ACNC Annual Report 2014–15

Section 4 - Management and accountability

In this section:

Corporate governance

The Commissioner

The Commissioner of the ACNC is a statutory office holder appointed to administer the ACNC Act. Part 5-2 of the Act provides for the Commissioner’s establishment, functions and powers, including terms and conditions of employment. The Governor-General appointed Susan Pascoe AM as the Commissioner of the ACNC for a period of five years from 7 December 2012 until 30 September 2017.

Corporate and operational planning

Planning and reporting are key elements of the ACNC governance framework. The ACNC’s Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2015 documents its vision, mission, values and strategic priorities for the three-year period (available at acnc.gov.au). The strategic priorities closely align with the objects of the ACNC Act.

The Strategic Plan is supported by annual business plans and team plans for each directorate. Annual business plans enable the ACNC to focus on the most critical priorities and strategies for achieving the objects of the ACNC Act. They take into account the opportunities, risks and threats facing the ACNC, including workforce capabilities and changes in government policy. Business plans set the ACNC’s direction and key deliverables for the year as well as performance measures.

Throughout the year, the ACNC's performance is monitored and reported through its management committees. Performance reports on the ACNC’s business plan and performance indicators were provided to the management committees on a monthly basis and to the Advisory Board on a quarterly basis.

The ACNC began developing its Strategic Plan for the period 2016–19 in mid-2015 starting with a session with its Advisory Board and senior staff.

Internal governance

The ACNC's governance framework provides for effective governance, risk management, informed decision making and performance and accountability. Our internal governance practices and structures ensure the ACNC meets the principles and requirements of the PGPA Act.

Management committees

ACNC management committees are key elements of the ACNC’s governance and assurance framework, supporting the Executive in effectively monitoring and managing operations and informing decision making.

The Executive Committee, comprising the Commissioner and the two Assistant Commissioners, is the ACNC’s primary decision-making body, and assists the Commissioner in setting the strategic direction and responsibilities for administering the ACNC Act. The Executive Committee meets weekly, and its decisions are promptly reported to Directors for action and communication to their teams.

The Management Committee, comprising the Commissioner, two Assistant Commissioners and Directors, meets monthly with agenda items nominated by any member and covering any aspect of the ACNC’s work that would benefit from broad input.

Operational committees and structures

ACNC operational committees focus on identified priorities and core areas of work and oversee the implementation of action plans and projects. Membership is broad to ensure that those with relevant expertise or responsibilities are present.

The Audit and Risk Committee, is chaired by the Commissioner and meets quarterly. It manages the audit and risk functions for the ACNC, including oversight of budgets, fraud control, contracts, maintenance of ethical standards and memoranda of understanding. The committee includes the ATO Assistant Commissioner of Corporate Budgeting and Financial Reporting as an independent member.

The Reporting and Red Tape Reduction Committee, chaired by the Commissioner, is responsible for developing and monitoring initiatives to reduce unnecessary regulatory requirements for not-for-profits. The reporting committee is also responsible for matters related to the development and maintenance of the ACNC reporting framework.

The Compliance Case Conference, chaired by the Director of Compliance and Reporting, is held each month. The conference provides an opportunity for dialogue on key decisions relating to the commencement, conduct and closure of compliance reviews, investigations and other compliance activities, including the use of monitoring warrants and key enforcement powers. Its membership includes the Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioner General Counsel and the Directors of both Legal and Registration.

The Registration Case Committee, chaired by the Director of Registration, is responsible for reviewing, endorsing or commenting on case decisions before they are approved by the decision maker. This process forms part of the ACNC quality review framework.

Internal audit, risk management and ethical standards

For the purposes of the PGPA Act, the ACNC’s financial operations are managed according to the ATO’s established processes for internal audit, risk, fraud control and maintaining ethical standards.

In addition, the ACNC has established its own risk function which is overseen by the ACNC Audit and Risk Committee, which meets quarterly.

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Review and external scrutiny of ACNC decisions

Most decisions by the ACNC are subject to review, initially internallyand then on appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and the courts.

The ACNC’s decisions and operations are also subject to review by parliamentary committees, the Australian National Audit Office, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Privacy and Information Commissioner.

During 2014–15 the ACNC was not the subject of a report by any external body.

Review and appeals

The ACNC Act establishes the Commissioner’s regulatory powers, which are delegated to the two Assistant Commissioners, who in turn have authorised officers to make decisions on their behalf.

The ACNC Act (Part 7-2) sets out a formal reviews and appeals procedure for certain decisions. These decisions must be internally reviewed by another ACNC officer before being reviewed by the AAT and/or appealed to a court.

