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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.

Significant issues relating to noncompliance with the finance law

Annual reports must include a statement of any significant issues reported to the responsible minister under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 that relate to noncompliance with the finance law in relation to the entity.

Austrade had no significant issues to report to its minister in relation to noncompliance with the finance law during 2017–18.

Security

Throughout 2017–18, with a global security environment characterised by ongoing uncertainty and ever more diffuse and diverse threats, Austrade continued its program of work to mitigate security risks to its network.

Under the auspices of the Australian Government’s Operation Tetris to ensure that the Commonwealth’s property portfolio is appropriate to its expected needs and maximises value for taxpayers, Austrade’s Security, Consular and Property branch led a significant body of work to successfully relocate Austrade’s Canberra office from Barton to the Nishi Building, New Acton. As a shared facility with the Department of Communications and the Arts (DoCA), work is ongoing to integrate Austrade’s security operations with those of DoCA and achieve further efficiencies and savings.

Throughout the year, a number of targeted security reviews were conducted of Austrade offices and operations to ensure Australian Government information, assets and personnel continue to be appropriately protected. These security reviews were also used to support the expansion of the agency’s secure IT systems.

In response to the independent Review of Whole-of-Government Internal Regulation (Belcher Red Tape Review), and the subsequent reform of the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework, Austrade initiated a project to simplify its personnel security policies and procedures in an effort to introduce simplified, more efficient processes for the recruitment and onboarding of new personnel. In 2017–18, the bulk of this project was completed, with only the integrated recruitment and personnel security workflow to be delivered.

The Security, Consular and Property branch continued to provide risk advice and direct support to Austrade’s major business missions and events, including Australia Business Week in India, the Future Unlimited West Africa education exhibition held in Ghana and Nigeria, and the Northern Australia Investment Forum held in Cairns—each of which passed without incident.

As Austrade reshapes its engagement strategy, and positions itself to operate with increased agility, the challenge for Austrade’s security management framework in the year ahead, and beyond, will be to develop innovative security solutions to enable these objectives.

Property management

Austrade’s global property portfolio comprises 165 properties leased through both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Overseas Property Office and private sector landlords.

In 2017–18, Austrade negotiated 32 new leases and renewed 28 existing leases as part of the ongoing management of its property portfolio. Austrade also entered into 15 memorandums of understanding with other Australian Government agencies to share office space in domestic and international locations.

The Department of Finance’s Property Services Coordinated Procurement arrangements saw the appointment of Broadspectrum as Austrade’s domestic property service provider. From March to June 2018, Austrade worked with Broadspectrum to transition to the new arrangements commencing on 1 July 2018. Broadspectrum will deliver leasing and facilities management services to Austrade for an initial term to 30 June 2021, with possible extensions of up to a further four years.

In the 2017–18 Budget, the Government announced it would centralise management of the Commonwealth’s overseas property portfolio within DFAT’s Overseas Property Office. Throughout 2017–18, Austrade worked with DFAT in preparation for the transition post–1 July 2018 of Austrade’s property management functions, including residential and office accommodation owned or leased in support of a diplomatic presence, such as Austrade-managed trade and investment offices.

Business continuity

Austrade continued to strengthen the resilience of its domestic and international offices through its business continuity program, with knowledge and understanding of the agency’s response mechanisms further consolidated through the review of plans and scenario-based exercises conducted across the network.

Austrade worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade throughout the year to ensure a consistent approach to crisis management, planning and testing.

During 2017–18, Austrade’s business continuity and crisis management and response framework continued to prove effective in mitigating risks attributed to major incidents that required activation or review of business continuity plans.

For example, the New Delhi floods in late August 2017 necessitated alternative arrangements for the visit to Mumbai by the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, the then Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, as part of Australia Business Week in India. Also in late August 2017, the Austrademanaged Consulate-General in Houston operated in a heightened risk environment when Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 storm (see case study on pages 120–121).

