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Corporate governance

DVA is accountable to government and citizens for effective delivery of its services and administration. In delivering the Department’s programmes and outcomes, the governance framework is built upon principles of accountability, transparency, stewardship, efficiency and leadership.

The Department’s governance and management framework is implemented based on the arrangement in Figure 18.

Figure 18: DVA’s governance and management framework

This image shows DVA's governance and management framework as at June 2014

The Department’s current strategic plan, DVA Towards 2020, was launched in December 2013. This plan sets out a new vision for DVA, to be a responsive and flexible organisation, efficiently delivering high quality, connected services to all generations of veterans and the wider veteran community. The plan also aligns DVA’s values with those of the Australian Public Service (APS). The new strategic plan focuses in on three key themes – to be client-focused, responsive and connected – and highlights the way the themes guide our culture, our organisation and our interaction with clients.

DVA Towards 2020 is supported by an annual corporate plan, an information and communications technology (ICT) strategic plan, a strategic financial plan and a workforce strategy. Work is being done to align this planning framework with the new strategic plan.

Legislation

The primary legislation administered by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs during 2013–14 was:

  • Anzac Day Act 1995
  • Australian War Memorial Act 1980
  • Defence Service Homes Act 1918
  • Military Memorials of National Significance Act 2008
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, except to the extent administered by the Minister for Defence
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, Part XI except for sections 143(2) and (3), 144(4), 149, 150, 153(2), 156, 158 and 159
  • Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.

A full list of all legislation administered by the Minister, as detailed in the Administrative Arrangements Orders, can be found on the DVA website at www.dva.gov.au/aboutDVA/Pages/legislation.aspx

Risk management

Risk assessment and management are critical to DVA being able to achieve its objectives in an efficient and effective manner. During 2013–14, work was undertaken to review and update DVA’s enterprise risks and revise the risk management policy framework to ensure risk management strategies remain effective and that DVA is well placed to respond to the future needs of its clients.

Benchmarking

The annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey provides DVA with an opportunity to benchmark its risk management practices against those of other APS agencies. The survey itself is very comprehensive, and gives a detailed assessment of the participating agencies risk management capabilities.

In 2014, DVA was rated as having a ‘structured’ Risk Management Framework, with scores consistently above the APS average in all 10 specified risk management elements.

Business continuity

DVA’s Business Continuity Plan is an integral element of the risk management framework and increases the likelihood that essential services will continue to be provided following a major disaster. In 2013–14, there were no incidents that required the activation of the Business Continuity Plan.

Service Charter

The DVA Service Charter was issued by the Department in 2006. It is currently under review to align it with DVA’s strategic plan, DVA Towards 2020. The Service Charter is on the DVA website at www.dva.gov.au/aboutDVA/publications/corporate/service_charter.

Managing complaints and compliments

DVA continues to remain a client-focused organisation which welcomes and acts on feedback. The Department has undertaken a number of actions to ensure that its clients and staff work together to make sure all feedback (complaints, compliments and suggestions) is reported, recorded and investigated.

We have amended the feedback page on the DVA website so that it is easier for our clients to navigate it and we have simplified the fact sheet on providing feedback. The feedback webpage has DVA’s feedback policy and provides guidance on submitting feedback. MyAccount clients can continue to submit feedback direct to DVA through the MyAccount online channel.

Our staff continue to be trained in, and made aware of, their obligations to record and resolve complaints. Refresher training covering feedback management procedures, staff obligations and timeframes for resolution, as outlined in the feedback policy and using the feedback system, was conducted.

DVA has an effective ongoing relationship with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, reflected through regular meetings where information is shared to ensure the Ombudsman’s best practice methods in complaints handling and resolution continue to be applied.

Table 34 shows the number of complaints and compliments received over the past five years.

Table 34: Complaints and compliments 2009–10 to 2013–14
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
Number of complaints 1,593 2,170 2,290 2,031 2,021
Number of compliments 567 923 968 1,116 964

In 2013–14, 2,021 complaints were recorded, which should be considered in the context of the many millions of overall contacts and transactions with our clients.

The three most common areas of complaint related to:

  • dissatisfaction with the performance of contractors or providers
  • accessibility to, and responsiveness of, client service
  • clear and correct information.

The average time taken to resolve a complaint in 2013–14 was 19 days, which is within the service standard of 28 days outlined in the Service Charter.