Other decisions may be directly appealed to a court for judicial review.

Internal review – statutory

Under the ACNC Act, a charity may object to the following ACNC decisions, requesting they be internally reviewed:

  • refusal to register a charity or a subtype charity (section 30-35)
  • revoking (or not revoking) a charity’s registration (section 35-20)
  • directing a charity to do (or not do) something, changing such a direction or not changing orremoving a direction after 12 months (section 85-25)
  • refusing to remit part or all of an administrative penalty if the remaining penalty is more than two penalty units (section 175-60(3)).

Under the ACNC Act, a responsible person can also seek an internal review of the following ACNC decisions:

  • suspending the responsible person from a position or changing the time a suspension of the responsible person ends (section 100-10(10))
  • removing the responsible person from a position (section 100-15(7)).

Applications for internal review must be made using the ACNC's approved Notice of Objection form within 60 days of the original decision. If the time period has passed and the charity still wishes to seek internal review, it must request an extension of time in writing and set out the reasons for not meeting the timeframe. The ACNC can agree or not agree to the request.

When the ACNC receives a Notice of Objection about one of these types of decisions, an ACNC officer who did not make the original decision will review it. The ACNC has 60 days from receiving the Notice of Objection to review the original decision.

In 2014–15, the ACNC received 22 objections. Eight objections were in relation to decisions to refuse charity registration, six were in relation to decisions to refuse to register a charity with a particular subtype, and eight were in respect of decisions refusing to withhold information from the Charity Register.

Internal review – reconsideration

The ACNC has provided a mirror internal review process for decisions not covered by the statutory review approach. These include a decision not to withhold information from the Charity Register (ACNC Act, section 40-10) and a decision to issue a formal warning (section 80-5).

These types of internal review decisions can only be appealed to a court on the legality of the decision-making process, not on the substance of the decision.

The ACNC received two requests seeking reconsiderations of these types of decisions. These two requests were still in progress at 30 June 2015.

External review – Administrative Appeals Tribunal

If a charity or responsible person is unhappy with the ACNC's decision on an objection, they can apply for review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). An application to the AAT must be made within 60 days of the review decision. If the ACNC doesn’t agree to accept a late review application, the AAT can also review that decision.

An AAT decision can be further appealed to a court.

Decisions not covered by the ACNC Act’s reviews and appeals process can’t be reviewed by the AAT.

During 2014–15 one application was made to the AAT to review an ACNC objection decision; however; the application was withdrawn by the applicant before the matter went to hearing.

External review – court appeal

A charity or responsible person can also appeal objection decisions directly to a court, within 60 days of the objection decision.

Applications to the AAT and appeals to the court may be limited to the charity or responsible person’s reasons for reviewing the original decision.

Decisions not covered by the ACNC Act reviews and appeals process can only be appealed to the court on the grounds that the decision-making process was unlawful.

There were no appeals during 2014–15.

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Human resources

Our people

At the ACNC, our people are central to achieving our outcomes and programmes. Located in one office, we aim to build and maintain a capable, informed and adaptive workforce that works with our external clients and stakeholders to support our strategic priorities. We embrace the diversity of the skills, cultural backgrounds and experiences of staff, and their collective insight into the not-for-profit and community sectors.

The ACNC recruited highly-skilled and motivated staff from the not-for-profit sector, the private sector and a range of state and federal government agencies. However, the ACNC experienced a decline in staff morale with the introduction of legislation to repeal the ACNC Act in 2013–14.

The sustained period of uncertainty hindered staff retention for an extended period and made organisational planning difficult.

All ACNC staff have a commitment to the sector and remain determined to provide the very best service that they can to the public and charities.

At 30 June 2015, the ACNC had 101.76 full-time equivalent staff (FTE), a 9% increase on the previous year. The increase reflects a number of staff loaned temporarily from the ATO to back fill vacancies, including in the Compliance directorate, and to assist with the completion of the build of the IT infrastructure.

Table 4.1: ACNC staff numbers

FTE
30 June 2014 93.44
30 June 2015 101.76

Table 4.2: Employment type, 30 June 2015

2015
Statutory appointee 1
Contractor 0
Casuals 0
Ongoing full-time 58
Ongoing part-time 10.18
Long-term/maternity leave (ongoing) 2.91
Non-ongoing 2
Secondment full-time 26
Secondment part-time 1.67
Total 101.76

The median number of unscheduled workplace absence days per employee in 2014–15 was 9.7, down from 10.9 in 2013–14. The 2014–15 figure is significantly lower than the median of 11 days per employee reported by other small Australian Public Service agencies (employees of 20 to 250).