In 2018–19, Austrade will review its business continuity framework and test its response to a business disruption event through participation in a simulated business continuity exercise. The review, conducted by Austrade’s internal auditors PwC, will provide an opportunity to:

  • educate Austrade staff on the business continuity framework and what a better practice response would encompass
  • exercise the linkages of related Austrade business continuity plans, including links to other external agency response plans as required.

Legal services

In 2017–18, legal services were provided to Austrade’s business units via the internal legal team, supported where necessary by external law firms. Under arrangements administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, through the Office of Legal Services Coordination, Austrade has access to a legal services multi-user list of 149 prequalified law firms, specialising in four categories of government work. This model allows Austrade to maintain a small team of inhouse lawyers, led by the Chief Legal Counsel, to cover most commercial transactions and provide advice to assist program administration and transactional legal work of business units. External legal resources are contracted on agreed terms and at competitive rates as the need arises.

The same standards that apply to Austrade’s domestic legal service providers under arrangements with the Office of Legal Services Coordination are applied when engaging incountry legal services to provide specialist local advice in labour claims, property negotiations and commercial disputes.

The total cost (internal and external) of legal services declined 5.2 per cent in 2017–18, reflecting greater reliance on internal legal resources and judicious use of external legal service providers.

Highlights of demand for legal services include:

  • privacy advice and training—Significant changes to privacy law in Australia included introduction of mandatory breach reporting and the Australian Government Agencies Privacy Code, and changes globally included China’s cybesecurity law and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Austrade updated its privacy policies and procedures, conducted training for affected staff, and liaised extensively with other agencies to ensure a consistent approach to the changes
  • advice on service proposals, property leases and unique provider agreements, such as those required for the ongoing Landing Pad initiatives, significant procurements and intellectual property ownership
  • sensitive personnel issues arising from labour claims, determination of entitlements and advice on separations
  • appeals under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, mainly involving appeals against determinations made under the Export Market Development Grants scheme
  • advice on insurance, legislation, and Austrade partner arrangements
  • assistance to continue streamlining Austrade’s procurement process.

Purchasing

Austrade’s approach to procuring goods and services, including consultancies, is consistent with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. These rules are applied to activities through the Chief Executive’s Instructions, supporting operational guidelines and Austrade’s procurement framework.

No contracts of $100,000 or more were let during 2017–18 that did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

No contracts in excess of $10,000 (inclusive of GST) or standing offers were exempted by the CEO from being published on AusTender on the basis that they would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Information on publicly available business opportunities with an estimated value of $80,000 or more, expected to be undertaken in 2017–18, are published in Austrade’s annual procurement plan, available from the AusTender website at tenders.gov.au.

Consultants

Austrade engages consultants when it requires specialist expertise or when independent research, review, advice or assessment is required. Decisions to engage consultants during 2017–18 were made accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and related rules, including the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and relevant internal policies.

During 2017–18, 23 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $1,508,809. In addition, eight ongoing consultancy contracts were active during 2017–18, involving total actual expenditure of $3,460,971. Table 24 provides trend information on Austrade’s consultancy contracts.

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 at www.tenders.gov.au.

Table 24: Trends in consultancies, 2015–16 to 2017–18

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

Number of existing consultancies

29

19

8

Number of new consultancies

42

37

23

Total consultancies

71

56

31

Total expenditure ($)

7,509,632

5,303,376

4,969,781

Procurement initiatives to support small business

Austrade supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Statistics on the participation in procurement contracts of small to medium-sized enterprises (fewer than 200 employees) and small enterprises (fewer than 20 employees) are available on the Department of Finance's website at finance.gov.au/procurement/statisticson- commonwealth-purchasing-contracts.

Austrade recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time, with 96.9 per cent of invoices received by Austrade during 2017–18 paid on time. The results of the survey of Australian Government payments to small business are available on the Treasury’s website, treasury.gov.au.

Austrade’s support for small business includes using the Commonwealth Contracting Suite for low-risk procurements under $200,000.

Austrade supports the goals of the Indigenous Procurement Policy. The performance of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio in achieving its 2017–18 target can be viewed on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website, pmc.gov.au.

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