Following an enhancement to the feedback system, staff now record the level of satisfaction with the feedback process and the resulting outcome. In 2013–14, satisfaction levels for the feedback process were:

  • satisfied, 61 per cent
  • neutral, 38 per cent
  • dissatisfied, 1 per cent.

Satisfaction levels for the resulting outcome were:

  • satisfied, 59 per cent
  • neutral, 37 per cent
  • dissatisfied, 4 per cent.

DVA also received 964 compliments in 2013–14. The three most common compliments related to:

  • accessibility to, and responsiveness of, client service
  • staff attitude
  • clear and correct information.

In addition, there were 222 suggestions recorded for 2013–14. Many of these were received though the MyAccount online service.

Fraud and non-compliance

The purpose of DVA’s fraud and non-compliance programme is to maintain the integrity of the repatriation system through the prevention, deterrence and detection of fraudulent and non-compliant activity.

Recognising that most clients and service providers want to comply, DVA is focused on expanding its prevention and deterrence measures, through education and training, as a more effective approach in helping clients and service providers to meet their obligations.

In support of this, DVA uses the Community Compliance Framework, adopted by several other government agencies, that places an emphasis on encouraging compliance through making it as easy as possible for clients and service providers to meet their obligations. The framework also allows for intervention where clients and providers do not want to or decide not to comply – that is, they engage in fraudulent behaviour.

Where clients and providers knowingly decide not to comply, DVA may refer cases to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and law enforcement agencies as necessary.

DVA actively participates in activities to support greater integration of cross-portfolio initiatives and strategies to address fraud and non-compliance risks.

Fraud control

The DVA Fraud Control Plan for 2012–14 is still in operation and was developed from its 2012–14 fraud risk assessments. In line with the priorities of this plan, the Department has:

  • expanded on its fraud awareness activities
  • implemented a revised reporting capability to harness operational intelligence
  • implemented a stronger framework for managing the competing priorities of cases
  • for staff and members of the public, simplified information on fraud and how to report it
  • signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Human Services to work collaboratively on compliance activities, particularly in the post-payment monitoring environment.

The Fraud Control Plan for 2014–16, which is currently being drafted, will strengthen compliance strategies in line with the principles of the community compliance framework and will have a more integrated approach to compliance activities across DVA and the APS. It will also continue to have a strong focus on prevention and deterrence measures to limit opportunities for individuals to engage in fraudulent or non-compliant behaviour.

The priorities within the Fraud Control Plan will be determined by the Department’s fraud risk assessment and will support business areas to ensure that their fraud controls are proportionate to the level of fraud risk.

Fraud and non-compliance statistics

In 2013–14, the Department received 239 new cases of alleged fraud or non-compliance and 97 cases were rolled over from the previous financial year. In total, the Department had 336 cases on hand. At 30 June 2014, 196 cases had been closed and 140 cases remained open.

Of the finalised cases, 149 detected no offence, six identified fraud, and 41 identified non-compliance. The courts considered the six cases that identified fraud; four were successfully prosecuted and two were not.

As at 30 June 2014, 140 cases remained open, with investigations into fraud and non-compliance underway and two cases before the courts.

In total, the Department has identified $1.03 million in confirmed fraud and non-compliance investigation cases. In 2012–13, $1.8 million was recovered as a result of DVA fraud and non-compliance investigations.

Table 35 shows fraud investigation activity conducted by DVA over the past five years. A summary of the fraud investigation statistics is below.

Table 35: Fraud investigation activity 2009–10 to 2013–14
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
Current cases at 30 June 48 53 38 97 140
Matters before the courts 4 2 1 3 21
Matters referred to Commonwealth DPP or law enforcement agencies 5 3 0 4 1
Convictions 1 4 1 1 4
Finalised cases (including above convictions) 78 63 52 174 196

1 these cases have been counted as current cases at 30 June 2014.

Financial resource management

The total number of instances of non-compliance reported in DVA’s Certificate of Compliance in 2013–14 has remained low and has not significantly changed from 2012–13. The Certificate of Compliance reporting regime is monitored by the DVA Audit and Risk Committee and the Audit and Financial Statements Subcommittee. Those committees reviewed the development of the framework and processes for the Certificate of Compliance and were satisfied that they adequately support the completion of the certificate for 2013–14.