Table 4.3: Employees by classification and gender, 30 June 2015

Employees by classification Female Male Total
APS4 14.8 8 22.8
APS5 12.89 2 14.89
APS6 15.41 16.8 32.21
EL1 14.13 7 21.13
EL2.1 3.73 2 5.73
EL2.2 2   2
SES1   2  
SES2* 1   1
Total 63.96 37.8 101.76

The ACNC supports flexible working arrangements. The proportion of part-time employees has increased every year since the ACNC was established.

Part-time employment accounted for:

  • 5% of the ACNC workforce at 30 June 2013
  • 9% at 30 June 2014
  • 11% at 30 June 2015

Separation and recruitment

The ACNC needs to retain a highly-motivated and skilled workforce. We worked closely with the ATO to continue engaging the right people for our organisation during the period of restrictions on recruitment that applied across the Australian Public Service until 30 June 2015, as a result of the Government’s commitment to reduce staff numbers.

The ACNC’s overall retention rate during 2014–15 was 88%, an improvement compared to the 2013–14 retention rate of 76%. Undoubtedly, the ongoing uncertainty about the future of the ACNC has been taxing for staff and likely contributed to the 76% figure in 2013–14. However, ACNC staff remain committed to the sector and the ACNC itself, and were encouraged by recent statements by the Australian Government that indicated that the abolition of the ACNC was a low priority.

A total of six employees ceased employment with the ACNC in 2014–15 through voluntary redundancies. ACNC employees applied for voluntary redundancies as part of the ATO’s voluntary redundancy program.

Table 4.4: Staff reductions by classification, 2014–15

Classification 2014-15
APS4 1
APS5 0
APS6 4
EL1 6
EL2 1
Total 12

ACNC diversity

The ACNC’s workforce is diverse and inclusive. The ACNC promotes an environment where the cultures, backgrounds, and experiences of our employees are recognised and valued.

The ACNC utilises and supports the ATO’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2015–2017, which sets out the ATO’s formal commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. An explanation of how the ACNC implements the ATO’s plan in our workplace is available at acnc.gov.au/diversity.

We champion the removal of barriers to ensure all employees are able to reach their full potential in the workplace. We provide a supportive and adaptable work environment to ensure all our employees are able to balance work, family and caring responsibilities.

The ACNC strives to be an APS diversity and inclusion leader. This commitment is represented by all ACNC employees, and collectively we are ethical, respectful and supportive.

In 2014–15, the ACNC implemented or continued programs to support an inclusive work environment. These programs were focused on:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • people living with disability
  • women
  • people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and
  • mature-aged people.

Additionally, our managers and employees are encouraged to report bullying, harassment or discrimination and are confident in their ability to identify and report inappropriate behaviour when they witness it.

Indigenous employment

The ACNC employs three staff that identify as Indigenous Australians, which is 3% of the ACNC workforce. Two of these staff are Aboriginal Liaison Officers, who are available to support Indigenous charities on request.

Evergreen Indigenous Advancement Program

The ACNC is committed to having a workforce that reflects the diversity of the Australian community. A reflection of this commitment is our participation in the ATO’s Evergreen Indigenous Advancement Program, which provides employment opportunities to people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.

In 2014–15, two Evergreen Indigenous cadets successfully completed a 9-month rotational program in the ACNC, working in the following directorates:

  • Policy, Education and Red Tape Reduction
  • Communications
  • Registration.

Participation in the program enabled the cadets to develop their understanding of the ACNC, and provided their teams with the opportunity to learn more about the cadets’ culture and charity governance in their communities. The success of the program has led us to expand our involvement in 2015–16.

Training and development

The ACNC aims to build the capability of its workforce to deliver its business outcomes and retain its talented staff through:

  • encouraging strong leadership capabilities and behaviours
  • developing strong relationships with its stakeholders
  • strengthening business systems and governance practices.

The ACNC’s core capability framework outlines the skills and capabilities that are critical to our success. The framework defines the essential capabilities required of all employees, and is a central component of our performance system.

Based on findings from both one-on-one and group conversations, the ACNC has invested in building the skills of both experienced and new managers through programs such as:

  • Essentials for new team leaders
  • Understanding the Performance Cycle
  • Leadership in Practice
  • Leadership Expansion.

We have also continued our commitment to employee development more broadly
with programs such as:

  • Cross Cultural Awareness training (scheduled for August 2015), and
  • Microsoft and writing competency courses.

Staff seminars were held during the year featuring presentations and discussions with leaders and practitioners in the charities and not-for-profit sector (see table below). These seminars provide a reflective and informal learning environment for staff to share information.

