In accordance with s 32 of the CAC Act, the ALRC has an Audit Committee to oversee compliance with financial and auditing obligations and to liaise with external auditors. The role of the Audit Committee is directed towards:
- enhancing the control framework;
- improving the objectivity and reliability of externally published financial information; and
- assisting the Board to comply with legislative and other obligations.
The Audit Committee consists of a Commissioner, the Executive Director and the Finance Manager. During 2009–10, the members of the Audit Committee were:
- Commissioner, Justice Berna Collier (from 2 June 2010)
- Commissioner, Professor Les McCrimmon (until 30 November 2009)
- Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, Ms Sabina Wynn
- Finance Manager, Ms Maria Zacharia
A representative of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is invited to attend meetings of the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee met once in the reporting period, on 20 August 2009. At this meeting the ALRC’s Fraud Plan was reviewed and as part of this process, the methodology for recording and managing annual and long service leave was tested and approved as appropriate and accurate.
Under s 8 of the CAC Act, the Auditor-General inspects and audits the accounts and records of the ALRC’s financial transactions and assets. The audit of the 2009–10 financial statements was performed by the ANAO.
Internal ALRC Policies
The ALRC’s Policy Manual contains the ALRC’s current policies, guidelines and procedures on a range of administrative matters. ALRC policies are regularly reviewed and revised as required. All new and revised policies are approved by the Board of Management.
New policies were developed during 2009–10 as follows:
- Access to Reference Material Policy (updated); and
- Twitter Policy.
Policies that concern interaction with members of the public are published on the ALRC website. New staff members are advised of ALRC policies as part of the induction process and all staff have access to the Policy Manual. Compliance with ALRC policies is a criterion in each employee’s annual performance appraisal.
A full list of ALRC policies is included in Appendix B.
The ALRC fosters a culture of integrity, honesty and fairness in the workplace and actively seeks to comply with all relevant laws, regulations, codes and government standards.
The ALRC’s Code of Conduct outlines the expectations applied to staff in relation to their conduct in the performance of their job, including interactions outside and within the workplace. The ALRC’s Code of Conduct was updated in April 2009 and requires all employees to comply with certain standards when acting in the course of their employment.
The ALRC Code of Conduct requires that an employee must:
- behave honestly and with integrity in the course of their employment;
- act with care and diligence in the course of their employment;
- when acting in the course of their employment, treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment;
- when acting in the course of their employment, comply with all applicable Australian laws;
- comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone employed by the ALRC who has authority to give the direction;
- maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings;
- disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with their employment;
- use ALRC resources in a proper manner;
- not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee’s employment;
- not make improper use of:
- inside information; or
- the employee’s duties, status, power or authority,
in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person;
- at all times behave in a way that upholds the integrity and good reputation of the ALRC; and
- while on duty overseas, at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.
An ALRC employee must not disclose information which he or she obtains or generates in connection with his or her employment if it is reasonably foreseeable that the disclosure could be prejudicial to the effective working of the ALRC or the Australian Government, including the formulation or implementation of policies or programs.
An ALRC employee must not disclose information obtained or generated in connection with his or her employment if the information:
- was or is to be communicated in confidence; or
- was received in confidence by the ALRC from a person or persons outside the agency.
It is an exception to this requirement where:
- the information is disclosed in the course of the ALRC employee’s duties;
- the information is disclosed in accordance with an authorisation given by the ALRC President;
- the disclosure is otherwise authorised by law; or
- the information that is disclosed is already in the public domain as the result of a disclosure of information that is lawful.
Possible breaches of the Code of Conduct will be dealt with in accordance with clause 47 of the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010, and under procedures established by the President which satisfy the principles of natural justice. Where misconduct is found, the President may take any combination of actions specified in the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007– 2010, including reduction of salary, suspension or termination of employment.
Fraud control and risk management
The ALRC has a commitment to fraud control and promoting efficient, effective and ethical use of Commonwealth resources. The ALRC is satisfied that the ALRC’s Fraud Control Plan 2008–2010—approved by the ALRC Board of Management in July 2008—complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, and ensures that appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and processes are in place.
In accordance with s 8.14 of the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, the ALRC collects any information relating to fraudulent matters and reports it to the Attorney- General’s Department. No fraudulent activity was detected in 2009–10. The ALRC’s Fraud Control Plan is reviewed annually by the ALRC’s Audit Committee.
A new Fraud Control Plan is currently being developed and will be in place by the end of August 2010.
The ALRC’s risk assessment was reviewed in August 2009 by the Audit Committee and there were no new risks identified. The Audit Committee agreed that the ALRC had adequate controls in place, with all relevant risks being classified as ‘low’ or ‘negligible’.
The ALRC has continued to assess and manage its risks through:
- appropriate levels of insurance, including cover for public liability, directors’ liability, and property loss or damage, with nature and levels of cover reviewed annually;
- a positive approach to occupational health and safety, based on preventative strategies and early response to injury;
- provision of training to staff to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and have the skills necessary to fulfil their responsibilities;
- transparent reporting of financial management and operational matters, both internally and externally; and
- administrative policies aimed at preventing fraud and managing risk.
Independent professional advice
Board of Management members have the right, with the agreement of the President, to obtain at the ALRC’s expense, independent professional advice relevant to the discharge of their responsibilities. No such advice was sought by individual members of the Board of Management during 2009–10.
Conflict of interest
Section 39 of the ALRC Act requires members to disclose any material personal interest in a matter under consideration by the Commission. There were no such disclosures in 2009–10.
Full-time members of the ALRC and the Executive Director make annual declarations of private interests, which are provided to the Attorney-General. Updated declarations of interest have been provided to the Attorney-General for 2009–10.
The ALRC carries directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. Details are as follows:
- Professor Rosalind Croucher—President (current)
- Professor David Weisbrot—President (past) (from July 2009–November 2009)
- Professor Les McCrimmon—Commissioner (past) (from July 2009–November 2009)
Nature of liability
Damages arising as a consequence of a wrongful act of a director, including an error by omission or commission; a misstatement or misleading statement; or negligent breach of duty.
The ALRC has not indemnified or agreed to indemnify any current or former officer against a liability other than by coverage under the directors’ and officers’ liability insurance.
$7943.09 excluding GST.