5.2 External scrutiny

Judicial decisions, decisions of administrative tribunals and by the Australian Information Commissioner

There were no decisions of any Court during 2016–17 that had, or may have, a significant impact on the operations of the ARC.

There were also no decisions of administrative tribunals or the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner during 2016–17 that had, or may have, a significant impact on the operations of the ARC.

Reports on ARC operations by the Auditor General

During 2016–17, the ARC was not directly involved in any performance audits conducted by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The ARC considered the recommendations arising from a number of performance audits conducted on topics of relevance to the agency including:

  • Corporate planning in the Australian Public Sector, ANAO Reports No. 6 and No. 54 of 2016–17
  • Cybersecurity follow-up audit, ANAO Report No. 42 of 2016–17
  • Managing underperformance in the Australian Public Service, ANAO Report No. 52 of 2016–17
  • Implementation of the Annual Performance Statements requirements 2015–16, ANAO Report No. 58 of 2016–17.

Reports on ARC operations by a Parliamentary Committee

In March 2017, 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 2017).

The committee assessed all reports presented, including the ARC Annual Report 2015–16, as meeting all the requirements under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) relating to the letter of transmittal, inclusion of audit reports, style and formatting, and assessment of performance against targets. The committee noted that all reports did not always satisfactorily meet the plain English criterion. In relation to timeliness of presentation, the committee identified that the ARC did not meet the recommendation that annual reports be tabled before Supplementary Budget Estimates.

The ARC appeared before the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee at estimates hearings held in March and May 2017 but was not required to appear at the October 2016 hearings.

The ARC responded to 50 Questions on Notice arising from these hearings. It also provided input to eight Questions on Notice directed to the ARC’s portfolio department, the Department of Education and Training.

Reports on ARC operations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman

During 2016–17, the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office undertook one investigation into ARC business. This investigation involved consideration by the Ombudsman of the assessment of and scores awarded to an unfunded grant proposal, along with allegations of bias.

The Ombudsman found no evidence of bias and concluded that as the ARC’s general grant assessment process was reasonable, there was no requirement for the ARC to reassess the proposal.

Agency capability reviews

No capability reviews of the ARC were conducted or released during 2016–17.