All staff completed mandatory training designed to help them understand their roles and responsibilities as ACNC employees in relation to the proper use of information technology, security awareness and work health and safety.

To further enhance our learning and development program, we are currently building a register that will enable our staff to easily identify in-house and external training opportunities. The register will identify both core capabilities and developmental requirements for all APS levels in each directorate. To complement this we are also reviewing and updating our corporate induction package, which will ensure new employees are provided with the knowledge required of an APS employee in the ACNC.

Table 4.5: Staff seminars with the sector

Date Presenter Organisation
25 July 2014 Tarni Perkal and Savi Manii Justice Connect
19 September 2014 John Unkovich, Steven Scodella, Bee Wah Ang Consumer Affairs Victoria
17 October 2014 Rob Edwards Fundraising Institute of Australia
14 November 2014 David Leonard and Celie Walsh Disputes Settlement Centre of Victoria
25 March 2015 Emma Kettle RedR Australia

Reward and recognition

The ACNC recognises the importance of providing positive feedback to staff and recognising their achievements. In 2014–15 we developed the ACNC Reward and Recognition scheme to positively influence employees and recognise exceptional performance that helps achieve business outcomes.

The ACNC Reward and Recognition scheme will be implemented in the first half of 2015–16.

Engagement survey

ACNC staff participated in the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) annual employee census survey, which forms part of the State of Services report. This report is designed to elicit the attitudes and opinions of employees across a range of workforce issues including employee engagement, leadership, job design and work conditions. Results of the survey are used as the standard engagement measurement tool across the organisation.

ACNC Advisory Board member remuneration

ACNC Advisory Board members are appointed by the Minister (the Assistant Treasurer), and remuneration is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. Further information can be found on the Australian Government Remuneration Tribunal website at remtribunal.gov.au.

Executive remuneration

The Commissioner’s remuneration is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. Other executive remuneration arrangements are determined according to the ATO’s Senior Executive Service guidelines and set out in the ATO’s annual report.

Enterprise agreements and performance pay

The ACNC operates under the ATO enterprise agreement 2011–2014 which complies with the Australian Public Service bargaining framework and aims to promote efficiency and effectiveness, contribute to achieving the organisation’s policy and programme outcomes, and enhance the quality of employees’ work life balance.

The terms and conditions and outcomes of these arrangements are reported in the ATO’s annual report.

Negotiations are currently underway for a new agreement; the bargaining policy will adhere to the Government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy for the Public Sector.

Work health and safety

ACNC employees are covered by the ATO’s occupational health and safety processes. These are reported on in the ATO’s annual report.

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Technology and systems

The ACNC's core business system (iMIS), ACNC email exchange server and other business and support applications are hosted and managed by the software vendor Advanced Solution International in Melbourne, while the ATO continues to provide back office support on a fee-for-service basis.

iMIS business system

The ACNC’s core business system, iMIS, supports:

  • a customer relationship management system
  • a web content management system
  • an online registration form
  • the Charity Register
  • the Charity Portal
  • the Charity Passport

ATO support

As with other corporate areas, the relationship between the IT areas of the ACNC and ATO are managed through an MOU that covers:

IT enhancements and major projects

Over the year the IT enhancements and major projects were either legislatively driven or contributed to the ACNC’s strategic objectives and objects.

  • Several projects implemented in 2014–15 enhanced the useability and transparency of the Charity Register, including functionality for:
  • displaying joint and collective reporting charities and their associated financial reports
  • highlighting charities that have failed to lodge or were overdue in excess of six months
  • highlighting where a charity has been granted an extension for its Annual Information Statement
  • mapping of the world regions in which the charity operates.

Providing online versions of ACNC forms is consistent with the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda and meets the ACNC’s aim of being digital by default. It supports the strategic plan of building a public-facing information portal that can also be used by charities to securely access and exchange information. It also contributes to developing a financial reporting framework that addresses the reporting requirements of other government agencies and provides information for the Charity Passport.

For the Charity Portal, automating the charity password reset function resulted in a significant reduction of emails and calls to the ACNC’s Advice Services team.

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Asset management

The ACNC has its own appropriation and operates for the purposes of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act (PGPA Act) as a program of the ATO. Assets used by the ACNC are managed according to the ATO’s established asset management processes.

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Purchasing and consultancies

The ACNC makes decisions regarding its budget independently of the ATO. The goods and services required to support our operations are purchased using ATO procurement processes in line with the requirements of the PGPA Act. This includes consultancies, advertising, direct mail, media placement and market research activities. Procurement details are included in the ATO’s annual report.

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Procurement initiatives to support small business

The ACNC supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market.