Financial position (equity)

The Australian Government’s equity in DVA increased by $3.02 million in 2013–14 (from $89.97 million in 2012–13 to $92.06 million in 2013–14.

Financial performance (operating result)

Part of the Department’s operations is the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme (DSHIS). DSHIS operates as a separate entity but, under the Commonwealth Government Financial Framework, is reported as part of DVA. For more details concerning DSHIS, see Programme 1.4. Table 36 highlights the financial relationship between DVA and DSHIS. The table reports both entities separately and then amalgamates their finances as ‘Total DVA’, which is used for reporting in the financial statements. As is evident, the results of DSHIS impact on the reported results for DVA.

Table 36: Financial performance for DVA and DSHIS 2011–12 to 2013–14
  2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
  DVA ($M) DSHIS ($M) DVA Total ($M) DVA ($M) DSHIS ($M) DVA Total ($M) DVA ($M) DSHIS ($M) DVA Total ($M)
TCI1 (loss) –33.91 2.14 –31.77 –18.11 –1.07 –19.18 –30.03 5.59 –24.44
Add back – non appropriated expenses 24.30 0.08 24.38 27.57 0.07 27.64 27.37 0.07 27.44
TCI attributable to the entity –9.61 2.22 –7.39 9.46 –1.00 8.46 –2.66 5.66 3.00
Cash balance2 25.16 1.55 26.71 16.13 1.87 18.00 2.14 2.05 4.19
Equity 63.00 24.61 87.61 66.33 23.54 89.87 62.93 29.13 92.06
Total assets3 166.45 61.22 227.67 158.08 61.51 219.59 159.10 71.00 230.10

1 Total comprehensive income.

2 Includes departmental cash and appropriation receivable.

3 DVA total assets net of interagency eliminations.

DVA (excluding DSHIS) reported a total attributable comprehensive deficit of $2.66 million after adding in non-appropriated depreciation expenses. DSHIS reported a total attributable comprehensive surplus of $5.66 million. This gave ‘Total DVA’ an overall attributable surplus of $3.00 million.

External scrutiny

Reports by the Auditor-General

Reports tabled in Parliament by the Auditor-General were reviewed by senior management and relevant DVA business areas.

In 2013–14, the Auditor-General published the following audit reports that related specifically to DVA:

  • Audit Report No.13 2013–14, Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the Period Ended 30 June 2013
  • Audit Report No.44 2013–14, Interim Phase of the Audits of the Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2014
  • Audit Report No.46 2013–14, Administration of Residential Care Payments.

Reports by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) examines reports of the Auditor-General which are tabled in the Parliament. DVA’s Audit and Risk Committee monitors all JCPAA reports. There were no JCPAA reports that directly involved DVA in 2013–14.

Complaints to the Ombudsman

In 2013–14, the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman was approached 132 times in relation to DVA matters. During this period 137 approaches (which would have included approaches from the 2012–13 financial year) were finalised, including 31 cases which were under investigation by the Ombudsman’s Office. The greater number of complaints related to DVA payments and access to treatment.

Implementation of the Government’s deregulation agenda

The Commonwealth Government has committed to reducing the regulatory burden of red and green tape by at least $1 billion a year for business, individuals and community organisations.

During 2013–14, DVA has contributed to this target by reviewing the regulatory requirements established in DVA legislation, carefully considering policy options to identify options which allow for regulatory requirements to be minimised wherever possible and by investigating opportunities to make interaction easier for our veterans, service providers and the ex-service community. This activity has occurred in the context of ensuring that important consumer and other safeguards are maintained.

All key deregulation activities will be reported separately through the Department’s Annual Report on Deregulation.

Internal scrutiny

In 2013–14, DVA’s internal audit services were provided by KPMG contractors based in the Canberra office. KPMG carried out independent and objective assurance and consulting activities in accordance with the Internal Audit and Assurance Strategy and the Institute of Internal Auditors standards. Activities included programme reviews, financial and ICT audits, and advice and assistance in corporate governance, risk management and fraud control.

The internal audit programme has been coordinated with the work of the ANAO and DVA’s other assurance functions, including quality assurance programmes. The internal audit work programme was approved by the Secretary and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Privacy

Business areas are obliged to notify the Legal Services, Assurance and Deregulation Branch of any potential privacy breaches. In 2013–14, 65 notifications were received. Fifty cases were mail or email related (including misdirected mail). Investigations concluded that breaches had occurred in 34 of the reported cases. In eight of the reported cases, investigations concluded that no breach had occurred. The investigation of the remaining cases had not been concluded at the end of 2013–14.

