the ARC during the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 is available on the ARC website.
Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's (APSC) State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available on the APSC website: www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a ten year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the Strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these reports will be available in late 2014 on the Department of Social Services website: www.dss.gov.au.
Information Publication Scheme
Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report.
Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. ARC information relating to the IPS and the FOI disclosure log is published on the ARC website.
Correction of errors
Errors or omissions of fact that were identified in the ARC Annual Report 2013–14 are detailed in Part 5, Appendix 9.
The Annual Report guidelines note that reporting and analysis in an annual report, as a document of record, is complementary to the ongoing availability of information through the internet. A range of information on the ARC website is published in accordance with formal reporting requirements including details of:
- all grants awarded
- freedom of information requests
- agency contracts.