The ACNC applies procurement practices that do not unfairly discriminate against Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprises.

The ACNC does this by ensuring that procurements are communicated in clear, simple language and presented in an accessible format. The ACNC also uses electronic systems to facilitate on-time payment.

SME and Small Enterprises participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website: finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts.

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Grants

The ACNC did not award any grants in 2014–15.

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Disability reporting

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 State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at 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 a new National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 which sets out a 10 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. For more information visit dss.gov.au.

Accessibility of acnc.gov.au

The ACNC website, acnc.gov.au, is our primary point of information and service delivery channel. This is supported by the Advice Services team, who are able to provide assistance over the phone or through the National Relay Service to talk callers through any actions they need to take.

The ACNC has an ongoing emphasis on developing HTML content on the website where possible, as this is more accessible for people who use assistive technologies to use websites. This has been accompanied by the development of accessible web styling and formats to support access to page content.

Ongoing work has occurred in developing an accessibility roadmap, which has allowed the ACNC to identify and implement areas of improvement, including working with its online suppliers to make product changes that will enable increased compliance with online accessibility guidelines. The ACNC also undertakes an ongoing program of usability and accessibility testing.

Website accessibility improvements have been accompanied by the development of education videos that use simple images, a voiceover and captions to provide information and guidance. These cover a range of topics, including help with completing the Annual Information Statement, and are suited to a range of users, providing alternative information formats for visitors to the website.

Short radio segments were recorded for Vision Australia Radio and the Radio Print Handicapped Australia Radio Reading Network (RPH Network), which promoted the Charity Register, safe giving, and the Charity Portal. An editorial feature on safe giving was developed for distribution to intermediaries who work with people with a disability; Vision Australia Radio used the same article for a podcast.

Anecdotal feedback suggests that the ACNC has achieved a degree of success in this area, and we are committed to making ongoing improvements to suit the requirements of clients with varying needs. This includes educating staff on improved accessibility techniques when developing documents for charities in their daily work activities.

Freedom of information

Under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act), the ACNC is required to publish information as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements.

  • The ACNC has an IPS page at acnc.gov.au. Following a review of the IPS in January 2015:
  • the IPS has been updated to include information about the ACNC’s education function
  • the ACNC’s agency plan and two existing IPS procedures were updated
    one new IPS procedure was created.

The ACNC will start to use the icons of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, publish work email addresses of directors and establish an IPS Information Register.

  • Wherever possible, the ACNC tries to make information available to the public outside of the formal FOI process. However, if a person wants to make an FOI request for access to documents held by the ACNC, they should:
  • make the request in writing (email or post) – the ACNC is able to assist if an applicant has difficulty putting their request in writing
  • state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
  • provide information about the document(s) being requested
  • if asking for change or annotation of a document, provide information about the change or annotation being requested
  • provide an address to enable the ACNC to respond.

FOI requests can be sent to the following address:

Freedom of Information Contact Officer
ACNC
GPO Box 9990
MELBOURNE VIC 3001

or by email to: advice@acnc.gov.au

The ACNC received 11 requests for documents under the FOI Act during 2014–15. The following table summarises the content of the requests and the outcomes.

Table 4.6: FOI requests and outcomes

Details of Request Outcome
Request for spreadsheets of the Charity Register and associated data tables This was provided and the information is now published on data.gov.au
Request from a charity for documents relating to a compliance review of the charity Access was granted to 17 documents. Forty‑seven documents were redacted or not provided on the basis that providing the information could reasonably be expected to prejudice the conduct of a current investigation
Request for the financial information of a particular charity Refused on the basis that the ACNC did not have this information
Request from a charity for any information provided to the ACNC about the charity from a third party Refused on the basis that the ACNC did not have this information
Request from a charity for documents relating to investigations of the charity Access was granted to 23 documents. 19 documents were redacted or not provided on the basis that an exception applied or that a conditional exception applied and it was not in the public interest to release the information
Request for the Annual Information Statement of a particular charity Documents provided
Request from a charity for any complaints received by the ACNC about the charity Document provided
Request for correspondence between the ACNC and certain third parties which relate to issues or concerns about certain charities Access was granted to four documents. 22 documents were redacted or not provided on the basis that secrecy provisions applied to the information
Request for documents relating to the Canada Revenue Agency’s response to political activities Access granted in full to one document. One document was provided with irrelevant material redacted. One document was refused on the basis that the information was communicated in confidence by an international government authority.
Request for all documents relating to a formerly registered charity Still being processed as at 30 June 2015
Request for the internal record of decisions relating to registration of a particular charity Still being processed as at 30 June 2015