In cases where a privacy breach occurs, privacy refresher training is provided to staff and changes made to relevant procedures to minimise the risk of future privacy breaches.

DVA is required to report significant privacy breaches to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. DVA notified the Information Commissioner of two significant privacy breaches that occurred in 2013–14.

No reports were served on DVA under section 30 of the Privacy Act 1988; no determinations were made under section 52 or served on the Department under section 53; and no determinations were sought under section 72 during 2013–14.

Freedom of information

In 2013–14, there was a decrease in the number of requests lodged under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) compared to the previous year. This reflects a consistent trend of a declining number of requests over several years. Table 37 demonstrates that over the past five years the Department has refused access (in full or in part) to a small proportion of the overall requests lodged under the FOI Act.

Table 37: Freedom of information requests and access refusals 2009–10 to 2013–14
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
Requests received 5,185 4,955 4,434 4,248 3,681
Access refused in full or in part 0.7% 1.3% 2.1% 2.9% 2.01%

In 2013–14, DVA collected a total of $5,910 in fees and charges. Table 38 shows the number of FOI requests by state received in 2013–14 and the outcome of those requests.

Table 38: Freedom of information requests and outcomes by state and territory 2013–14
  NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT Total
On hand at beginning 43 59 73 18 22 4 21 240
Received 1,075 704 1,213 280 207 85 117 3,681
Finalised 1,085 746 1,222 273 210 86 125 3,747
Granted in full 959 665 1,110 232 192 74 38 3,270
Granted in part 0 0 2 0 0 0 33 35
Access refused 1 0 2 0 0 0 36 39
Transferred 101 73 91 37 13 9 0 324
Withdrawn 24 8 17 4 5 3 18 79
Outstanding 33 17 64 25 19 3 13 174

Note: For processing purposes, Northern Territory requests are registered in South Australia and are incorporated in the figures for South Australia.

Agencies subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. DVA displays on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements.

Decisions by courts and tribunal

Where there is a need to seek clarification of a legal issue or protect the integrity of legislation, the Repatriation Commission or the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) may lodge an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) or the Federal Court.

In 2013–14, the Federal Court delivered 13 decisions, of which two were favourable to the veteran or widow. The Full Federal Court also upheld a veteran’s appeal. There were no matters before the High Court.

AAT applications and outcomes are set out in Table 39. These figures include cases that were remitted by the Federal Court to be considered again by the AAT.

Whilst the number of AAT decisions affirmed at hearing may seem low compared with the number decided, this is because not all were decided following AAT hearing. For example, some were withdrawn and others were resolved without the need for a hearing.

Table 39: Summary of VEA, SRCA and MRCA matters conducted by DVA at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal 2013–14
Category of matter Applications decided by AAT Decisions affirmed by the AAT
VEA 293 74
SRCA 108 29
MRCA 45 4

Significant cases decided during the year

On 3 September 2013, the Full Federal Court handed down its decision in Robson v MRCC [2013] FCAFC 101, dealing with permanent impairment resulting from multiple psychological injuries under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA). The Court confirmed that separate injuries and their associated permanent impairments must be assessed separately and in isolation, even if they relate to the same body part, system or function.

In Smith v Repatriation Commission [2014] FCAFC 53 (1 May 2014), the Full Federal Court clarified the interpretation of s. 24(2)(b) of the VEA which had been rendered uncertain by conflicting Federal Court decisions. It decided that s. 24(2)(b) could apply to veterans who had engaged in remunerative work after ceasing military service, which confirms the interpretation adopted by the Repatriation Commission. The Court also clarified that this provision did not require a veteran to be genuinely seeking to engage in remunerative work during the assessment period.

In Richmond v Repatriation Commission [2014] FCA 272 (25 March 2014), the court considered the application of the ‘alone test’ in VEA s. 24(1)(c) and, in particular, the effect of factors impacting on a person’s ability to continue to undertake remunerative work which were not service-related. The Court found that such factors could only be taken into account where they had the effect of ‘prohibiting, disabling or restraining’ a person from working and that factors which induced a person to cease working or provided an incentive for this were not to be considered in the ‘alone test’. This decision is on appeal to the Full Federal Court.

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