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The relationship between DVA and the Commissions

The two Commissions are vested with broad powers to enable them to carry out their functions and duties. They also have specific powers to enter into contracts, deal with real or personal property, undertake building works and engage persons to perform services. As the Commissions have no staff of their own, DVA staff are provided by the Secretary of the Department in order for the Commissions to achieve their roles.

The granting of pensions, allowances and other benefits is an activity carried out by DVA and overseen directly by the Commissions. The Commissions are involved in the determination of policy; the identification of anomalies; consideration of whether matters should be appealed; advice to the Minister and Parliament; liaison with the veteran community; and cooperation with Defence.

Under the VEA, the portfolio Secretary (i.e. the Secretary of DVA) may be appointed as the President of the Repatriation Commission. The convention has been to always appoint the Secretary of the Department to this statutory role, to ensure alignment of the functions and objectives of the Commissions and the Department. By virtue of the appointment as the President of the Repatriation Commission, the Secretary is also the Chair of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC).

The Secretary remains accountable under the Public Service Act 1999 and the sanctions specified in that Act are applicable in that capacity. While statutory office holders such as the President of the Repatriation Commission are bound to act in accordance with the Public Service Act, accountabilities and ultimately sanctions applicable to the role of President or Chair are not the responsibility of the Australian Public Service Commissioner but are specified in the relevant Acts.

The Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission has a dual role. Firstly, as a full-time member of the Repatriation Commission, the Deputy President participates in and contributes to all Commission meetings. By virtue of being the Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission, the Deputy President is also a member of the MRCC. Secondly, the Deputy President assists the Secretary in the management of the Department, performing an equivalent role to that of a Deputy Secretary.

The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor-General (on advice from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) from a list of names provided by the ex-service community. The role has special responsibility for representing the views of that community in Commission considerations. The Commissioner is also appointed as a member of the MRCC. The Commissioner is a member of the executive management team of DVA and has a key role in the management of grants, commemorative events and the Applied Research Program.

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