Management and accountability
Financial management and business assurance
Austrade manages its assets and financial resources to support its operations by maintaining:
- an effective system of management and internal controls
- accounting, treasury and taxation services
- procurement systems and processes that achieve value for money
- business systems and processes that provide financial and performance information to enhance decision-making and the efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of resources
- information technology that is stable and secure and increases connectivity for staff, clients and key stakeholders
- systems to monitor, safeguard and enhance property and other assets.
Information on Austrade’s financial performance is provided on page 160.
Austrade manages an overseas and domestic property portfolio of 167 leased commercial and residential properties. The portfolio comprises properties leased from the Overseas Property Office in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and from private sector landlords.
In 2013–14, 13 security and property fit-outs were completed, improving the safety and security of Austrade staff, customers and assets.
Austrade negotiated 57 new leases and renewed 53 leases as part of the ongoing management of its property portfolio.
Austrade manages its property portfolio in accordance with government policies and guidelines. Throughout the year, Austrade continued to identify opportunities for maximising efficiencies and cost-effectiveness. This was achieved by a combination of the appropriate rationalisation of surplus space and cost reduction in locations such as Austrade’s London, Melbourne, Suva and New York offices, while complying with work health and safety legislation and relevant building codes and standards.
Business continuity planning
Austrade’s business continuity framework was further strengthened in 2013–14. The agency’s programme of reviewing and scenario-testing business continuity plans, and drawing best practice and lessons learned from responses to incidents, continued to build resilience throughout the network. Collaboration across individual business units heightened staff awareness of potential risks and enhanced the development of efficient and effective response arrangements that support the continued sustainability of Austrade’s operations.
The framework’s effectiveness in mitigating the risks and minimising the impact of significant business interruptions was verified through Austrade’s response to several major incidents that required the activation of business continuity plans. In 2013–14, these included protests and civil unrest in Istanbul, Bangkok and Sao Paulo; smoke haze in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore; Typhoon Utor in Hong Kong and Typhoon Haiyan in Manila, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; severe weather events in Toronto and Washington DC; and the evacuation of the Austrade Sydney office due to a fire on an adjacent building site.
Austrade maintained its ongoing level of compliance with the Protective Security Policy Framework. During the year, Austrade continued its programme to implement a range of enhanced security measures, working closely with other government agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to manage a range of issues related to the personal safety and protection of Austrade staff, contractors and clients in Australia and overseas. Austrade also continued to work with the Australian Signals Directorate on issues of cybersecurity and the implementation of mitigation strategies to prevent cyber-attacks.Back to top
In 2013–14, legal services to Austrade were provided primarily by its internal legal team, supported by external law firms. In June 2013, a multi-use list of prequalified law firms, split into four areas of legal expertise, was introduced as a whole-of-government initiative. Since the introduction of the multi-use list, Austrade has had access to prequalified providers, which has delivered cost savings and has helped rationalise the selection process. It has also provided Austrade with access to more detailed information, enabling more informed decisions in the purchase of legal services, and provided information to the Commonwealth on the quality of legal services engaged.
The same standards that apply to Austrade’s domestic legal service providers under the requirements of the Office of Legal Services Coordination have also been applied to all locally engaged international law firms providing services to Austrade’s overseas network.
The legal services provided to Austrade during the year covered a broad range of legal disciplines and represented an increase in volume, particularly with the additional responsibility for tourism programmes, policy and research, which transferred to Austrade from the former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism in October 2013. Ongoing demand for services increased, particularly in relation to commercial advice and Export Market Development Grants litigation support. In other aspects, Austrade’s demand for legal services continued at similar levels as in recent years, including:
- complex contractual negotiations and drafting of agreements, including leases, service proposals and major programme arrangements, such as TradeStart, Asian Business Engagement Plan, section 23AF (tax exemption) and tourism grant programmes
- advice and application of policy on aspects of trade facilitation, financial services, education programmes and contractual arrangements
- handling of sensitive issues arising from labour claims, complaints from clients and commercial disputes, and issues arising from Austrade’s day-to-day delivery of its services
- training on compliance with anti-bribery laws
- freedom of information requests
- commercial litigation and appeals under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, mainly involving applications under the Export Market Development Grants scheme
- advice on insurance, legislation, Austrade competitions and programmes
- monitoring and maintaining the quality and consistency of legal service to business units and Austrade’s international network in compliance with Office of Legal Services Coordination standards.
Austrade’s approach to procuring goods and services, including consultancies, is consistent with, and reflects the principles of, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.
Austrade’s Chief Executive’s Instruction on procurement reflects these principles and the need for compliance with Commonwealth policy by all staff when choosing procurement methods, sourcing potential suppliers or entering into contracts. As part of these arrangements, in 2013–14, Austrade published details of:
- publicly available business opportunities with a value of $80,000 or more on AusTender (www.tenders.gov.au)
- actual contracts awarded with a value of $10,000 or more on AusTender
- actual contracts with a value of $100,000 or more on the Austrade website as required by Senate Order 192.
No contracts were let during 2013‒14 of $100,000 or more which did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.
The CEO did not issue any directions under the FOI Act in 2013–14 exempting publication of details of any agency agreements or Commonwealth contracts on AusTender.
Information on publicly available business opportunities with an estimated value of $80,000 or more expected in 2014‒15 is published in Austrade’s annual procurement plan, which is available from the AusTender website.
Austrade engages consultants where it lacks specialist expertise or when independent research, review or assessment is required. Consultants are typically engaged to investigate or diagnose a defined issue or problem; carry out defined reviews or evaluations; or provide independent advice, information or creative solutions to assist in the agency’s decision-making.
Before engaging consultants, Austrade takes into account the skills and resources required for the task, the skills available internally, and the cost-effectiveness of engaging external expertise. The decision to engage a consultant is made in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and relevant internal policies.
Austrade is required to report on AusTender consultancy contracts awarded where the contract value is $10,000 or more.
During 2013–14, 45 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $3,279,724. In addition, 10 ongoing consultancy contracts were active during 2013–14, involving total actual expenditure of $526,337. Table 22 provides four-year trend information on Austrade’s consultancy contracts. The increase in expenditure on consultants this year is a direct result of Austrade gaining responsibility for tourism policy, programmes and research under machinery-of-government changes in October 2013.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website.